Translating a website from your native language to a foreign language, or vice versa, is not as easy or straightforward as it may seem. Translating a website word-for-word can omit subtle nuances and context that are necessary for a language to sound and read authentically.
Automating translation is a tricky task, and not one to be taken lightly. Type “translation fail” into your Google search bar and you can spend hours laughing at all of the poorly translated ads, menus, and signs from around the world.
Image Credit: Babbel
While language translation fails are hilarious, it wouldn’t be as funny if you were sporting a website translation failure on your own business’ web page.
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Why You Should Translate Your Website, By The Numbers
Translating the language on a website is not only helpful to access information on a website from another country, but it can also help you extend your reach in your e-commerce business. By translating your website into other languages, you can break the language barrier and tap into the world market.
Let’s take a look at why that can be a lucrative move on your part.
According to W3Techs, English is used as the primary language on 54.5 percent of all web pages, Russian is used on 6.7 percent of all pages, German on 5.3 percent, and Spanish on 4.8 percent of all web pages.
However, English is the native tongue of only 25.2 percent of internet users. Chinese is the number two native language of internet users at 19.3 percent. However, W3Tech reports that only 1.6 percent of web pages are in Chinese.
Here is a graphic representation of the languages used on the internet:
Image Credit: Reddit user, Plottingman
Comparing these data sets reveals an obvious and surprising imbalance.
The European Commission, in collaboration with the Common Sense Advisory, conducted a survey of language preferences in 23 countries in the European Union. They found that:
- Nine out of ten internet users said that they will always choose to view sites in their native language.
- One out of five people will never look at a site that is not in their native tongue.
- 42 percent of people will not purchase anything from a website that is not in their native language.
Furthermore, according to the Harvard Business Review, 72.4 percent of consumers said that “they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.” Not only that, obtaining information in their native language is “more important than price” for more than 56 percent of consumers in the previously mentioned study from the European Commission.
According to Internet World Stats, in the last 19 years, Chinese language users grew 2,572.3 percent, Spanish users by 1,425.8 percent, Arabic users by 8,917.3 percent, and Russian users by 3,434.0 percent.
Image Credit: Internet World Stats
With all of this information, it’s astounding to think that only 20 percent of the world’s population speaks English, and only five percent of the world’s population speaks English as a native language, according to Babel. What all of this means is that a large percent of internet users are spending their time on a tiny fraction of the internet, and a large portion of the world’s e-commerce market is being left mostly untapped.
The Tools For The Job
Even if you currently have little interest in translating your website and tapping into the global market, it is worth taking into consideration for the future. Learning how to translate a website can be helpful in extending your reach for your store or your blog. If your competition isn’t translating their website yet, you might be able to set yourself up to be a global powerhouse.
However, unless you’re multilingual, breaking the language barrier requires a little (okay, a lot) of help. There are many useful tools available on the internet to help you translate websites.
Google Translate is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways of translating a website for free. There are two ways to use Google Translate to translate websites:
First, you can translate a whole website by typing in the web address in the box on the left.
Select the language you would like to translate it to from the drop-down menu on the right.
Image Credit: Google Translate
You’ll see a link show up in the box on the right. Clicking through that link will take you to the translated website.
This is helpful for you to see what your site might look like when translated into another language. The image below is the Oberlo Blog translated into Chinese.
Notice that there are certain items on the translated website that are not actually translated, such as the text embedded in images. This is because Google Translate does not translate the text in images, nor does it translate words that have no translation, such as “Instagram” and “Snapchat.”
The other way to translate your website using Google is to copy and paste your text into the box. Google will automatically translate the text as seen in the image below:
Image Credit: Google Translate
Always be careful when relying on machine translation. Google Translate, while smart and accurate most of the time, may not catch the nuances and subtleties hidden within a language.
Unfortunately, earlier this year Google decided to discontinue the option to embed a widget on your company website, which made translation quick and easy for your customers. But you do have the option for such a tool if you are a Shopify user.
Langify For Shopify Users
If you run your e-commerce store through Shopify, you’re in luck! You can easily translate your website using the Langify app for Shopify. This app was developed for Shopify specifically and will automatically translate your website based on the location of your customer.
Image Credit: Langify
Your customers can even choose a different language utilizing a customizable language switcher.
