Although Google Translate has certainly come a long way over the years, “It looks like they just used Google Translate” is never a compliment, and it’s not a reaction any business owner should ever want to hear about their website. In principle, localization is generally a good idea, but bad translations make businesses look unprofessional and are one of the fastest ways to lose the trust (and business) of potential customers.
It’s essential for businesses to provide information in the target language of their customers, but translation can be time-consuming and downright difficult, depending on the target language, so what’s the best way to translate a website? We’ll shed some light on the evolution of website translation and the tools that are making it faster, easier, and more accurate than ever.
How to Translate a Website – The Old Way
Traditionally, website translation used to be done in the way you might imagine: a business wanting its website translated into Chinese would first approach a website localization agency in China. After agreeing on a price, a human translator would manually translate it by browsing the website one page at a time, translating and transcribing all of the content onto a Word document, and then provide the Word document with the content in both languages to the customer.
This method can be time-consuming and prone to errors when it’s time to create the new web page. Humans are, well, humans. They get tired, overworked, distracted, etc., and especially if the web designer building your page is not fluent in the language the website is being translated into, or if your instructions are not crystal-clear, there’s a higher likelihood that the web page will contain errors.
How to Translate a Website – The Path Forward
The development of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools over the past few decades has been a game-changer, boosting the productivity and consistency of manual translation. CAT tools consist of many technologies, including a translation memory (enabling translators to reuse previously translated content), translation management systems (which automate project management and publishing), terminology management systems (which increase the consistency of standard terms, names, and translations), and quality assurance tools.
Desktop CAT tools
These are the earliest translation tools, but the market for desktop CAT tools will continue to grow, as they can interoperate with cloud translation management systems, and continue to become more powerful with each iteration.
Client/Server CAT Tools
Client/Server CAT tools are a key resource for the translation and localisation departments of many enterprises, and as the name suggests, they are composed of a central server and many clients. The central server is usually installed at the client, while the client software is installed on the employees’ and translators’ machines. The clients are typically Windows-based, as this has been the standard configuration of most enterprise software over the past ten years.
- If your company runs a static website (that is, a web page with fixed content which displays the same information to every visitor and does not require any web programming or database design), translating it is as easy as copying the HTML pages of the website, analyzing the text with the dedicated CAT Tool and directly updating the content of the HTML pages with the new translation.
- For dynamic websites (such as WordPress) with a multilingual plugin setup (e.g. WPML), you can directly download the website content as a set of XLIFF files (native files for dedicated computer-assisted translation software). After the translation has been completed and added to the XLIFF files, simply upload the updated XLIFF files through the plugin, and you’re all set!
Web-based CAT and Mobile Translation Tools
Web-Based CAT Tools
Web-Based CAT tools feature all of the key technologies found in client/server CAT tools, while addressing many of their pain points:
- Cross-platform: Web-based CAT tools support Windows, Mac, Linux, and other operating systems.
- Agile development: Web-based CAT tools support the agile development process, and continuously improve the server-side software without forcibly upgrading the labor-intensive client-side software.
- Cloud-based: Cloud-based asset management, translation memory, and other centralized project management functions enable users to work on different devices at different times without losing completed tasks.
- SaaS business model: With flexible licensing, customers can increase or decrease the number of users or their usage quota according to their needs. Mixed-type – This integrates client/server tools and web tools. The project management of these tools is still carried out in the cloud, but the translation work can be carried out either locally by translators or on the web.
Mobile Translation Tools
- Mobile translation tools are comparatively new in the computer-aided translation industry, but will grow in demand in most translation management systems because many translators (especially in developing countries) access the internet primarily through their mobile phones.
- Their service is dedicated to the localization of mobile applications, so it is a good mobile translation editing tool. The main challenge in making the CAT environment accessible through mobile devices is how to make them work on a limited display and user input interface.
- Typically, this restricts the type of work that mobile translators can do. For example, they can only translate shorter texts and documents. This limitation will not be a big problem for tablet devices, because the display size of tablet devices is similar to the display size and resolution of PC or notebook computers.
So what does all of that mean for your company in 2021?
We explored some of the backend technologies used to translate and update web pages. However, choosing the right tools is just the beginning. For a translated web page to be useful, the translations themselves must be accurate and sound professional. This is where the value of experienced human translators and proofreaders becomes clear.
Need a professional website translation? Check our website translation and localization services!
Learn how HI-COM´s “Human Translation-Native Proofreading” model can deliver the best translations for your website.
Want to translate a website to Chinese? Read our guide “Translate a Website to Chinese: All You Need to Know.”
HI-COM is a professional translation and localization agency that serves multinational companies as well as startups. Our team of professionals is always ready to provide a free consultation and a no-obligation quotation! Contact us if you have any questions!