“Can’t read, won’t buy.”
The title of a study of over 2,400 consumers sums up the appeal of a multilingual website: people simply prefer to buy from websites if they’re in their native language. Over half of the consumers surveyed for the study only shopped at sites in their own language, and among the ones who browsed sites in other languages, only a quarter felt comfortable making buying decisions. It is easy to see then why business would opt for multilingual websites: offering their services and products in more than one language is a way to expand their market enormously.
But how difficult is it to localize and maintain a multilingual website? Glad you asked: Gobierno.USA.gov and Government Multilingual Websites Community have developed a list of ten best practices for multilingual websites that we’re happy to share and discuss here.
This one should be obvious: users have to be able to read the site in the language of their choice. This doesn’t only include all content but also navigation buttons, features and functions of the site. Machine translation is “strongly discouraged”, even if a disclaimer is added, and every translation has to be reviewed by a qualified translation professional before it is posted.
Beyond the concerns of the language, it is important for multilingual websites to also address cultural considerations in order to connect with their audience. The key to a successful multilingual website is translation and localization by an expert who understands the target culture and can avoid potential localization problems and pitfalls.
The best multilingual website is useless if users can’t find pages their language. Toggle buttons that allow users to easily switch languages have to be visible and easily accessible on every page, usually on the top right.
4. URL Strategy
A solid URL strategy is essential for marketing and search engine optimization. The Gobierno guidelines state that a “stand-alone, dedicated” URL should be used — but they don’t go into detail whether it should be a country code top level domain (yoursite.fr), a subdomain (fr.yoursite.com) or a subdirectory (yoursite.com/fr/). For more details on the advantages and disadvantages of each method, take a look at this Guide to Multilingual and Multiregional SEO.
5. Comparability and Maintenance
This is another big one: make sure the user experience on the different language subsites on your website is comparable — and that you have plans in place how to keep it that way. Updates and maintenance on a multilingual website have to happen continually across all languages. Otherwise, users in certain languages will have a different (and out of date!) experience that will reflect poorly on your business.
6. Users’ Expectations
Make sure you warn users with a notice before you send them to a section of your site that hasn’t been translated yet, to an external link in a different language or if a file needs special software that may not be available in their language. An icon or short text letting them know about the target’s language may be enough to avoid confusion or disappointment.
This goes hand in hand with #3: users should be able to toggle between different languages without having to return to the homepage. A toggle switch on each multilingual page goes a long way in providing a smooth user experience.
8. Online Features and Functionality
You’ll want to make sure that not only content has been translated but that interactive features are available in multiple languages as well. For instance, users should be able to share, email, print and subscribe to your site in their native language.
9. Integrated Operations and Marketing
Your multilingual website should be supported by offline infrastructure and customer contacts, which means that phone numbers, email support, and marketing materials should all be available in multiple languages as well and tie into your overall strategy.
10. Online Marketing
We mentioned SEO concerns briefly when we talked about your site’s URL architecture in #4. But successful multilingual online marketing and SEO also require a multilingual online marketing and social media strategy. This includes multilingual blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as the tracking of results of your multilingual marketing efforts.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, a truly effective multilingual web presence requires more than hastily translating some of your content. Your site’s overall strategy and architecture, supporting features, offline infrastructure, social media presence and marketing strategies all need to be translated as well as localized and adapted to the target language and culture, and then continuously updated and maintained.
If this sounds like a lot, you may want to consider the alternative: a shoddily put together web presence in another language — poorly thought out and implemented, perhaps translated by machine and inappropriate for its target audience — may do more harm than good. The same high professional standards should apply across all languages to ensure that a foreign-language user will have an equally satisfying experience when they visit your site.
And consider the benefits: whatever your product or service, you’ve worked hard on establishing your business and finding your market. With a well-conceived multilingual website, you can multiply your reach and increase your potential customer base many times over. Isn’t that worth the extra effort it takes to hire a professional translation agency that specializes in this kind of work and gets the job done right?
