Translating Web Content: Why It Matters and How To Do It
A little while ago, C2 was approached by a client with a problem and a request. The problem was that their site did not currently support multiple languages natively, and their request was for C2 to go out and determine what the major language translation companies had to offer them.
Having had some minor language translation experience in the past and some time on my hands, I was given the task of gathering information from these companies and building out comparisons of their options for this client. I quickly came to realize that what I knew was barely the tip of the iceberg, and what was underneath the ocean was a vast and complex array of solutions filled with interesting technology and unknown lingo.
After hours of discussions with these companies and independent research, I came away from the experience with a much better handle on the language translation space and how to navigate it. My hope is that the following information will help you as well, whether you are looking into language translation options for your site or just want a better understanding of how this seemingly arcane process works.
Why Should I Care About Language Translations?
As the globalization of the tech world continues to grow, the need for internationalization of web content becomes more and more critical for a business to succeed. Whether or not the majority of your users are based in a particular region, having proper language translations built into your site greatly promotes SEO, UX, and company image as a whole.
A 2015 study of Europeans found that 90% of European internet users prefer to surf the internet in their own language, and 44% felt that they were missing out on information because web pages were not in the language they understood. It is not a huge leap to imagine that this type of preference carries over to 18% of people in the U.S. that speak a non-English language at home.
If your site only promotes its content in a single language, there is a good chance you are missing out on a large chunk of site traffic of users that prefer to browse the web in other languages. This could very well lead to lost revenue or connections.
How Can I Do it?
Ok, so it is important. How do you then take the leap to convert your web content to other languages? Luckily, great companies and tools exist for this very reason. These companies exist for the sole purpose of providing you and your content with a professional pipeline of translation, QA, and delivery to users.
A huge plus of this is it allows your company to rely on actual humans to professionally translate your content and make sure it is done correctly. They work hard to match your content to the regions you are targeting as well as the nature of what you’re conveying. They also offer solutions for delivery that allow you to focus on your current workstreams – more on that later.
The Translation Process
When I began talking with these companies, I was somewhat blindsided by the various concepts and terms I had never heard before. To best describe these various terms and concepts, let’s approach it from the view of the actual process of how these companies translate your content.
- Content is submitted to the company via a portal or some sort of integration with your site content. One interesting thing here is that the sky is really the limit (in most cases) to what these companies will translate for you. Marketing material or other various documents can all be requested along with web content.
- This is the phase in which the actual cost is determined for your translations, and where it goes next. Translation companies keep a history of the translations they have made for you over time, which is referred to as Translation Memory.
- At this point in the process, they would use Translation Memory Matching to determine if your content matches anything in translation memory. If it is an exact match, no translation is needed, and it would go to QA. Partial matches and no match would still need to be translated for the net-new content.
- The translation is done by professional human translators.
- QA occurs to determine the translation was done correctly for the region and the content, and approval via the customer can also occur here.
- The translated content is added to the translation memory.
- Finalized translated content is delivered to the customer via the portal or integration.
It became clear to me quickly that these translation companies shared some similar approaches to how they delivered the translated content to your site/audience. It really boiled down to 3 major solutions that I found to be common.
Just as it sounds, this approach is the simplest and cheapest, although not the most streamlined. Most of the companies seemed to offer an upload portal of some kind that supported a wide range of content, so manually uploading your content for translation is an option. This adds a lot of overhead as once you get the content back you’ll have to figure out what to do with it.
This approach is popular, and if you have a CMS that is supported by the integration tool the translation company utilizes, this might be a good option. This would add a toolset to your existing content management system that links directly with the translation process. You would be able to request translations for your content directly from your CMS and have it sent back in a way that makes sense for you. The biggest downside to this option is that it still places a large workload on your content management team. This is because they would still need to manage where and how the newly translated content gets published.
This is the most complex approach, but also potentially the most powerful. In this option, the translation company would host a proxy site (or sites) for your translated content. This proxy would scrape your existing site for pages and simply replace the desired content with the translated content on the proxy version. Users from specific regions or requesting specific languages would be redirected to the appropriate proxy site when requesting your domain. The downside to this option is it does not give you the level of control over content that you have with the CMS approach and places a lot of reliance upon the translation company for management over the proxied sites. However, the benefits are that your content management team would experience little to no added workload, and your existing workstreams would remain relatively intact.
A Helping Hand
I hope the information I have laid out here has left you feeling more confident about navigating the language translation world. Transforming your content not only enriches it and makes it more accessible but also jumpstarts you into exciting new markets and user bases.
If you would like help navigating this space and getting to a solution that makes the most sense for you, we’re here to help. Not only do we have over 27 years’ experience in digital transformation and web development, but we are committed to finding solutions that fit your goals and allow you to succeed.