How should you translate a website to Chinese in order to reach this huge audience and their thriving local markets? When it comes to emerging markets such as China, Brazil, and Russia, booming imports and e-commerce markets have made these counties and cultures impossible to overlook. In this article we will describe how to translate a website and show you how to avoid problems when localizing it.
Today, more and more businesses and individuals are opting for Mandarin language website localisation in order to better communicate with their potential Chinese audience. However, Mandarin is a complex tonal language that requires a highly skilled team of translators, to localise a website successfully and ensure that any cultural nuances and values, as well as most appropriate search queries, are taken into consideration.
Entering the Chinese Market Online: Translation, Localization, or Transcreation?
Translation should be seen as a first step in the process of getting your website to reach Chinese audiences. Professional website translation into Chinese stays true to the content and tone of your original website. Precision and accuracy of language is the priority. This step is important for guaranteeing that the core details of your website content is preserved when translated into a different language.
However, while translation by itself may be sufficient for purely technical writing, it is not effective as the sole method of entering the Chinese market. For content that serves marketing purposes such as website translation, it is important to consider translating the spirit of your brand to fit its new cultural context and reworking content to be culturally specific.
Clever wordplay rarely carries over in translation, especially for unrelated language pairs like English and Chinese. This can be a major stumbling block for translation when it comes to things like brand names, slogans, and various marketing collateral.
That’s where transcreation comes in. Combining translation and creation, transcreation is a technique where both the content and emotional resonance of a message are preserved during translation. It’s a process where the target of translation is ideas, concepts and feelings rather than exact words.
In transcreation, creative liberties are taken with the source translation. Culturally specific talking points are recalibrated to fit the new cultural context. Language specific wordplay is reworked to preserve its memorability without sacrificing meaning. The resulting translation may not be a direct translation of the phrase, but it replicates the emotional impact of the content across languages.
For transcreation to be effective, transcreation teams must have a strong grasp of the nuances of both the source language and the translated language.
Localization is a crucial step in increasing the effectiveness of your website translation in China. The process of localisation involves optimizing the translated website and content to adapt to the new cultural and digital context of the target language. When localisation is executed well, it helps your brand feel native to the new cultural context it has been translated into.
High calibre website localisation requires translators to not only have native level familiarity with both the source and target language and culture, but also in-depth knowledge of your brand’s industry. Website localisation experts take into account SEO optimization for the target language, cultural connotation of visual signifiers, and differences in digital habits and infrastructure of the new market.
The high level of precision, adaptability, and knowledge involved in localisation make it the most effective step in website translation.
What to Keep in Mind when Localizing Your Website in China
When localizing your website, it’s important to keep in mind the key differences between Western and Chinese internet infrastructure.
While in the West, the arena of online payments is dominated by credit cards and Paypal, in China, Alipay, WeChat, and Unionpay are the major players in the game.
Alipay and WeChat capture a combined 95% of the Chinese mobile payment market share while UnionPay has an effective monopoly on the card payment market. This means website localisation must include localisation for Chinese payment systems when it comes to e-commerce functionality.
Most Western social media platforms are not accessible in China. Instead, the country has its own social media ecosystem that international brands must learn to navigate in order market to Chinese consumers.
Currently, the major platforms dominating the Chinese social media ecosystem consist of WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu. Weibo and Douyin have counterparts outside of China, which are Twitter and Tik Tok respectively. However, WeChat and Xiaohongshu are relatively unique in their market niche. WeChat dominates instant messaging to the point where it has effectively replaced text messaging and email while having developed a full digital ecosystem of its own. Xiaohongshu, as a relatively newer player in Chinese social media, is a social recommendation platform that combines elements of Yelp, Instagram, and Pinterest.
This radically different social media landscape in China means that website localisation for the Chinese market requires adapting websites to fit into this new ecosystem. It is important to keep in mind that China’s social media platforms, with their unique functionalities, have also informed the digital habits of Chinese internet users.
