Not that long time ago in a galaxy not that far away...
… your website translation project became a constant hassle and the translation company claims it's not their fault.
… you made a decision to translate your website, you are now at the look out for the right localization company, and you need help.
Sounds familiar? If yes, then you are in the right place.
ATL has been assisting its clients with their website translations for over 15 years. The biggest companies know that a properly localized website increases their traffic and ROI. Multilingual websites enable international growth.
But things don't always go smoothly and we've seen cases of bad website localization projects. It's like in scary movies. No matter which way the character runs, you know that they will end up in trouble. There are certain paths that you should not cross on your global expansion quest.
This article talks about 5 common scenarios of how wrong your website translation can go and why.
Website translation is just one of the steps of your website localization process. There are many steps in it like:
Making the original text as localization friendly as possible. That means minding the formatting in order to make it user friendly for international users but also the sense of the content itself. Not all messages are global best sellers.
Related content: A Guide to Understanding Translation and Localization Terminology
This can be translation tools used by your translation agency but also connectors (translation integrations) that enable content flow from your backend directly to the linguists’ working stations and back.
Last but not least, there is translation review and feedback implementation that needs to be taken seriously in order to guarantee the perfect quality of your website localization.
Related content: 10 Best Practices in Website Localization
There are scenarios which prove that localization is based on teamwork and team doesn’t just mean the translation company. It means close cooperation between you, your experts, and your translation company.
Only by doing so can you expect results that will help grow your business globally without slowing you down. Let's have a look now at the actual cases of website translation going wrong and the reasons for that.
Let's start with the scenario that takes place at the end of the localization process. You will be surprised how wrong a client review can go and how innocent the reasons may seem.
There are three people involved in this situation: you, your reviewer, and your translation company. You can be the owner of a company, a marketing guru, a localization manager, or whoever assigns the translation job.
The reviewer is a person on your side of the table, for example, a local distributor or local marketing specialist. A person that speaks the language of translation and naturally knows your industry terminology.
The translation company has a localization project manager and the translation tools that help boost the translation process.
The content is sent for client review and the reviewer comments and corrects the translation wherever the changes are needed.
It seems easy, but actually this can very often be the beginning of a nightmare.
For example, the reviewer comments on the translation, but doesn't correct it.
Or, the reviewer changes a term in one place but doesn't change all the occurrences throughout the translation project. So, you end up with your product name being translated on a landing page but not translated in product description page.
Related content: 6 Reasons Why Your Team May Fail at Translation Quality Review
What else can happen?
The reviewer changes one word, but doesn't update the whole sentence.
Like in the example below:
Designed and measured to fit 12" to 14" laptops and with a convenient front pocket so that your charger is always with you.
The reviewer changed the sentence into:
Designed and measured to fit 12" to 14" laptops and with a convenient front pocket so that your charger cable and notebook is always with you.
But they forgot to correct the grammatical error after keying in the correct form of the highlighted verb:
Designed and measured to fit 12" to 14" laptops and with a convenient front pocket so that your charger cable and notebook is always with you.
So, what happens in this scenario?
If the reviewer speaking the translation language is the last person that sees the translation, the error stays on your website.
One day one of your customers points to that error and then what do you do? You go back to the translation team and require explanations. How is it possible that a professional translation company with a good reputation could provide a translation with such a lousy grammatical error?!
And this is when the investigation starts.
The reason for this error is tracked down very quickly and everybody learns a lesson. And the lesson learned is to have a proper review process within the localization workflow, possibly enhanced by translation technology.
Incorporating feedback from third-party reviewers who do not operate in the same working environment as translators, and who would like to implement changes in the final post-production files, can be challenging. Managing so many people and their access to appropriate file batches is a task for automations.
The trouble starts when, lacking the translation integration with your system, the in-country reviewers are left with the task, endless manual steps, and no support when it comes to the translation technology.
It means delay in your product rollout and multilingual website launch. When it goes undetected, it can also mean errors or inconsistencies on your website.
There once was a multilingual website localized into 7 languages: Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish.
The big launch of all the languages was preceded by a complex translation project with many teams involved. It was a costly project, as website localization is not a cheap and easy task. Everybody was happy and the company started seeing the benefits from global launch of their multilingual content.
Everyone was happy up until one day.
It turned out that a couple of products needed to be updated. There were new features and some old characteristics were no longer applicable.
A new product description was finally live on the English version of the website.
Leaving your local buyers with an outdated offer or information would be a bad idea. These users would not have a great buying experience.
Related content: How to Boost the Translation Into Multiple Languages at Once
But does this mean translating all product descriptions from scratch, spending the same translation budget and managing the files back and forth again?
Before everyone started to panic, the solution was mentioned: Translation Technology.
The reality behind paying twice for the same translated content is not funny.
The reason for this absolutely unacceptable scenario, described above, is the lack of the use of translation software (CAT tools) and integrations between this software and your website backend.
Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools were created to enhance the speed and quality of the localization process as well as to avoid the scenarios described above.
There are two very interesting characteristics of the tools that help you avoid wasting your time and money:
Related content: Translation Memory Generated Savings in Practice [video]
Another piece of technology that saves you time and money on your localization projects is integrating your platform with your translation company's system.
Linking your website directly with the CAT tools boosts efficient handling of language updates and eliminates manual steps.
It means increased productivity because no one has to send files back and forth which can really slow your teams down. What they do is, they mark the pieces that need updating directly on the website. Then the tools immediately calculate how much of the content is the same and what has changed.
After that, the quote can be provided and it's not as hefty as translating the full product description again.
Related content: 50+ Translation Integrations That You Should Know About
The quality is also higher thanks to the built-in Quality Assurance modules. Moreover, the TM prompts previous versions of translated content and therefore it is very unlikely to introduce inconsistencies.
There are also terminology management modules that enable the whole team to keep the terminology consistent and updated. By the whole team, I mean the translation provider, your local reviewers, and you as the product owner.
These modules also enhance the work of the original content creators and keep consistency with the original terminology so that one feature is referred to in the same way consistently throughout the website.
Through tight integrations, you are also able to monitor the progress of the localization project. You can clearly see which languages are finished and updated on the website and which are still under review or at the translation stage.
Last, but definitely not least, you save money.
The centralized TM will save you a lot of money when you continue your global expansion through translating anything additional to your website. The translations can be reused in the process of software localization, documentation translation, printable material for marketing campaigns, as well as for instructions or product labels.
Related content: How to Really Save on Translation and Localization
Localization workflow that lacks translation software integration with your system means slower progress of the localization process and significant delay in achieving your business goals.
This happens long before the idea of creating multilingual content even crosses your mind. It is the day of the launch of your original language version website.
You design your individual symbols for website navigation, you create an F-pattern layout, choose colors, and create content full of cultural references.
If you are in e-commerce, you add products with their measurements and prices. At check-out, the user can pay with a credit card and everybody is happy.
Until you start the localization process, that is.
Corrupted text, random special characters instead of local diacritic marks, a part of the content not displaying. Local European users complaining about USD prices on the Italian and Finnish language versions. Many customers leaving the shopping cart before making the payment.
All of this is overwhelming. But why did it happen? What malevolent force is bringing all these problems down on you?
It is the devastating force of a badly conducted internationalization of your website.
Internationalization, sometimes referred to as i18n (18 being the number of characters between i and n in the term internationalization), means preparing content or products for localization (referred to as l10n).
When it comes to graphics and symbols, it is important to design them as universally as possible. There are symbols that are inappropriate in some regions, or incomprehensible in a different culture.
So, if you want to use your individually designed icons for your website navigation, use globally approved symbols.
Make sure that the reading preferences of your local audience are met. Most people read in an F-shaped pattern. This means that the most important information should be placed at the top left side, as people from the West read from left to right.
When providing the Arabic version of your website, bear in mind that the most important information should be placed on the right. You can’t simply translate the content and place it from right to left.
Keep in mind that there are languages longer or shorter than English. While planning, allow for text expansion or contraction. Perhaps in some situations it is sufficient to slightly reduce the amount of information or to formulate it differently.
Measurements also matter a lot, especially with regard to product specifications.
Inch, foot, yard, and mile are completely understood in the USA but they can’t be used for example in France. In France, what you need to use is the metric system, so in this case millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers apply.
With regard to the content itself, internationalization is very strict when it comes to cultural references. These can be local folklore, literature, or geography that will be important in one place, but completely irrelevant in another locale.
In order to create content that can be globally used, all sorts of word-play or similar culture or language-related concepts should be avoided. This is not ideal when it comes to marketing content, as UX urges the use of personal experiences and positive references. It is also based on trends, and temporary sociological surroundings.
Related content: 6 Tips on Preparing Your Content for Translation
Remember to convert the prices into the currency that your buyers use.
Showing prices in your buyers’ currency is one thing. Another important factor that can either accelerate or slow down your sales in the local market is the payment method.
There are places in the world where you can pay with a credit card, and other where buyers prefer PayPal, for example. Some buyers are accustomed to paying in installments.
Make sure you allow your buyers to pay in a way that is easy and convenient for them, otherwise they will leave without check-out.
This is more of a technical aspect, but forgetting about it can successfully distract potential buyers from your website. Making sure that the website encoding supports local special characters brings you closer to providing a website that reads well.
The same goes for fonts. Missing the right encoding can lead to incorrect display of local special characters. Instead of the correct special character, the program displays a string of random characters that are completely illegible.
You! You are the winner as long as you:
In order to avoid the above described scenarios, it is not enough to pay the highest translation rates. What pays off is close cooperation with localization professionals who not only translate your website but also assist you with internationalization, technology implementation, and proper client review process.