Shopify users can extend their reach with relative ease by installing this app. There is a monthly cost of $17.50, which is minimal compared to the potential it can provide and less expensive than other translation services.
Unlike Google Translate, Langify has the ability to translate images. However, similar to the Google Translate service, Langify is a bot, meaning that there is no human behind the scenes to check that the website translation is 100 percent correct.
Bablic provides several options for you to translate websites, depending on what you need. You can choose to have your site translated by a bot, you can translate the website on your own, or you can have a real human translate your website.
Image Credit: Bablic
Once you have your translation, you are able to set up your newly translated website with a visual editor, then publish it within minutes. Depending on the plan you choose, you can have up to 30 languages on your translated website.
Bablic will automatically detect changes and additional content, adjusting accordingly. The service not only translates your website for you, but they also optimize for international SEO and localization.
The translation service costs as little as $24 per month, but you can try it for free for one language. The free trial does not allow you to choose the human translation option, but you will at least be able to see how easy it is to have your website translated to another language.
This service is considered a translation management system. This system will accurately translate your uploaded content, but does not manage it in website form for you, as Bablic does. Pairaphrase, in particular, will translate your website content using machine translation, then a real human translator goes through the translated content and edits it for accuracy and appropriateness.
Image Credit: Pairaphrase
Since they use a machine to translate the content initially, you get translated content within seconds to minutes. Pairaphrase can translate spreadsheets, presentations, and PDFs, and images. The uploaded content is stored and kept safe with added features like two-step authentication and SSL certificates.
This translation management system is excellent for speed, accuracy, and international SEO. However, it comes with a steeper price point than the other website translation apps and software starting at $125 a month.
Hire A Human Translator
You can skip the bot and bypass any semi-complicated software by hiring a real human translator. Humans can understand and correctly translate the subtle nuances, slang, and phrases that a machine just isn’t able to capture.
Having a real human translate your website will almost guarantee that your consumers will not be left confused (or laughing) at your website. Just be sure that the translator you choose has experience with the type of content you are aiming to produce. There may be certain terminology that is needed for your content that they are not familiar with.
Smartling, an internet-based website translating company, employs real people to translate your content. With over 150 available languages, the Smartling translators and linguists can tackle pretty much any project you send their way.
Image Credit: Smartling
Smartling has flexible costs depending on the work you need. They also offer machine translation as well as integration with some third-party translation services.
You can find a plethora of real human translators with a quick internet search.
Machine Versus Human Translation
Nothing beats the accuracy of human translation for your website. But is it really worth the cost? Unbabel seems to think so. This company, like Pairaphrase, translates your content via machine translation initially, then has a real human go through and edit for accuracy. For website translation, this seems to be the best combination for both speed and accuracy.
Most machine translators are constantly learning and relying on translation memories, a somewhat complicated subject. Simply put, translation software uses bits of stored sentences and their corresponding translations in memory, and uses that storage to translate new sentences. This can lead to both minor and major discrepancies in translation.
Take, for example, this excerpt from the Unbabel blog post below:
Source (English): You recently notified us of the possibility that copyrighted material was being made available through our website.
Machine translation (German): Sie haben uns vor Kurzem von der Überzeugung in Kenntnis gesetzt, dass urheberrechtlich geschütztes Material auf unserer Website kostenlos verfügbar ist.
[You recently notified us of a belief that copyrighted material was being made available at no cost through our website.]
The problem with this is that the word “available” was translated into German as “available at no cost”.
As you can see from the above example, machine translation is not perfect, and can leave you in a precarious position. Many people and businesses use free website translation software without any problems, but keep in mind that mistakes are always a possibility.
It’s Kind Of A Big Deal
As the global market becomes increasingly interconnected and businesses become more global, website translation software will also continue to grow and evolve. According to the Harvard Business Review, this $33 billion industry currently has more than 26,000 translation companies and freelancers. It is not difficult to find a translation company within your price range, and it’s possible to receive translated materials in a matter of minutes.
Language diversity is growing on the world wide web, but for many internet users, there is very little content available in their native tongues. For business owners, especially scalable e-commerce, SaaS, SEO, and tech companies, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the growth of language diversity on the internet.
Whether you choose a real human to translate your website, or go with a free service like Google Translate, there is no shortage of available website translation services to meet your needs.