We’ve built a few bilingual websites lately, and in the course of those builds we tried out several different options for translation, ranging from simply building two pages (one in each language) for each page and creating separate menus for each to installing auto translation plugins and even using a ready-made bilingual WordPress theme.
While all that experimentation has increased our knowledge base, we ended up with Google translate tools as our top choice.
You may be familiar with Google’s automatic translation; if you visit a website in a language other than your own while using Google Chrome as your browser, Google will offer to translate. If you accept, you’ll get an automatic translation. Sometimes the translation is excellent, and sometimes it’s terrible. Here, for example, Spanish language news site Primera Hora exhorts us, “Do not screw up! Choose well your shoe” amid headlines that border on the bizarre (sometimes stepping right over that border).
For small sites, translating the pages works better. If you’re adding lots of content, though, Google’s translate tools are almost as good — and you don’t have to double up the human effort.
You begin by adding the translate tool to the website — or having your designer do so. Regardless of the browser your visitors use, they’ll see a box at the top of your site offering to translate to the language or languages of your choice.
Then, once you’ve added the tool to your website, you can step in and improve the translation. For example, we found that our Home button translated to “Casa” for the Spanish version of the page. This is no good. We went with “Inicio” based on a job we once did for a company in Spain, but our American client prefers “Portado.” For each change, we just had to click on “Contribute a better translation” in a box that pops up if you hover.
You can assign editors, whose corrections will be accepted immediately. Other readers can also make suggestions, which the site owner and editors can approve or refuse. Over time, then, your translations will improve — or you can have a human translator step in as soon as new content is published and polish the translation. That’s still probably faster than having him or her translate each piece and publishing it separately.
So, to recap:
- Add the translate tool to your site rather than leaving it up to visitors.
- As the site owner, you can either polish the automatic translations yourself or assign an editor to do so.
- You have the option of accepting others’ suggestions as well, effectively crowdsourcing your translations.
Google’s translate tool does not produce perfect translations automatically, but you can get excellent results if you collaborate with it well.