User experience: write for your reader, not yourself
We recommend doing a localized marketing study before creating your content, to familiarize yourself with your (new) audience. If you are not in China yet, doing a benchmarking of your competitors will also be very useful.
This way, you will have an angle or a story that resonates with the local market in the most effective way. Looking to attract mothers? Young entrepreneurs? Imported car owners in their 40s living in second tier cities? The key is to know who you are talking to, to make the best impression and achieve faster customer acquisition.
There are a number of companies who do full market research; you will probably need some local help on that one. But if you don’t want to go this far, you can start with a simple website localization within your own research abilities.
Another point worth mentioning: even if you get your audience targeting right and the text is catchy, your (prospective) customer will leave the website if your navigation or functionality is not up to scratch.
It may be hard to believe but User Experience or UX has developed into a science; it is an actual profession for people to learn about the preferences of your consumers and adapt your website to fit their preferences and expectations.
While this is more of a web design topic, we suggest thinking about your consumer’s behaviors on your website when it comes to wording and calls to action at each step of their experience: interest – consideration – purchasing – after sales: support and feedback.
Do you use the right words to intrigue your Chinese audience? Do you turn viewers into customers easily? How easy is your website architecture to navigate around? Are visitors able to leave a review on your website or your social media page?
Translate a website with the right tools
When talking about website localization tools, one cannot avoid CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools such as Trados, which ensures your multilingual content can be dealt with in a smoother, more consistent, and more efficient manner. Other popular localization tools include DejaVu and Across, which may not have the might of Trados, but are nevertheless widely used by localization professionals and localization service providers.
Machine translation tool. This tool is mostly used by freelance translators and works well for certain language pairs. However, if you take a language with a specific writing system and grammar structure, such as Chinese, Arabic, Japanese or Korean (and many others), machine translation technology has its uses, but is not reliable enough to be used without extensive proofreading and corrective work.
Desktop publishing tools are used for content presentation and design. Language-specific correlations will help you to predict the layout in advance, but you will still need to ask localization engineers to assist with the DTP.
Adapting your colour to a local culture may also be a good idea when finalising the localization of your Chinese website localization project.
The appropriate choices of colours may subconsciously push your consumers closer to your brand. The favourite colours of Chinese audiences are red and gold.
Green is somewhat negative, especially when it comes to men. In north America and Europe, Blue represents peace, trust and security.
Yellow is a positive colour in most countries except Germany, where it represents envy. Purple is often associated with royalty, however, in Brazil and Thailand purple is the color of mourning, similar to White in China, Korea, and some other Asian countries.
Have a website to translate? Check with our team how much time will it take!
Translate a website to Chinese: choose an attractive call to action
With regards to customer acquisition, it is important to make your customer’s life as easy as possible and provide the chance of buying/emailing/joining in one to two clicks. The attention span of the average Chinese customer shopping online is much shorter than that of a Western customer.
This is due to the rapid pace and ‘everything-in-one-click’ lifestyle of China, where people are accustomed to being served or purchases completed in milliseconds; the 24/7 online support of 99% of e-commerce platforms is no-exception, payment is done in one scan plus one click, and most things are done automatically.
Almost no-one is using online-banking as they used to – everything is linked to mobile payment. The new Chinese Consumer is therefore very time sensitive: do not waste their time. Long convincing texts – NO. Page after page of explanations – NO. Your copy should be easy to read, brighten the mood, make a point quickly and make purchasing an easy click of a button or scan of a QR code.
Search engine friendly content: local search engines
Now, Search Engine Optimization is a topic for a whole different article, but let’s talk about your content optimization for the China market. As you probably already know, Google is blocked in China, and it is all in hands of BAIDU. Nevertheless, there are still title tags, meta tags, page titles, and images to think about.
Its not enough to translate your website; the localization of your website is absolutely necessary. It is not OK to just translate your tags and titles, since that will not guarantee that your local consumers are actually using those words. Using a well-known example, “pants” and “trousers” might be used interchangeably in one country, while the whole UK market will assume that the former product is underwear.
