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Jul 12

Website Translation: 5 Things to Consider When Translating a Website

Whether your company already has customers outside of the US, or you’re considering getting your feet wet in international markets, website translation is a logical first step in reaching out to those customers. In 2012 the first place your prospective customers are going to find a product or service is the internet. In the US people search in English (mostly). In Spain people search in Spanish, in China they search in Chinese (and they don’t use Google). When your prospective customer finds your website they will leave immediately if they can’t read the content. How do you reach out to your Chinese customers? – Website translation into Chinese.

If you have already decided website translation is important, following are 5 things to consider that can help make the project run a little smoother:

Are you going to translate EVERYTHING?

You may decide to translate your entire website, or you may just choose a few key pages. Both are great options. The important thing is to be clear on the scope from the outset to ensure that the project doesn’t incur time and cost overruns. Downloadable content (whitepapers, marketing collateral) can sometimes be overlooked when scoping a website translation project, but these are items that your non-English speaking visitor will most likely want to have access to. Adding a full library of whitepapers to a translation project can significantly impact cost. I would encourage you strongly to consider translating these items, but it is important to anticipate that things like this will impact scope.

Which languages should you translate into?

The easy answer to this question is to translate into the native languages of the markets you sell your product or service in. If you sell in Latin America translate into Spanish, if you sell in Japan translate in Japanese. That’s the easy answer. Taking things to the next step you may consider translating into several localized versions of Spanish if you sell your product broadly in Latin America (Spanish for Argentina, Spanish for Venezuela, don’t forget Portuguese for Brazil). If you’re interested in translating your website as a broader form of marketing, and for testing response from foreign markets, you may want to consider the languages that are most present on the web – Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and German. Read more here: Internet World Users by Language

How will you access what needs to be translated?

Once you’ve decided to translate your website you now need to figure out the logistics behind creating a foreign language version along with language selection, back-end work, image editing, and / or multimedia engineering. Many professional language service providers have the capability to work directly with HTML, XML or any other ***L you can provide, and can guide you through the steps necessary for proper globalization. This topic can be a fairly complex one and it’s worth taking some time to understand what’s involved. A great resource for this is bytelevel research’s The Art of the Global Gateway. If you’re considering translating your website I would strongly encourage you to peruse the rest of the bytelevel website also as it’s a great resource.

What happens when someone that doesn’t speak English contacts you?

If your company is already working in a foreign market then you most likely have salespeople that speak the language of your customer. Don’t forget to redirect the contact information, including forms on the website, to those in-country salespeople. When someone responds in Chinese that would like to purchase 1000 units of your product you want to be sure your salesperson receives the message! If you do not have salespeople that speak the languages of your prospective customers than you may want to consider setting up a connection with a language service provider that can translate, and respond to, incoming requests. This can get you through the initial step of determining whether or not to expand your translation effort in a given market.

Should you use a professional language service provider?

Given the complexity of website translation I would encourage you to engage a professional language service provider (I promise I’m not just saying that because I work for one). It is critical that you engage the right linguist for the translation, and it will be immensely helpful to work with someone that has been through these types of projects before and understands the technical hurdles involved.

More Information

Website translation is the best way to reach out to your existing and prospective customers. The 5 items I’ve detailed in this post are really just a few of the things that need to be considered when planning and executing a website translation project. If you’re interested in more information or have any questions please feel free to contact me directly: Rick White (rwhite@languageintelligence.com).

Rick White

Rick is our Director of Client Services. His accomplishments, in over a decade with Language Intelligence, include expanding the company’s solution based services in the market research and life sciences industries, while building the company’s web presence and marketing communications program. His creative ability and strong communication skills allow him to synthesize his expertise with the insight into our clients industries, and produce localization solutions that fit the client’s needs. Rick has a degree in Photography and has studied German and Spanish.

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