On a global scale, English internet users represent only about 25 percent of all web users. While English is still the most commonly used language online, it is closely followed by Chinese, with over 800 million users, and eight other languages, which together represent over two billion people. This doesn’t even account for the remaining one billion users who access the web in the rest of the world’s languages. What this means is that if you have a business and you’re not leveraging the potential revenue of this vast global marketplace, you are missing out.
If you have an English-only website, you’re not tapping into 75 percent of potential customers. The most obvious solution is to translate your site into multiple languages, and that is something that takes careful planning. Website translation involves much more than a simple word for word exchange of language. It requires you to adapt your content to regional markets and cultures, in a process known as localization. Those who provide website translation services are able to perform these adaptations.
If your goal is to reach out to the rest of the world and globalize your operations, here are some tips to help you get started with your website localization.
Multilingual Market Research
Because international clients have varying needs, it’s essential to conduct market research in your target country. First, you need to Identify which audiences to market to, by finding out where your potential customers are, by using an analytics service. Then, you can conduct surveys that meet the cultural and linguistic requirements of your target market(s).
A localization specialist can translate documents such as these into other languages, while ensuring that they are worded correctly to avoid misunderstandings, offence, or confusion.
Keyword Research in Your Target Language
Undertaking language-specific keyword research is essential as part of your multilingual website development. The needs of your intended audience have to be taken into account when you are researching keywords. It is not enough to substitute the original English keywords with the same words in your target languages. Instead, you need to find out what is relevant and popular within the culture of your chosen audience.
Relevant questions to consider include:
– How does your target audience express emotions in their local language?
– What are the words they typically use to describe a product or service like yours?
– What common search phrases do they use?
– Who is doing the purchasing for this type of product?
– What time format and currency should I be using?
Undertaking adequate research that is locally appropriate will not only allow your website translations to be understood, but will also maximize your chances of reaching more people in your target language.
Website Localization Glossary
There will be certain phrases on your website that are an intrinsic part of the way you talk about your products and services. You need to deliver these key phrases across multiple languages with their meanings intact. Creating a glossary that contains this information will provide the certified translation services and localization services that you use with the information they need in order to deliver a perfect multilingual website.
Flexible Design That Will Accommodate Translation
If you’re still in the process of creating your website, it’s best to choose a flexible design that allows you to scale the content to allow for copy in different languages and characters. Chinese, for example, may need a larger font to be legible, while a word translated into Russian might be considerably longer than its English counterpart, and need extra room on the page. Having a fluid design allows you to have enough space to accommodate these differences. Translation companies understand these technical requirements and can help you implement them from the outset of your site creation process.
Another point about web design is that the symbols, icons, layout, and colors need to be culturally appropriate for your intended audience. The color yellow, for example, represents wealth in China, celebration in India and mourning in Egypt. Similarly, many cultures see a thumbs up sign as approval or confirmation, while in other parts of the world, this gesture is considered rude.
You may need to modify images as well. In America, we often use pictures of cute pets in marketing. In some cultures, though, showing an image of an animal and a product could provoke disgust, or unintended amusement. In many parts of the world, a model showing bare skin or uncovered hair is considered inappropriate. As such, it’s important that your images contain models who are dressed appropriately for the region.
Lastly, in many parts of the world, people use their mobile phones to access the internet, rather than desktop computers or laptops. A solid strategy that includes mobile app translation will ensure that you capture the mobile market as well.
Translation That Accounts for Local Business Standards
Every country has its own way of doing business, with associated mannerisms and behaviors. These can be very different from those used in your home country. It is crucial when performing translation services that the localization expert accounts for these local business customs and practices; the language of your website should adapt to local etiquette and protocol.
Localization professionals understand the business culture of your target audience and will know what to steer away from to avoid insulting your prospects. In Germany, for example, humor is considered inappropriate in business, so skipping the funny memes on your German site might be a good move. Italians prefer relationship building, trust, and communication in their business dealings, so a friendly and responsive chat window might serve this population better. And the Japanese have stringent rules when it comes to business etiquette, so learning and respecting these is essential if you want a presence in Japanese culture.
While the world is becoming increasingly globalized, we are far from using the same homogenous approach for each culture. The world is a colorful place, with many different accents, languages, cuisines, religions, political situations, and ideologies. Additionally, each country is home to regions that have their own dialects, traditions, and nuances.
For your website translation to be successful, an intimate understanding of these local cultures, geographies, and the subtle differences in language is required. Slang words and regional colloquialisms need to be taken into account, as well as dozens of other details that are often overlooked. It isn’t enough to translate your site’s pages: You want to be sure your professional translation includes localization services designed to capture the interest of your readers and earn you the respect of your prospective clients.
Louise Taylor is a freelance writer with a passion for languages. She is currently the head of content for Tomedes, a translation agency serving thousands of customers globally and delivering translations in upwards of 90 languages.