Making your website readable by anyone

Ask yourself the question, “do I need to translate my website?”, and this immediately begs the further question, “why?”.

Translating your website into different languages will encourage more visitors especially from your twin country, but, the whole business of website translation is fraught with dangers.

So, before you start, consider what you need from your website, is it only for the benefit of your local community, to be used as a form of online newsletter, or as a recruitment tool; or is it intended to reach your twin community as well? If it is intended to be a purely local thing then the problems of translation are not for you!

If, on the other hand you want to reach out to your twin community and even further you could consider some form of translation. You have two main options, either to offer some form of translation service or link to your visitor or you can leave it to them to find their own solutions.

To get an accurate translation you really need to use the services of a professional interpreter/translater, but this can cost mega bucks.

If a member of your group or your twinning partner has the necessary skills you can save a considerable amount of money by using their services but it will probably need someone from the other side of the partnership to cooperate on this to ensure that the translation is in colloquial English, or French, or German or whatever language you are dealing with. As a very simple example we all know about the English/French version of “my aunt’s pen” becoming “the pen of my aunt”, whilst amusing to read it does show a degree of unprofessionalism which will not endear you to the reader whose language has been mutilated.

So, what other options are there?

Probably the easiest is an online translation service, most will charge a fee but you should be able, with a reputable company, to get a reasonably accurate translation, but beware of individuals who have a false notion of their language skills.

Their are some free online translation services such as Google, Worldlingo and Altavistas Babel Fish, which are quite good at giving fast, online translations within seconds, but, as these are machine translations they do not always translate in the correct context. An instance of this was when we tried to translate the Sandy Twinning Association website; in all three of the aforementioned programmes Sandy was translated as “Arenacee” (an Arena) in the headings, page titles and navigation, yet remained as Sandy within the page text content.

The other problem with these machine translations is the aforementioned lack of colloquialism. However, whatever the problems, even some form of basic translation will gain your site greater access worldwide if that is what you are aiming at and justifies the effort in producing the site in the first place.

To sum up, translation is a veritable minefield of problems but one which may well be attempted in some form or other particularly for organisations such as twinning groups who by their very being are in the business of international cooperation and relationships, and even the simplest machine translation can be enough to at least give your visitor the general gist of your function and activities.

Finally, if you do offer a built in translation on your site, make sure that the visitor is made clearly aware of it on the first or index page, possibly by the inclusion of a button in the shape of a flag or something relating to the language or languages available.

© Copyright Alan Wicks 2005. All rights reserved.

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