Ready to translate your website? Do you want a real international presence? And then want to mess up big, and I mean really big, at international level? Look no further: Here’s the fool-proof recipe for total and complete site localization disaster. Any of these will guarantee to really mess up your translated site, but any combination will provide you with certain disaster. For a cataclysm of cosmic proportions, make sure you follow all of them to the letter.
- Translate the site yourself, or let your cousin do it. Your (his) high-school knowledge of that language is more than enough. Why spend the money with a professional?
Ok, so you might be on a tight budget. If you have developed the site yourself, performed all SEO yourself and cannot afford to hire someone to translate your site, then you should have no choice but this. But would the money not be better spent in getting more traffic?
- Let’s hire the 3 cents/word professional, instead of the 20 cents/word one.
Translation is translation isn’t it? Sure. And you will get exactly what you paid for. Quality is not cheap, and for 3 cents/word you will either get a student, a waiter trying to supplement his income, somebody looking up every word in the dictionary or outright a machine translation. “Me not understand why customers running aways”.
- Let’s hire the most expensive guy. If he charges three times as everybody else, he must be good.
You have too much money if you do not check his work, or at least his reputation. Please hire me; I’ll be delighted to charge you three and even four times my usual rate if you insist. But only as a favor, eh?
- Let’s discard all freelance translators and go to an agency.
An agency will cost you more, independently of whether they do anything at all or not. The vast majority of agencies farm out the work to freelance translators, they do not have in-house translators. A reputable agency provides added value, by preparing terminology, formatting, checking the target text and miscellaneous quality tasks. They usually work with quality translators, or at least prevent a total disaster if they hire a not-so-good freelancer. But many agencies simply act as middle men and provide no added value. However, a reputable translator will often perform the same quality work as a serious agency. Unfortunately, both reputable agencies and reputable translators are difficult to find, there are too many out there ready for a quick buck. A good way to decide between a translator and a translation agency can be found in this article.
- Let’s go to the biggest translation agency, they must be the best!
Don’t confuse size with quality. Big agencies are usually created through mergers and acquisition, not necessarily because their customer base increases. Some of the greatest translation agencies in the world have such a dreadful reputation in translator forums that no really competent translator will ever work for them, unless he is starving. Some smaller agencies can on the other hand be quite picky, because they have a reputation to maintain, and are willing to pay for the quality that they provide to their customers.
- I’m OK with a non-native speaker.
Careful! Does this guy know the culture as well as the language? Is he really so good in his non-native language that you would entrust him with your company showcase? I speak fluently five languages, but only offer translation into two of them. Why? Guess twice.
- I insist on a native speaker.
Oh? I was once called in to edit an English text, translated from German by a “native” English translator, where the end customer had complained about the quality. I read first through it, and could not understand the context of the “knife” at all, until I stumbled on the “temperature knife”. I suddenly realized the problem, and when I checked the original I found my assumption was correct. The bloody fool had not realized that the word “Messer” in German is used both for “knife” and for a measurement device, in this particular case a temperature probe. “Native” in the target language does not mean he can perform quality work, only that he is likely to have a better grammar. And sometimes not even that.
- I need an expert in the field for my translation.
Your have good translators which have ample experience in many technical fields, often because they worked in those fields, because they have a degree in them, or because they have performed so many translations in that particular field that they can be considered experts. The technical expert is not necessarily knowledgeable in translation. For example, their technical knowledge might beyond any dispute, but their languages skills might not be better than case #1.
- The translator/agency is an expert in localization.
That doesn’t mean that he knows anything about webpage translation. Check out the difference between Localization and SEO Translation.
- The translated pages don’t need SEO.
Heh! Good joke. Why did you then spend thousands of dollars on the original site? The translated site is optimized for a specific language, not for the translation. Yes, you might inherit some juice from the original site, but don’t expect your localized site to be on the top of the search engines, unless you own a PR7 site or higher. But check out my post about Why Your Existing Back Links Are Worthless.
- The translator or translation agency doesn’t need to know about SEO, I’ll hire a bilingual SEO specialist afterwards.
I insist, you have too much money. Why pay two professionals, one to perform the translation and the second one to reword the translation to make it score well on the search engines? (And possibly a third one, to make sure that the SEO specialist –which needs to be knowledgeable in the target language- hasn’t messed up).
- I’ll let the bilingual SEO specialist translate my pages.
- I do not need to send my pages, just the text in Word.
Sure, nice way to lose your tags, description, page title, keywords, and making sure that the links will be in the wrong places. And on top of that, you have to extract the text, and convert it back into html.
- I’ll introduce the links in the translated page myself.
Excellent, especially if you don’t speak the target language. You’ll be surprised for which keywords the linked pages will score… 😉
- I’ll let the translator translate the keywords, specially the long tail ones.
Oh? So you’re sure that the keywords, specially the long tail ones, are the same in both languages? Did you check? How much effort are you spending on terms nobody searches for? How many traffic-generating words are you leaving on the table?
- With this localization I’ll capture the (whatever language) market.
Really? Did you check first the competition in that language? You may score #1 is your own language, but there might some really big fish in the target language. For example, you may be the #1 book seller in Czech, but it would be an uphill battle to beat Amazon in English. (Free advice: In that case, try Spanish; Amazon does not have –yet– a Spanish site).
- I’ll localize my site to the main languages.
And which ones might those be? As I pointed out in my previous blog about Into Which Languages Should I Translate My Web Pages, the main languages may be different depending on whether you talk about the main spoken languages or the languages with greater Internet presence. Select the wrong one, and you will lose money.
- I’ll make a lot of money with my localization.
No, you won’t. Not unless you comply with the 3 Golden Rules to Evaluate Whether Site Translation Makes Economic Sense.
- I’ll localize now, to prepare for my international expansion.
And what will you do when the visitors find the pages in their own language, but you cannot take their orders in that language because you staff does not speak it? Or when you are not able to deliver the goods at their location? Word spreads very quickly on the Internet. By the time you’re ready, everybody will know that you don’t deliver.
- Website localization is easy.
Sure. Start reading from #1 onwards. Twice.
Bonus: Let’s forget about human translators, I’ll simply use machine translation.
I forgot about this one when I prepared the original list. Guaranteed total disaster – you’ll manage to comply with the whole list. You don’t believe it? Then check out this post about Machine Translation and How Well It Works. When you’ve lost enough money, come and see me. I’ll charge you twice my usual amount, just to clean up the mess. If you messed up real big, I might charge you three times more.