Keyword optimization and localization is a must for every market; you can’t just assume what terms will work and not being a native speaker will not help either. By purchasing the right SEO tools that will show you which keywords are searched how many times in a particular region will save you a great amount of time and money.
Doing the localization in-house is not something we recommend, but if you want to give it a shot, here is a tool that can be useful. Of course, there are more professional tools available on the market, as well as researchers, comparison campaigns and so on.
More information about Baidu SEO can be found in this article by Engage-art.
The legal side of Chinese website translation: forbidden terms in China
As you might already guess, it is not enough to just translate a website. Localization is much more than working with dictionaries! When working on Chinese website localization, you may be in for a few surprises regarding your marketing content.
There is a fairly extensive list of words and phrases you cannot use, most of which refer to being the best, strongest, fastest, original, 100% or even “real leather”, and violating this law will lead to a fine up to 300,000 RMB or even 300 days in jail! Now, if you want to protect your marketing director from this fate, check the full list of forbidden terms on our dedicated article here.
Make sure your content is legal in the country you are hosting and marketing your website in/to.
Brand name translation: new company/brand name – is it necessary?
Since the writing system in China is dramatically different, your brand name/company name will be translated whether you want it or not, so you better have the time and resources to have it done.
To see examples of some brand naming failures in China and some useful information on how to avoid similar fates, please see one of our previous articles.
You can go a few different directions here: a phonetic way – sounding it out, making your new brand name sound like the old one – but using local characters. Be careful here, because two characters may have a positive meaning separately, but put together they might change the whole picture.
The second way would be to actually translate the meaning of the brand – this of course works well for companies and brands that actually mean something (like Apple).
Don’t forget that double checking the final list of the possible name translations will save some time and money, as well as prevent you from some embarrassing situations. No matter how perfect you think your final translation is, make sure to show it to a test group to assure your meaning is not lost in translation. And don’t rush to translate a website to all the languages possible, it takes time to do research and testing for each language.
Example of Good Website Localization
An example of successful website localization would be Dentsply Sirona. The Chinese version of the website has highly technical medical product descriptions that are expertly translated. Source language terms are kept to a minimum, with all product names translated. Product descriptions are clear and have plenty of terms for Chinese SEO.
On the homepage, the header is welcoming, with a call to action for visitors engage in their native language. The footer is fully fleshed out, allowing Chinese visitors to learn more about the company, read their blogs, search for products, and even apply for a job.
The only improvements would be to establish Chinese social media channels and translate the company name into Chinese, something that would require intensive transcreation.
How Should Your Website Translation be Organized?
The website of any international company should be translated into the languages of all countries where the goods or services of this company are sold. The easiest and almost free way to make a site multilingual is to use automatic translation, for example Google.
However, the bounce rate percentage (percentage of users leaving the site without scrolling down) in this case will be extremely high, which can adversely affect the site’s position in search engines.
In addition, the accuracy of the transmission of meaning will be approximate and will constantly change depending on the updates of the machine translation engine. Such a translation may mislead the user and certainly will not contribute to strengthening the image of the company.
Therefore, most companies decide to localize their websites with the help of professionals. In this article, we have compiled general web localization recommendations based on HI-COM’s many years of working experience.
Step1. Determine which sections of the website can be localized and which translated only
The cost of changing the text of the site increases in direct proportion to the number of language versions of this site. Often, at the end of a project, a translation company will find a long list of typos, logical contradictions, inconsistencies, etc. noted in the source text of the site.
Not all such inconsistencies can be resolved by the translator without the participation of the customer, or when the customer finalizes the site’s content after the start of the translation.
All this leads to confusion and significantly increases the terms of work on the project.
It’s vital to estimate the project budget. Is it really necessary to translate the entire site content or can it be limited to individual pages? Do the “News”, “Articles”, “Reviews” sections need to be translated?
