For years the USA has been the powerbase of the internet, dominating both in production and consumption of websites. But while north America is still the region with the highest internet penetration (a measure of internet usage per capita) at around 80%, for raw numbers of internet users, you now have to look no further than Asia, and China in particular. Not only that, but because of its already high penetration, north America doesn’t have much room for growth, whereas Asia, currently at only around 15% penetration, has huge potential for growth (statistics courtesy of Internet World Stats).
Now, I’m not necessarily suggesting we all go out and start producing Chinese-content sites (although if you have the capacity to do so, it might not be a bad idea!). But I do think we should start to change our Anglo-centric worldview and recognise that the internet is truly global in reach. In much the same way that there is a lot of emphasis these days on producing sites that are accessible to those with disabilities, we should try to come up with initiatives that make it easier for visitors of other languages to our sites.
The other day I came across a cool translation gadget from Google. With just a fragment of HTML you can include their widget which looks like this:
and allows your visitors to translate your site into the language of their choice. I’ve decided to include this somewhere on the pages of this site – initially in the sidebar, but I’m toying with moving it to the header or somewhere else very prominent.
Lost in translation?
One thing about automated translation services is that they can tend to produce rather garbled output. So I decided to put this one to the test; for my experiment, I translated the first paragraph of this post into Chinese, then back to English. If it survived this double translation, it couldn’t be too bad.
Here’s the result of the Chinese translation:
多年来，美国一直是powerbase互联网，控制在生产和消费的网站。但是，在北美地区仍是该地区最高的互联网普及率（某种程度的互联网使用人均），对原材料数量的互联网用户，您现在必须寻找不超过亚洲，尤其是中国。不仅如此，因为它已经很高的普及率，北美没有多大的成长空间，而亚洲，目前只有约 15 ％的普及率，具有巨大的增长潜力（统计礼貌的互联网世界统计） 。
and the subsequent translation back to English:
Over the years, the United States has been the powerbase of the Internet, in the control of production and consumption of the site. However, in North America remains the region’s highest Internet penetration (some degree of Internet use per capita), the number of Internet users of raw materials, you must now look for no more than Asia, especially China. Not only that, as it has a high penetration rate in North America there is not much room for growth, and Asia, only about 15% of the rate, with huge growth potential (Statistics courtesy of the Internet World Statistics).
OK, so it’s not perfect, but enough to give a pretty good sense of the overall message. Also, bear in mind that any translation errors are compounded here by being through the mincer twice. And last but not least, English and Chinese are very different. So it should be more than adequate for “ordinary” use. As a further check I translated a page or two into Dutch (of which I have a passable knowledge) and it made perfect sense.
Was it good for you?
I’d be interested to hear your feedback too – if you know any of the languages on the list, how about translating this page and letting us know how accurate it is?
I’d also be interested to hear any other tips you may have on making websites more accessible to other languages and cultures.
Thanks for reading!
No related posts.