We’ll leave with a webinar on best practices for multilingual websites by DigitalGov.
Do you like going out with friends on the weekend? Enjoying a beverage together? Going out to dinner with friends and romantic prospects when you want to? Maybe you even like day trips out with friends? If so, you and I aren’t going to see eye to eye on this.
See, I used to be like you. I used to enjoy going out with my buddies, watching movies in the theater and buying groceries in a store. Social lives cost money, though, so I thought I might make some extra pocket money by utilizing my language skills. I put myself out there as a freelance translator hoping I could easily translate a few brochures or instruction manuals for hapless housewives who accidentally bought a Chinese product and can’t figure out how to use it.
It wasn’t long before I realized how wrong my presumptions were, even though they feel so right now.
I began to realize that my time was being taken up by managing my projects and translating as expertly as I could. It used to be that I would vaguely offer a client the gist of a 30-page e-book, but I realized that wasn’t going to give me the cash I was looking for. Then it hit me – the problem wasn’t that I was overloading myself with projects I wasn’t equipped for. The problem was that I was wasting my time on socializing!
The answer? Completely cut out social interaction.
The less I went outside, the more work I got done. The quality of my translations were directly correlated to whether or not I put on pants in the morning. What’s the point when you aren’t going anywhere all day?
More time meant more clients, and now I have tons and they keep coming back for more. I’ve managed to exclude all possible social life that would get in the way of the quantity or quality of my work.
What do I do for food? That’s what the Internet’s for. I can order takeout and groceries via my phone. Some weeks the only person I have to talk to is my pizza delivery guy, and he doesn’t mind that my life has devolved into nonstop translating and greasy hair.
There is one problem – I do have to talk to clients, though I don’t have to meet any of them in person. Still, I’m not exactly excited when I have to shoot them an email or call them on the phone. If only we could cut off all social contact forever, am I right?
Translating and project management have improved my life greatly. I may not be able to remember what my friends look like or the last time I actually looked a person in the eye, but what does that matter when my life is constantly fulfilled by translating thought leadership blogs for American businessmen?
Here’s what I want you to take away from my story: my life’s pretty sweet. I get to ignore everyone and spend my life translating and doing project management all day long. It’s alright if you’re jealous. It’s pretty understandable when I have it this good.
P.S: We feel compelled to confirm that this article is tongue in cheek 🙂
Make no mistake — I love working in the translation business. This doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t come with some trials and tribulations.
Many graduating French students or bilingual ESL students simply think that because they know another language, they have access to a job that’s easy for them based simply on the fact that they know more than one language — but this isn’t the case. There are a lot of different skills involved in being a translation project manager, from being good with people to organization.
These are just a few of the things I have to experience every day being a translation project manager.
Working with Other People
Are you a people person? If you’re a translation project manager you have to be. A client is someone who you’ll be interacting with frequently, so fostering a good relationship is important to having an easier time managing their project.
Not all clients are alike, of course. Some will be personable, easy-going and a blast to work with — others will be difficult and hard to understand. A translation project manager must adjust themselves accordingly and communicate effectively no matter what personality their client has.
Honing Multiple Skills
Like I said before, translation project managers have to be multi-talented. It’s obviously important to be bi- or multilingual, but that’s just one part of the job. Other necessary skills include:
- Being technologically savvy
- Having communication abilities
- Being literate in multiple languages
- Proofreading and editing
- Language fluency upkeep (if a language isn’t a mother tongue or ingrained, it can fade)
Because translation work is global by design, not every client I work with lives in my same time zone. This is something all translation project managers will have to get used to and talk about with their clients. If they live in 6 time zones ahead of you, a work schedule has to be created that works for both of you despite the six hour difference.
It’s also important to understand time zones from a deadline perspective. If a client wants a piece done by 8 PM, it’s important to remember that’s usually 8 PM their time, not yours.
Even knowing multiple languages, my job still involves technology like Computer Assisted Translation tools. Some projects I can translate easily based on my fluency, but hobby languages can always use some sprucing up. Computer Assisted Translation tools can make the life of a translation project manager much simpler by combining the reasonable brain of a human with the logical knowledge of a computer.