Step 2. Work on the structure of the website and estimate the volume of technical work on it
A. How will multilingualism be implemented?
You can organize language versions of a site in the following ways:
– Domains with the same name in other zones (yoursite.ru, yoursite.de, yoursite.fr, etc.);
– subdomains with language designation (ru.yoursite.ru, de.yoursite.ru);
– directory with language identifier (yoursite.ru/de/);
- Substitution of content.
The first method is the most difficult and costly. Some domains may be busy and will have to be redeemed.
Changing the design or features will require edits on each site. At the same time, this method gives the greatest freedom for localization.
The structures of individual sites will not be tightly interconnected. In addition, each site will be separately indexed and ranked by search engines independently from others.
A multilingual site using a subdomain is technically no different from using a separate domain for each language, so this method is only advisable to use if it is not possible to purchase all the required domains.
A directory with a language identifier is the most common and easiest way to implement a multilingual interface. Many site management systems have free or low-cost plug-ins (such as WPML for WordPress) to implement this option.
In some systems (for example, Joomla), such a plug-in is already built into the basic functionality. All the advantages and disadvantages of this method are related to the fact that you still have one whole website.
This can, for example, cause difficulties when work on the site’s content is decentralized – for example, when different branches of the company are responsible for each language version.
The option with substitution of content is used extremely rarely due to the negative impact on website promotion. Pages in different languages in this case may have the same URL, headings, keywords, which will negatively affect their promotion.
B. Will the structure of all language versions of the website coincide?
The need for different structures with separate language versions of the site can be caused by various factors: delivery or order features, or legal features (for example, different requirements for the protection of personal data). Assortment of goods, promotions, and news may vary.
C. Will the functionality of all language versions of the site coincide?
Creating a multilingual website can lead to an extension of the functionality: automatic conversion of prices into different currencies (units), changing the format of dates, etc.
D. Is website design suitable for multilingualism?
Text in different languages can vary significantly in graphical terms. If the site design was developed for languages based on hieroglyphs or characters (for example, Korean or Chinese), then most likely it cannot be used without modifications, for example, the German version of the site. Long German text just doesn’t fit inside buttons.
Refinement of the design may also be required in case of localization in languages with reverse (RTL / LTR) writing direction (for example, Arabic or Hebrew), where it will be necessary to arrange the main modules in a mirror.
E. Are there any editable sources for all audiovisual materials (diagrams, graphs, videos, presentations)?
The lack of editable files can significantly increase the cost and timing of layout work.
In addition, if the text or subtitles are part of a bitmap image, either the image below them will be lost when replacing the text (the translated text will be placed in the “text box” with a background fill), or you will have to pay for the long-term work of manually rendering these parts of the image.
F. Flags or languages?
Flags symbolize countries, but not languages. It is necessary to use them very carefully to indicate the language versions of the site so as not to confuse or offend the user.
If the flags of the United Kingdom or the United States do not mislead the user, then many of the more rare languages cannot be denoted by flags.
For example, the flag of which country should be designated to Arabic, Hindi, Persian, etc.?
When using language names, it is very important not to indicate them in the main language of the site, i.e. instead of “German” and “Chinese”, indicate “Deutsch” and “中文”.
G. Is the site encoding suitable for displaying content in different languages?
If the project will use not only Latin or Cyrillic, then there is almost only one option for implementing multilingualism – you need to use Unicode, usually UTF-8.
H. Do I need to try to automatically detect the user’s language?
There are many ways to determine the user’s language and redirect them to the desired language version of the site. It is important to understand that none of these methods is absolutely accurate.
A user, by mistake redirected to the wrong language version, should be able to quickly change it.
J. What page of the site will the user access when switching between languages?
Ideally, switching the language on any page should lead to the opening of the same page in the desired language.
This principle will not work if only part of the materials are translated. Another option is to send the user to the translated home page of the site.
