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Guide
Guide

Tips on multi-lingual websites

As a translation agency, we have assisted numerous companies in creating multi-lingual websites. Based on our experiences we have compiled a list of the most common considerations to help ensure your website reaches a wider audience in a cost-effective manner.

English is no longer the language of the Internet

Less than a third of the world’s one billion Internet users speak English The 22 most popular languages cover more than 90% of Web users - in order of number of speakers: Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, Bengali, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Chinese (Wu), Javanese, Chinese (Yue), Telugu, Vietnamese, Marathi, Tamil, Italian, Urdu and Ukrainian.

Creating a cost-effective multi-lingual Web presence

If you have a limited budget, you can create cut-down multi-lingual areas of your existing site. If you are starting from scratch, there is no better time to build in multi-lingual functionality. Either way, the following tips should prove useful …

Reduce the source text - 25% fewer words means 25% less to pay for each language! Cutting out the blurb makes your page less noisy. As a result any remaining text should be more succinct and more easily scanned by the user. It will take less effort to translate too.

Rewrite the source text with a simple style! Avoid puns, word play and country or language-specific metaphors or idioms. Kentucky’s finger lickin’ good came out as eat your fingers off in China!

Run a spell check and proof read! Proof read your text carefully - spell checking only covers misspelt words, not misplaced words. Once you have proof read it, do it again, or get someone else to have a look.

Keep as consistent as possible Make sure terms such as abbreviations, quantities, products and trade names are identical throughout. Re-use terms, sentences or paragraphs where you can. Translation Memory (TM) software picks up on such repetition, reducing the word count and increasing efficiency. Translations are stored and recycled when updating a website or authoring other documents such as brochures for print.

Separate text strings from scripts The easier the access to text, the sooner translation starts. For example, if the browser displays the string Our products are great! when hovering over a link to a products page, declare the string as a variable at the beginning of the script so it is easily identifiable.

Separate text content from code Separate the text from the HTML or script and store it in a data file. Using your preferred method of coding, reinsert it into a Web page template. Databases, XML and other kinds of data source can be translated as well.

Replace graphics containing embedded text with normal text This avoids text expansion issues: Try fitting Qui sommes-nous? into an existing About Us button or Schlagzeilen to replace News. Use Cascading Style Sheets to format the text or if you must use graphics, keep copies of the original design files e.g. from Photoshop, and not just the GIFs or JPEGs. Multiply the number of target languages by the number of graphics to get an idea of the workload.

Internationalise … then localise!

Make the content applicable to a worldwide audience The Web is a global medium - give phone and fax numbers in a format like this: +44 (0)114 2661103. Include the name of the country in an address. Does the Error 404 page not found page need translating?

Set the ISO Standard! Use the ISO 639 2-letter codes for languages and the ISO 3166-1 2-letter codes for countries. Combine them (language-COUNTRY) to make a locale, e.g. en-UK, en-US, de-DE or de-AT.

Keep the site structure simple! Instead of renaming all your files, put them in a sub-directory e.g. de for German or DE for Germany.

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This document contains further Internet links.

© MMVI TransAction Translators Ltd

TransAction Translators Ltd, Redlands, 3-5 Tapton House Rd, Broomhill, Sheffield, S10 5BY, UK. Tel +44 (0)114 266 1103. Email transaction@transaction.co.uk. Web www.transaction.co.uk www.certificatetranslator.co.uk.

0 ) 114 266 1103. Email transaction@transaction.co.uk . Web www.transaction.co.uk www.certificatetranslator.co.uk .

Tell the browser how to display the page! Use the HTML tags <html lang=”en”> or <span lang=”en-US”>. Declare the character encoding; at least save in Unicode and use <meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8”>. You may need to use other encodings like ISO 8859 or Shift-JIS.

Now give it a local flavour!

Author a version of the source text according to locale Rewrite or even omit parts of the source text. A Freephone number may be relevant to a UK audience, but not to anyone else. A site should use and display dates, numbers, currencies and telephone numbers correctly. Do

 

not leave content untranslated – delete it from the site or warn it will be displayed in English. Edit meta tags to include keywords and phrases specific to the target audience.

 

Use the right icons and graphics We may have red pillar boxes in the UK, but post boxes are yellow in Sweden! is the most recognised icon for mail. People in pictures should ideally resemble the target audience.

Flags denote countries, not languages! Spanish is the official language of 20 countries. Without a specific country to target, which flag would you use?

Constantly updated content needs constant translation An update in the source language means an update in the number of target languages, whether for text or graphics with embedded text. The more time left for translation and editing, the better the results.

Make it obvious you provide other languages! Make the language options obvious with a global gateway at the top of every page. If you use cookies and/or poll a browser for user settings, but still cannot serve a particular language, serve a dedicated global gateway page with all the language and/or country options listed - a user may choose a different language they might speak. Do not list all the options in the same language, use the local name at least.

Other points to ponder when localising

What will you do with the results of the feedback form if they are in French?

Are there the relevant language speakers in the customer care department?

How to calculate prices of products in different currencies and take payment?

Can the product or service be sold in that country? What is the legal position of that country?

 

Will the site search engine work in other languages?

Other top tips

Look and sound professional! To be taken seriously, do not use a free Web translation service to translate your pages. If you have far more content than you can afford to translate, even after severe editing, explain that you are using such a service. Never give the impression that the pages translated by such a service are a localised part of the site!

Send the site, not just the URL! To calculate a ball park figure for localisation, we can surf around a site and fill in the odd form to see a

 

confirmation page.

However, to quote precisely we need access to a complete copy of a site, so nothing is

missed.

Make your preferences clear

 

We can provide fully localised Web pages, translations of text extracted from pages, or segments of source text with corresponding translations in a table to cut and paste.

 

Test your website before we have to! If a link does not work or a page displays incorrectly, rectify before asking us to do the final proof surf. A proof reader can concentrate on localised content rather than any technical problems without waiting for them to be

 

resolved. Proof reading in one sitting gives best results, especially when it comes to recording inconsistencies throughout a site.

 

Use mother-tongue speakers or ask if in doubt! Multi-lingual staff within your organisation may help with proof reading and other language-related tasks, but always use a qualified translator. Ask someone before making editorial decisions - making copy appear in lower case from a design perspective will not make your German nouns, which must begin with a capital letter, grammatically correct – the intended message becomes trickier to comprehend.

Use a translation agency you can trust

 

Is your agency ATC registered? Do they have any other recognised accreditations that offer you assurances that their work will be completed to a high standard?

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This document contains further Internet links.

 
 

© MMVI TransAction Translators Ltd

TransAction Translators Ltd, Redlands, 3-5 Tapton House Rd, Broomhill, Sheffield, S10 5BY, UK. Tel +44 (0)114 266 1103. Email transaction@transaction.co.uk. Web www.transaction.co.uk www.certificatetranslator.co.uk.

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