There’s also project management tools. Anyone in any project field has to get used to scheduling their every day to make sure projects are completed on time. If you want to be a translation project manager, you’d better get used to scheduling, scheduling, and more scheduling.
Finally, being a translation project manager can be an extremely stressful job. Though I find my work to be extremely rewarding, the deadlines, clients, and projects can sometimes be overwhelming. The work involves deadlines, some of which are strenuous and hard to meet. Stress is something that happens, and all translation project managers will face it during their career.
But, like I said, the work is also fascinating and rewarding. I love being a translation project manager, and the pros massively outweigh the cons.
Social media has really shrunk the world. What’s more, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are available in multiple languages, further connecting our global community. This also means that it’s worth it to promote your translation company website in social media.
Global businesses haven’t truly given in to globalization if they don’t have content available on their website in multiple languages. This is where a translation company comes in: they can take a business with global dreams and make them a reality. Other clients are on social media with more specific translation needs, like translating a brochure into multiple languages for non-English speaking clients.
These clients are waiting for translation companies on social media — all it takes to reach them is a little promotion.
More businesses than ever before are looking to move away from a strictly English-speaking audience. When companies attempt to move into markets in other countries and continents, it’s essential that they translate their documents into the target languages. Today, we’re taking a closer look at why companies should translate their web content into French.
More than just the language of one specific target market a business wants to reach, French is a what we consider a base language — and a French translation is crucial to your success if you want to reach the widest audience possible.
Even though it is a popular language around the globe, many people don’t quite understand how vital French is to their consumer audience. Let’s take a closer look.
Photograph: The Nuisance Committee/Facebook
Whether you are a Trump supporter or not — and whether you care about the U.S. 2016 presidential elections or not –- the sign is funny, no?
“Donald Trump can’t read this, but he is scared of it.”
Not being fluent in Arabic, I would not have known what it meant. Except for the endless social media posts about it, and The Guardian’s coverage.
How many other election jokes and serious debates are we missing due to language barriers? A lot. Especially on social media, where thousands of tweets and Facebook posts in foreign languages fly right on by.
A new translation tool called Bridge is going to let us read those indecipherable posts, however. Bridge is making social media even more social.
Bridge translates twitter and other social media platforms into multiple languages. This way, us digital humans can communicate – even more. Bridge uses only real humans for the translation of social media.
Bridge goes one step further.
According to mediaonline, Bridge “applies journalistic principles to curate and translate social media conversations among global and minority communities as a way to broaden the discourse.”
Roughly translated: Bridge hires journalists or people with “journalistic sensibilities who either come from the relevant community or understand the minority group well” to do and review the translations for accuracy.
Bridge has a special project for the U.S. 2016 presidential elections, as you can imagine.
U.S. 2016 presidential elections and translation law
The U.S. has a “Minority Language Provision” law which requires all federal documents to be translated into “minority languages” of the local population. The system is not without its kinks.
Recall the translation blunder for the U.S. 2012 presidential elections, when Chinese-speaking voters were directed to enter their “last 4 nuclear submarines” instead of the last 4 digits of their social security numbers. Good one, Illinois.
Another blunder occurred in Maryland. The summary of the ballot question concerning the same-sex civil marriage referendum completely misled Spanish-speaking voters.
The Minority Language Provision law requires ballots, voter registration, polling information and other logistical information for voting. Of course it does not require that the plethora of information, debate, accusations and promises made on social media be translated.
As digital beings, we know social media affects our thinking and possibly our voting choices.
For the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, some politicians are translating their own social media. Candidate Hillary Clinton has her official twitter feed translated into Spanish on a separate account.
Whether voting, supporting, arguing or trying to ignore the U.S. presidential elections, thanks to Bridge, you can now better navigate the social media around it and other topics.
AT&T used to tell us to reach and touch someone. Bridge is letting us reach out and understand someone. Or insult them. Or support them. Social media has never been more social.