January 18th, 2013
Jennifer Web Design Tags, , , , ,

Learning to Translate a Website Correctly

You have a website and it’s written in English, but what about potential international clients? Should your website be multilingual; is it worth it to translate your wording? We often get these questions from our clients and the main question we get is whether they should use Google Translate on their site.

The fact of the matter is that the Web is failing to connect with a large amount of its users, 1.7 billion, to be exact. This number is based on those non- English speaking Internet users (73%) that don’t understand more than half of the material available on the Internet because it is in English.

Therefore, it is smart for a business to consider this when dealing with their website, especially if they deal frequently with international clients. However, Google Translate is not necessarily the best route to take. While it may seem like the quick and easy way to go about translating a page of text, that is precisely the problem; it is quick and easy. Meaning that, the feelings and tone behind the words are completely lost in translation. Google Translate will take the literal meaning of the word and lose what the piece was actually trying to convey in the process. Good translations do more than just replace a set of words with a substitute; they convey the actual feeling behind that original text. A site that is translated poorly will only reflect poorly on your business and in turn could actually damage your reputation. There are different factors that you must take into consideration when deciding on translation for your website.

Always Consider Dialect
Communication with your clients is vital to running a successful business, which is why content is so important to your website. You want to be able to convey the message behind your business to viewers in a way that they can understand. When using something like Google Translate or “straight translation” a lot of that communication can be lost. Take for instance, here in the United States the way in which dialect differs. I am originally from upstate New York, but I lived in Manhattan for a few years as well. It’s funny to think that words would differ from regions, but they most certainly do. While we all speak English, the meaning behind a word in upstate New York was often different to that of someone who lives downstate. Now, think about translating your website into a language that you have absolutely no knowledge of, you wouldn’t even begin to be able to understand the different dialects. You have to take region into consideration when translating your text so that you do not confuse or offend your audience.

Designing a Global Friendly Website

You need to consider the design of your website. Your website has been laid out a certain way to accommodate the English words that you have input. Not every language uses the characters that we do nor do they write from left to right. When translating other languages, the volume of the text is bound to change. You may need extra space as well as the ability to be equipped to feature a language that is written from right to left. You also have to prepare for discrepancies in your database. Problems can arise in your content management system (CMS) when translating a language, which can cause the structure, grammar and syntax to be lost. You also run the risk of feminine and masculine words being mixed up, which will change articles and endings on words. Therefore, making it nearly impossible for your reader to understand a word of the translation.

Also think about your videos. Your voice-overs must be done by someone specific to the region you are targeting. If your target audience is Rome, Italy, you need to make sure that you choose someone who speaks with that specific accent, as their Italian is going to differ from someone in Southern Italy. They must also pay attention to their mannerisms in the video as they do not want to offend anyone.

Time, date, and color are other design details to take into consideration. If the time or date is located anywhere on your website, make sure that it is changed to reflect the other countries that you are translating for. For instance, in the United States when writing the date the month is listed first, however in Europe, the day comes before the month. Also, color schemes throughout the website can have different meanings for different cultures. Other countries often put a lot more emphasis on the usage of different colors than we necessarily would, which is something that you must be mindful of when designing a multilingual site.

Multilingual websites are not a bad idea, but they must be researched and done correctly. When someone lands on your website, you have an extremely short time frame to make an impression before they are off to Google something else. Make sure that your website is equipped with the right tools to ensure that you are welcoming to every audience that you target.

Are you thinking of creating a multilingual website? If you believe it is something you would be interested in, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 702-823-1103, or email us at info@jenniferwebdesign.com for a free consultation.