Making the decision to take your website multilingual isn’t hard. Increased reach in new markets, strengthened brand identity, improved conversion rates and hopefully higher revenues, are powerful reasons to push your company to offer its site in more than one language.
The next step in the process is maybe not quite so easy. Knowing where to start with the multilingual transformation process isn’t obvious and you won’t be helped by Google searches and the deceptive allure of machine translation.
While automatic translation has come a long way in recent times, assuming it’s the answer to all you problems is simply ill-advised. As we discussed in our last blog, it’s certainly a great tool but it won’t replace the human translator in the equation.
Post-editing machine translation (PEMT), a hybrid approach that combines the speed and low-cost element of the machine with the expert knowledge and feel for language of the linguist, is however, growing in popularity. And if you are a user of the WordPress content management platform, opting for one of the many multilingual plugins on the market will let you take full advantage of this method to build your web pages in different languages without too much stress.
Think about preparing your content for the translation process
If you’ve decided on using a multilingual plugin for your WordPress site, it’s a good idea to make sure your website content is fit and ready for adaptation in new markets before starting the translation process. This is also known as internationalization and it means your content can be more readily adjusted for a new audience.
Text that is packed full of humour, local expressions and cultural references in your home language might be a hinderance to an automatic translation tool. Although machine translation is constantly improving, it still struggles to understand context and isn’t good at spotting cultural nuance. Ensuring the language used is clear, straightforward and lacking ambiguity will mean it’s easier to translate and will require less input from a human editor. This could save you time and money in the long run.
Defining your company language or terminology in advance will help ensure consistency of your brand and content in other markets. Making sure the same words or phrases are used in the same context each time helps the transfer into other languages. Translator reviewers can then quickly establish the terminology in the target language and check it is used uniformly in the automatically translated text, again efficiently managing time and cost.
It’s also useful to consider how your website visuals might appear in other cultures. Colors and imagery are perceived differently in different countries and what might appear positive and energy-filled to you, could be gloomy or inappropriate to others. For example, the color yellow can symbolize cowardice in the United States, but in Chinese pop culture it refers to an adult themed movie. Red is the symbol of success, celebration and joy in China but in Western cultures is more readily associated with anger or danger.
Another consideration is space on the page, so-to-speak. You might find that a new language expands on your original content; in short it uses more words or its writing system takes up more room. It’s therefore advisable to plan ahead and leave space for any language expansion that might occur in the translated text.
It’s also worth paying attention to how you format time and date. We’re all familiar with the confusion caused by the difference in the way dates are written in the US and UK. If in California 11.2.19 means 2nd November, in Yorkshire it’s 11th February. Remember, if humans are confused the machines definitely will be! Writing out dates and units of time in a clear and unambiguous way will prevent misunderstandings later on.
SEO can also be planned for in advance. Keyword research in the target markets shouldn’t be limited to simple translation and taking into account other, commonly used search engines also a good idea. In Russia for example, Yandex is one of the most popular engines. WPML also recommends fully translating all parts of your website and focussing on ‘localized link building’ to make sure your multilingual site is optimized for SEO.
Thinking carefully about how your website content might work for an international audience will increase the effectiveness of your post-editing machine translation strategy at a later stage.
Let’s take a closer look at why WPML is a great plugin for building a multilingual WordPress website.
WPML is described as ‘…one of the best translation plugins for WordPress’ and the ‘most reliable’, as well as having a user interface that is ‘…very simple and easy-to-use’. It consistently appears in the lists of the best multilingual plugins for WordPress sites, including perhaps most notably the list compiled by the experts at HubSpot. It is undoubtedly amongst the most widely used and most popular multilingual plugins for the WordPress platform.
So, just what does WPML offer?
First and foremost, it allows for flexible translation solutions and the integration of a professional translation service. This flexibility means you can choose to have sections of your website translated from the word go by langauge professionals or opt for expert reviewers of machine translated text. Either way, at t’works we believe that it is vital to involve a human in the process. It will ensure the translated content meets your expectations and communicates the right message to the target audience.
Going down the machine translation with human review route (post-editing machine translation using Google, DeepL or Microsoft Translator), allows you to automatically translate entire websites ‘quickly and easily’ and enables an experienced language professional to review the automatic translations. It’s a practical, economic solution that more and more companies are turning to.
And WPML’s translation feature isn’t limited to simply pages and posts. WPML includes custom post types, custom fields, widgets, menus, images, taxonomy, media and even the texts in your site’s admin. It also allows you to choose which strings you want to translate and can cover the site’s tagline, widget titles and many other texts.
SEO is also nicely managed by WPML. All pages can be optimized for search engines in different languages and most popular SEO plugins can be integrated, so metrics are easily accessed.
WPML combines seamlessly with the majority of WordPress themes and plugins. And importantly it lets you build multilingual and multi-currency ecommerce sites with WooCommerce, meaning your online customers will be able to complete their purchase in their chosen language – from product description to checkout and even confirmation email.
And don’t worry about getting stuck with a problem on your own – WPML customer service is on call in 9 languages 6 days a week.
In summary, WPML is a comprehensive, flexible and affordable platform that will permit an efficient translation process.
How t’works can help
The t’works group of 8 affiliate companies has many combined years of experience and knowledge in all things language. Collectively our work with translation in all its forms over many decades has taught us how to adapt to changing customer demands and advancing technologies. We embrace translation automation tools and recognise that if innovative technology benefits our customers, it should be incorporated into our workflows.
Although we believe that having a ‘human-in-the-loop’ is still essential, machine translation has become impossible to ignore and despite its snags it is now an indispensable part of the translation environment. t’works uses machine translation where appropriate when it decreases time to market for our clients’ products and services and saves on overall cost. This must never mean a compromise on quality however, and our translation excellence is ensured at all times by our strict controls and first language experts.
If you decide that the WPML plugin is the right solution for your WordPress website, t’works will be delighted to accompany you on the multilingual journey. Our teams of specialist post-editing reviewers and native language linguists can make that journey stay on track and on destination. The global gateway your multilingual website will create is just around the corner.
For more detailed information on the WPML multilingual plugin, visit their site at www.wpml.org
And if you have any questions at all, at t’works we’re always happy to hear from you.