Top Four Drawbacks of Translating HTML Code

Top Four Drawbacks of Translating HTML Code

One of the most complicated translation projects I’ve ever worked on involved translating an HTML document from English into Dutch. I completed this project for one of my own webpages because I figured it would be good practice to translate a document while still being able to have it function. This was an unexpectedly daunting task.


The reason translating HTML code was so complicated for me was because I didn’t have as much knowledge of HTML as I thought I did. Some of the basic points of HTML that I had always imagined I mastered became complex. A person familiar with HTML might think that most of the code can be easily translated, but this isn’t the case. Here are some tips to ensure you translate HTML code correctly:

1. First, as a rule of thumb, the most complex aspect of HTML translating is that anything tagged between angle brackets (< >) cannot be translated. This was one of the first mistakes I made, and it caused my webpage to malfunction.

2. There is an exception: if a tag is written strictly in lowercase or uppercase, it is most likely a tag. For example, ‘<Error>’ is not a tag, and can therefore be translated. But ‘<font color=green>’ is a tag, and translating tags is not an option.

3. Because some tags might need to be repositioned, the paragraph of text you are translating might also need to be reorganized so that it makes sense in the target language. It is important to make sure that images or footnotes are also in the correct place, as well, or you’ll risk rendering the site unintelligible.

4. Lastly, when translating into HTML, most text editors (including MS Word) can open HTML or XHTML files and read them. However, they won’t show you the website when you need to know if the quality of the translation is good and if the website still functions. There are many free HTML editing tools available online that can help with this.

In short, when translating HTML or XHTML code, it is essential to have a basic understanding of HTML, at the very least. A small mistake can break a website; placing an angle bracket in the wrong place can cause a website to malfunction.

As daunting as it seems, practice does make perfect. If you would like to practice translating HTML, try using a free HTML editor and start translating basic HTML code with just a few paragraphs. This way, you’ll get a glimpse of what it takes and you can start practicing.


Did you know? Smartling eliminates the need to translate HTML code, avoiding the use of slow, manual steps.

About Tim Oldenhuis

I’m a native Dutch translator living in the Netherlands. I translate for Coursera to help make education accessible for everyone. My interests are SEO, Gamification and Marketing. I translate website content and blogs, primarily from English and German into Dutch.


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