Translate your website

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).

website translation
Image courtesy of Hamed Saber

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.

Google translation

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.

21 Responses to “Translate your website”

  1. Gravatar of Tlaga Jaya 1 Tlaga Jaya

    Sure translate to chinese content i agree if our visitor target its mostly from chinese, but if we want to targeting to europe / us we must do in english. For example, i have site that i sell spa for japanese people, i do in japanese not english language and optimize it on yahoo not google (still optimize but not in my piority) since many user in japan use yahoo.

  2. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 2 Rodney Smith

    Well, I would argue that there are plenty of people in Europe who may not speak the best English and would prefer to read stuff in their own language. Interesting point about Japan and Yahoo though – I didn’t know that.

  3. Gravatar of Dennis Edell 3 Dennis Edell

    You can get plugins that will translate into any language needed from a drop down menu….however stories abound of server shutdowns due to MASSIVE overload.

  4. Gravatar of Caleb 4 Caleb

    The western mindset has always been so arrogant…of course they’d rather read in their own languange. Even Clickbank recognizes this nowadays!

  5. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 5 Rodney Smith

    Dennis: I wasn’t aware of those – have you ever tried any?

    Caleb: Yeah, arrogant is the right word. I’m fortunate to be a native English speaker, so haven’t been disadvantaged by it, but many have. But things are changing, and once China grows a bit more, we’re all gonna have to start to learn a new alphabet!

  6. Gravatar of Caleb 6 Caleb

    What’s a trip is that in other countries their young students are brought up learning different languanges. Since they have to understand different subjects amongst different languanges, it’s no wonder they’re more advanced.

  7. Gravatar of Superfrog 7 Superfrog

    Great tip:) I didn’t even realize that I can use Google for tranlastion foregin pages. Now I can surf chinese sites :D

  8. Gravatar of Dennis Edell 8 Dennis Edell

    Rodney – not yet.

    Caleb – Arrogant? LOL no. Learn another language? If I’m going to another country or I’m bored…the only 2 reasons for me.

    Speaking to me in my own yard? It will be in my language.

    My apologies if I read something wrong here. ;)

  9. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 9 Rodney Smith

    Superfrog: yeah, my Polish isn’t too hot these days LOL, but I managed to get the gist of what your site’s all about!

    Dennis: I’m afraid I do agree with Caleb on this one – there’s a form of cultural imperialism that means we in the west can adopt precisely that attitude of not having to bother to learn another language because we expect everyone else to speak English, even though way less than half the world’s population speak it natively. Also, the point of this post was that you’re not speaking in your own back yard, but potentially to the whole world everytime you write something on your blog.

    I’m not suggesting we all go out and learn a new language – that’s a massive commitment – all I’m suggesting is that we make more of an effort to be inclusive. And heck, if it helps us tap into a massive untapped traffic source, who’s gonna argue with that?

  10. Gravatar of Caribbean Holidays 10 Caribbean Holidays

    Awesome tip! I never knew that Google offered that sort of tool, now when I’m surfing the web and come across some strange language that I have no idea of, I can now find out what it’s saying :P

  11. Gravatar of Dennis Edell 11 Dennis Edell

    My apologies, this hit a soft spot. LOL

    I DO agree with translations in the virtual world, and am looking for one that won’t crash the system, as mentioned above.

  12. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 12 Rodney Smith

    Dennis: no problem at all. So you’re looking for a plugin rather than something like the Google widget? Admittedly it’s a manual process in that the reader has to initiate the translation rather than having their locale auto-detected. But it seems to perform pretty well (if nothing else Google is pretty good at high-volume scalable services!).

  13. Gravatar of Dennis Edell 13 Dennis Edell

    I thought they were all “manual”, like a click and a drop-down menu or something.

  14. Gravatar of Blogging from scratch 14 Blogging from scratch

    Now this is interesting. I could finally read what the Chinese blogs are saying.

  15. Gravatar of Google Conquest 15 Google Conquest

    While the plugins for translation can be handy, they mostly come out with brabble.. Translation is a great way to build a site. And, you will attract visitors who otherwise would not have visited. Great tips

  16. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 16 Rodney Smith

    All those comments got me thinking – especially yours, Dennis. So I’ve taken it a step further and installed a plugin to see how it works – read my WordPress translation plugin post for more details.

  17. Gravatar of Dennis Edell 17 Dennis Edell

    I noticed the trackback, thanks!

  18. Gravatar of Zachary 18 Zachary

    True. Other countries are becoming more prominent. What I like about translation widgets are the fact that they’re pretty convenient. You can just stick them on your blog, then you don’t need to worry about them. But already, you’ve opened up your blog to more readers, from other countries.

  19. Gravatar of Yiim 19 Yiim

    Naja ich denke das Plugin ist da doch die gute Lösung da man so auch Internationale Leute anziehen kann.

  20. Gravatar of Underarm Sweating 20 Underarm Sweating

    The future of the Internet is definitely adapting to situation! Who wont grab that big opportunity for growing and expanding business just because his big ego, is truly a..
    We have to realize that over past 5,10 15 years everything is improving so fast and now it will even faster..
    The true meaning of globalization is coming..
    And those who succeed so far, were people with ability to adapt to situation!

  1. 1 WordPress Translation plugin at Blogging with WordPress
Comments are currently closed.