The Number One Challenge With Web Page Translation

Web page translation is an important element in international marketing campaigns—if web pages don’t immediately communicate your brand’s message, potential customers may look elsewhere. However, effective web translation comes with a significant challenge: the inability to see what translations really look like in context.

Translating in the Dark

When companies need their websites localized, many choose advanced translation software to complete the bulk of this work. However, when it comes to major brand messages or landing pages, it’s worth employing translation experts to get the text exactly right. However, problems arise when people translate in the dark. Translators are sent images or emails containing the original text but have no way to visualize or preview the final project. One common practice is printing out screenshots on a piece of paper, then cutting out translated sections to get an idea of how they would look against the originals. Though many tools now let translators import text, this doesn’t really solve the visualization issue—just as on paper, words alone are not enough.

What makes this such an issue? Context and composition. Context is important because marketing language doesn’t exist in isolation. Translating blocks of text without being able to see complete web pages puts experts at a disadvantage, because the effect of translated words and phrases is reduced when they’re disconnected from surrounding content. Composition is also vital. Some languages require more physical space to convey the same message, while others have a smaller footprint. Some brands prefer to be bombastic, over-the-top, and expansive, while others opt for a simpler approach. Without the ability to see original and translated texts side by side, experts cannot maintain consistent composition.

Man Versus Machine

One possible answer to the web page translation issue is using machine-based techniques. As noted by the Globalization and Localization Association, machine translation offers substantial benefits in specific situations, such as emergency response efforts or as a way to facilitate voice-based communication. However, there are other areas where machine translation falls flat. Above The Law points out that machine translation tools “are not quite there yet” when it comes to important work such as translating legal documents or dealing with e-discovery requests. Part of the problem lies in security, but the main issue stems from a machine’s inability to handle the context and nuance of language in the same way as a human translator. The bottom line? Machine translation is a good way to start localizing your website, but it isn’t enough to finish the job.

Staying in Context

Getting the best web page translation for your budget means relying on professional translators, but is there a way to improve their overall efficiency and accuracy? Your best bet is making them context-aware. Ideally, this means leveraging website translation services that let them work in context and interact with your web page elements in real time. Instead of looking at static blocks of text, translators can insert and remove words on the fly, letting them see what the finished product will look and whether it will “break” your website by spilling out of design elements such as boxes or sidebars. If you aren’t quite web-ready yet or choose to go one-on-one with translators, at least provide them with screenshots, visual mock-ups, and other references to help them better understand your content.

Ultimately, context is a productivity tool. Sure, it’s possible to get a well-translated web page and reap the benefits of localized marketing efforts without valuable context for translators, but it will take them more time and cost you more money. Providing contextual tools lets translators deliver their best work in the shortest amount of time, giving your global content the most important advantage: authenticity.

If you are curious about context, learn more about effective web page conversion through translation software.

Image source: Bigstock

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About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is a freelance technology writer with a passion for telling great stories about unique brands. For the past five years, he's covered everything from cloud computing to home automation and IT security. He speaks some French, is fluent in Ancient Greek and a master of Canadian English — and yes, colour needs a 'u'.