Step 3. Arrange materials required translation/localization
A. How will the export of the translation and subsequent import of translated pages be carried out? Does it make sense to automate this process?
With small sites you can do without automation by copying the text into an Excel file. It is highly undesirable to use MS Word for these purposes.
Firstly, it is more difficult to structure the content elements and it will be more difficult to search for them and correlate them in different languages (in Excel, no matter how many languages there are, the translation can be entered in the next column).
Secondly, any professional translation company is able to work with HTML markup. If you send an Excel file containing the markup tags in the cells for translation, then all the tags after the translation will remain in their places.
This is achieved with the help of special translation software that blocks tags so that the translator does not accidentally delete them, and also allows you to compare the original and the translation and make sure that all tags are kept in place.
For larger projects, setting up export of content for translation may be an effective solution. This can be done either with the help of modules (for most popular CMS, such modules already exist) or by independently understanding the database structure of the site where the content is located.
B. Check that you didn’t forget anything when submitting website for translation:
– menu items;
– the contents of all modules and plug-ins;
– submitting forms error messages;
– templates of emails sent to the user by the site;
– meta tags and keywords;
– text on images and subtitles for video;
- legally relevant texts (confidentiality agreements, delivery terms, product catalogs, price lists, specifications, etc.).
Step 4. Hire translation company or set up an internal translation team
Modern translation is a complex, multi-stage process, which, in addition to the translation itself, includes various project preparation and quality control tasks: compilation and approval of a glossary, editing by a second translator, automatic control of formatting compliance, transfer of digital values.
For localization of the site in five languages, for example, a team of 12-15 people may be involved. Managing such a process requires specialized knowledge.
Based on our experience, the customer will not normally be able to significantly save funds by organizing this work on their own.
Be sure to make at least an approximate work schedule. Will all the text be sent for translation at once? Do you plan to regularly translate any other materials (news, audit reports, press releases, etc.)?
Knowing such information will allow the translation company to plan resources, and a more stable team will work on the project, which will positively affect quality.
Step 5. Linguistic testing
After the website translation is completed and the test assembly of the multilingual site is prepared, you can proceed to linguistic testing. Linguistic testing allows you to identify errors that are impossible or extremely difficult to notice in the previous stages of work.
These errors include:
- Semantic errors due to lack of context. Such errors practically do not depend on the competence of the translator, since the translator does not work with text in the shell of the site, but most often receives text uploaded to Excel, where the content elements are not grouped in the way they are grouped on the site pages.
- Distortion of formatting due to the variability of the text length (the text goes beyond the borders of the buttons or its incomplete display).
- Errors with fonts (for example, when the font used does not contain the characters of the desired language).
- Invalid hyperlinks (for example, leading to another language version of the site).
Step 6. Work on multilingual SEO
Modern search engine optimization is largely a linguistic task. Correctly selected frequency keywords can only be done by a person who is fluent in the target language. Ideally, if the keyword list should be ready before the translation begins. This will save energy and time on processing the content afterwards.
Translate a Website Using Professional Services: Companies and Prices
When deciding to translation a website as well as localize it, you shall choose a reliable, experienced partner who is working in your target market.
Normally, website content localization services will include original website extraction, evaluation of the content length, translation and/or transcreation, localization of the commercial terms and marketing taglines, and even in some cases content integration. Not to forget a specific aspects of SEO localization that includes the localization of targeted keywords, translation of meta tags etc.
Prices for website localisation vary depending on specificity of the content and the size of website. Big websites may receive a “bulk” discounts, so to say that the price is decreasing based on the volume.
To find out more about website localization services please contact HI-COM, a multilingual localization expert that works with more than 40 languages worldwide.
HI-COM is a digital marketing agency dedicated to providing China-specific strategy, social media communication and e-commerce marketing services to businesses around the world. Working with more than 100 brands, HI-COM is the go-to partner of companies that want to enter China market! Contact us for your free consultation today!
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