If you’re translating your website for a global audience, there are a number of things that need to be done before the actual translation process begins, including selecting content for translation, thinking about and implementing a strategy for international SEO, setting up your site structure (and all the technical backend work that goes into this), and modifying design and imagery, to name a few.
If you are just getting started with translation and localization, be sure to read more in our Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Website Translation guide.
When you are ready to translate from your source language to your target language, you’ll be faced with the all-important question of how you’re going to translate.
Know Your Translation Options
Nearly every company will need to engage external resources for content translation. Even large companies with multilingual workforces don’t have staff with the depth of bi- or trilingual language skills to effectively translate content. Several options do exist, though, and the route you choose will depend on your business requirements including target languages, quality requirements, special industry knowledge, and, of course, budget.
For those new to working with agencies, it may be surprising to learn that the services and processes can vary significantly between types of service providers, so you’ll want to do your homework before selecting a language partner. One element that is common across agencies is that each will support a unique set of language pairs, so comparing your target languages to the supported languages of any firm you might choose can be a great starting point.
Translation agencies on the lower cost end of the spectrum may provide their services by using nonprofessional native speakers for translation, potentially managed by professionally trained translation staff, focusing on a rapid turnaround at a lesser price point.
Language Service Providers (LSPs)
The translation services provided by LSPs, in contrast, are delivered by trained translators who have received extensive language education and potentially professional certification. This ensures that translators are fully fluent in the languages covered and that they understand the nuances of translating content and ideas with respect to applicable cultural variances. Often times, in-country review, testing, and QA are also part of an LSP’s internal translation processes. While a more costly source of translations, LSPs will provide the highest quality translations.
If you work in an industry that has special needs, such as use of highly technical language, medical terms, or legal terms, there are agencies who can offer specialized support, which will be critical for your translations to be effective. You’ll want to research these needs specifically before choosing your translation provider.
If you have a large enough international user base, a great way to engage your community is to encourage crowdsourced translations. This approach is cost effective and generally faster, as your users already understand the use of your product or application and the local market culture and requirements. However, one major concern with crowdsourcing is the quality of the translations. If you decide to crowdsource translations, you may want to have an LSP review the translations. This is called a Hybrid Translation Workflow (see more below).
Most people are familiar with Google Translate and may have even experimented with its functionality. So you may be wondering, why not just use a great tool like this, particularly since it’s free? When you’re translating in-depth content like your website, using machine translation puts your brand at risk because:
- It can’t account for certain phrases because of lack of context
- It’s difficult for machine translation to accurately translate nuances and slang
- Specific errors are hard to predict and difficult to correct
- Content in the target language can feel choppy or pieced together
In the best case, improper translations make your website look unprofessional. In the worst case, improper translations offend users in your target locale. If your budget is very limited, however, or you have a very large amount of content, a viable option may be to use machine translation via a free or very low-cost API followed by post-editing by professional translators. This hybrid approach can work very effectively.
Hybrid Translation Workflows
As mentioned several times, there are multiple options for creating hybrid translation processes that work for your budget and business requirements. Feel free to design the process and workflow that is right for your audience and pocketbook.
The above was an excerpt taken from our detailed website translation guide. Download the guide and get your business started on the path toward global expansion.