Lessons Learned Translating A Website
I have recently been involved in a website language translation project which has been an interesting experience. When making the decision to use a web translation partner for this project a number of options were assessed including:
- On The Fly
Typically using online tools such as Google Translate as a plug-in or redirection in the web browser
- Computer Assisted
Packages such as Systran can help but beware of translations which are too literal, you also need to update your website manually
- Manual Translation
Direct translation by a fluent linguist however you need to watch out for contextual issues, you will most likely need to update your website manually unless the translator offers this service
- Cultural Interpretation
Adaptation of the existing content to suit both language and culture
During this project a number of lessons have been learned which are highlighted as follows.
Understand The Project Scope
Get as clear a picture as you can of what is and what is not involved in the process, and who is responsible for what, to avoid potentially incurring “additional costs” – do not simply rely on blurb on websites or promotional material. Someone once told me “never assume anything” and it would pay to apply that advice to web translation projects. Get confirmation about everything – what the platform is, what the skill set is, whether typefaces are available (if not whose responsibility is it to get them), what any licensing implications may be, how many changes you are allowed to make, and what the project milestones are.
Check The Delivery Mechanism
Once the project is agreed you will need to get the master files to the web translation company. If submitting using electronic mail check if the translation company has any email sending limits. Self hosted FTP (File Transfer Protocol) may be an option but this can be problematic due to the potential security issues it brings with it. Fortunately there are services around that allow you to send large files but do you trust them with your intellectual property?
Match The Platform
Check the platform you are using matches the one the translation company will be using to ensure you can work with the completed translation when it returns to you. Our project was in Flash and towards the end of the project I discovered the web translation company only use the Mac version of Flash; we only use the PC version of Flash. There appear to be some differences in the master (.FLA) format between the two. When I loaded the Mac saved version of the Flash master file into the PC based version of Flash the design was unusable and certainly not “fit for purpose”.
Ensure What You Send Is What You Get Back
If you send a Word document, ask for a Word document to be returned. If you send a Flash master file (.FLA) ensure you will be receiving a Flash master file (.FLA) at the end of the project. In the case of a product like Flash some companies may only be expecting to return a non editable runtime (.SWF) version of the project file – not the format it was originally sent in. This can be an unexpected surprise if you do not seek clarification at the outset. For our project I would need to update the Flash animation to keep it in-line with business changes so the Flash master file was required.
Think About Text Embedded In Images And Animation
I would expect it to be a pretty normal situation to have text embedded in an image translated as well as inline text. Text appearing in this way would typically be done to include the text in some animation or decorative manner. Ensure your translation company have the same assumptions about this – there would be little point in leaving certain aspects of the project un-translated.
Understand The Skill Set
One of the oddest things that happened were the web translation company sent me the translations over to approve prior to commencing the Flash modification work with the stipulation that changes later would incur additional charges. This probably makes sense to the web translation company but as I do not speak the translated language it would be impossible for me to properly check the translations – you should be able to trust the translation? If possible get a fluent speaker to read the translation back or if possible try the translation on a test audience.
Check The Typeface
Be aware of any lack of typeface and version or language incompatibilities. Remember if you have used a particular typeface it might not contain the full set of accented characters which may be required for the translation. Substituting for another typeface adds to the complications as typically the typeface metrics will not match leading to further change requirements. You will also need to ensure you have sufficient licenses to allow the web translation company to use the typeface and make sure you ask them to completely remove the typeface once the work is completed. Also, simply changing typefaces can be problematic – especially when it is used with animated or moving images – one typeface may be readable when moving – another typeface may not be so readable.
Localisation, Interpretation or Translation?
When we talk about localisation be clear about your expectations. Are you expecting a transformational cultural interpretation or a simple literal translation. For example, if you talk about specific local things or describe general geographic references do you need find appropriate ones for the language in which you will be translating. One phrase we have where I live is “around the Wrekin” which means taking a long time to do something (the Wrekin is a geographical landmark in Shropshire) – however this phrase may not be understood outside of our area. You also need to check cultural references – do particular colours cause offence, or how about certain hand gestures? For example what does thumbs up or the ok sign mean in other countries?
Adoring your website with awards you have proudly achieved, qualifications you may have gained, or organisations you may be members of, in one country may not even be heard of in another country – and may only lead to confusion. Product descriptions may differ from one country to another, for example something seemingly simple like “low sugar” or “half fat” may have a completely different legal meaning in one country to another and could land you in hot water.