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Top 8 Tips for the Perfect Website Translation

29 August 2018 - by Helene Walters-Steinberg

Having your website available in several languages is essential if you have a multilingual customer base. Here are some tips on how to make sure the translation process goes smoothly.

1- Localisation: While the words themselves need to be translated of course, some of the concepts may also need to be adapted for your target market. This includes converting measurements (e.g. from  the imperial to the metric system) and adapting cultural references so they can be understood by your new audience.

2- SEO: There is no point having your list of keywords translated literally if your target market will not be using them to search for your products or services. I recommend conducting market research to produce a list of keywords specifically used in that language/country/region or commissioning your translator to do this for you.

3- Length: Do not forget to take into account the fact that different languages will take up different amounts of space on the screen. For example, French tends to be 15% to 20% longer than English. As a result, text that fits perfectly one a button in English may end up being too long in French!

4- Layout: To avoid the issue mentioned above, I would highly recommend showing your translator a mock-up of the layout or a version of the site in the source language. If you explain the purpose of each element (e.g., header, body, button) as well as any length constraints, a good translator will then adapt the translation to fit these constraints. This avoids you having to make last minute changes when the text won’t fit on the screen!

5- Formatting: One way to speed up the process is to have your translator work directly in the html file. This way, all you need to do is upload the new html files to the new site, without trying to copy-paste the translation into the html. Most professional translators will use specific software allowing them to work in the html file without running the risk of accidentally modifying the coding. This also helps the translator to identify some of the potential layout issues as the html code helps identify the various webpage elements.

6- Pictures: The pictures used for the original website may not be adapted to the culture of your target audience. For example, what is acceptable in one country may not be in another market. However, the use of culturally relevant images extends beyond simply avoiding offensive ones. Images help create a connection with your audience, so check that the people in the photographs have a similar appearance to website visitors and that the backgrounds correspond to that region’s climate and architecture.

7- Content Management System (CMS): This may seem obvious, but this step is often overlooked. Make sure your current CMS supports the new language, as this can be an issue with right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew or double-bit Asian scripts like Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

8- Proofread at every stage: make sure that your translator proofreads the final version once it is ready to go live, paying particular attention to any typos and formatting errors. You want the version your clients see to be perfect, so smooth out any teething errors before publishing it.

As you can see, the common feature of most of these tips is to think of the translation from the target market’s point of view. As professional translators are always native speakers of the language they translate into, I recommend bringing up these points with them. They can then recommend changes or point you in the direction of a cultural consultant. In addition, by clarifying any formatting constraints ahead of time, you can help your translator get it right the first time round, leaving you with the perfect website translation.


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