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Website Translation: 7 Mistakes to Avoid

Website Translation: 7 Mistakes to Avoid

When your company is going international, translating your website is a task that you have to approach with caution. An essential part is to try to put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer or prospect. What’s a bigger turnoff or could make you seem less credible than going onto a new website and seeing translation mistakes everywhere? We created a list of 7 mistakes that you should definitely avoid when translating your website.

1. Google Translate – the early days of automation

Wait. Hold on one second. You actually use Google Translate to localise your website and content?! All through secondary school, didn’t you pay any attention to French teaching assistant Mlle Dubois? Google Translate is not suitable for writing an essay when you’re 12, so why would it be the ideal solution when you want to add new languages to your website. The very nexus point between you and your customers. The portal on which people will discover or learn more about you for the first time. The magic wand effect of automatic translation is simply too good to be true! The fact of the matter is, you’ll end up with a series of nonsensical and incomprehensible sentences that will end up making your brand seem as credible as an Aldi knock-off soft drink. Would anyone like a cool glass of Pospi Mex?… didn’t think so.

2. The intern – the right man for the job?

It’s funny to see that translation is regarded as so trivial by some business owners. So much so that they ask to their intern (who may literally have zero credentials as a linguist) to translate their website. Translation is, after all, a profession and there’s a very good reason for that. Even if your intern has a high level of whatever foreign language it may be, he/she is not a trained linguist (… unless of course he/she is indeed a trained linguist), and they won’t have the skills to find the right, and ultimately the most appropriate, equivalent terms, expressions and turns of phrase in the language when approaching the task. People take years to master this, and being bilingual simply won’t make you a translator.

3. Proofreading – hindsight is 20/20

If you choose to translate your website by yourself, proofreading is a must. Even once the translation itself is done, there’s still a lot to be taken care of. You’ll need to methodically re-read and review your translations once, twice or even 3 times to ensure the adequacy of the translation. Proofreading is an integral part of the whole process and it is the point in the translation that allows you to check if you’ve made any grammar, punctuation or spelling mistakes. It is also really important to check the logic of your text. Sometimes, in the first instance, you may decide to use a word that you will then change during the proofreading phase. This is not necessarily because the word is incorrect, but merely because you found something better suited to the sentence. When you take a step back from you translation and re-read it later, it can only get better.

4. Localisation – saying it like it is

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Translation and localisation are two sides of the same coin, but in their given context, they are also very different. If you launch your business internationally, you need to take the localisation route in order to adapt your copy to the norms of the countries you’re going to. And this involves more than the exchange of one word for another.

Some things can seem like minor details when you’re not in the know. But these can be the proof of a good website translation. You need to think about what needs to be modified. Your slogan? Is your company’s contact email address adapted to the new language you want to add to your site? Which hashtags are you going to use? You need to think about all these minute details in order to keep things professional, credible and convincing. From a content perspective, this is way more strategic than a routine translation, as all those cultural references help you to adapt more immersively, taking into account local customs, the tone of your content and your website’s general character.
When you change the language of your website, the length of your words change, so this also needs to be taken in consideration. You need to be diligent and reorganise your content in the smartest way possible, sometimes shortening the wordcount, but not losing the sense of the message in the original language. It’s a delicate process.

5. Star of the SEO

When you create a website, you need to set up a strategy in order to optimise your content and improve your ranking on search engines. Should you decide to then create your website in an additional language, you’ll need to do exactly the same thing. You’ll be required to seek out what are the most suitable primary and secondary keywords to improve the effectiveness of your text content. The terms that are more and/or less popular have to be identified in order to do this correctly. All this needs to be adapted to the broader trends of the new market and language area you’re entering.

6. Terminology – all about that base!

In order to translate your website the more professionally possible, you need to establish a termbase (terminological base). It’s important to catalogue the specific vocabulary in order to have the most specific translation, especially when your website is focused on a really specific field (scientific, tech, pharma ).

7. Outsourcing – you’re just too good to be true

Sometimes the price that a translation agency offers can sound very appealing. Especially if one doesn’t immediately realise the value of aptly localised messaging. But in localisation, as in life, a suspiciously low price can often be a red flag. It stands to reason that quality translators are paid a decent wage for their work. Indeed, a true translator will spend a great deal of time studying and analysing the content assigned to them in order to provide the best possible translation, and they will have various tools at their disposal to ensure the quality of their output. If the price seems tantalisingly competitive, there is always the possibility that a compromise is being made somewhere along the way (inadequately trained translators, use of automated translation tools, no proofreading etc.).

Translating an entire website by yourself can be a cost-saving tactic, but if you take on such a task before realising it is a lot of work, that’s because it is. Furthermore, attempting to translate from your mother tongue into a foreign language can only end in heartache. You’ll never capture the same mode of expression as a native speaker and trained individual, so it is always best to entrust this to someone whose line of work is precisely that. Calling upon a specialist agency is often the best option as you’re ensured that your site will be translated by professionals who have studied translation and really know what they are doing. If the agency you’re dealing with is a serious one, their assigned staff will keep in touch with you along the way, with the goal of obtaining the necessary background and contextual info needed to do a good job, to meet your expectations and to get the best possible result for you and your brand/business.

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