The Challenges of Being a Multilingual Website Translator

May 15, 2019

Multilingual website translation has gained popularity following the constant international expansion of businesses. Although seemingly simple, the process is certainly a complex and lengthy one. So, whether you’re a professional wanting to overcome translation challenges, or a beginner trying to understand how to translate website content, this is definitely the right place for you to find out more.

Preserving Brand Identity

You may think that website translation is just about replacing words, but it’s not that simple. From a business’ perspective, building a multilingual website also means projecting their brand identity across language barriers. This isn’t easy to achieve, as words must be carefully balanced in order to support brand consistency.

Making sudden or drastic changes to global content is not recommended. It is best to be prudent and start with small, yet smart modifications in order to maintain a certain brand’s integrity and personality on the market.

Tip: Keeping a good communication flow between you and your client is essential. Many companies already have brand strategies gathered in the form of:

  • style guides
  • brand books
  • terminology glossaries

So, make sure to ask about potential guidelines that you must follow!

Not Just Simple Translation, But Also Localization

Another translation problem comes forth with the localization aspect of the process. Not only must you produce content that is aligned to a certain brand, but you must also adapt it to the targeted region. The message needs to be transformed in order to make it appealing to potential customers.

A well-known example of localization is Coca-Cola’s famous ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. In most countries, the bottles were customized by using first names. China, however, was an exception. Why? Because in Chinese culture, using one’s first name has a very formal significance. Therefore, Coca-Cola decided to use nicknames like ‘Best Buddy’ or ‘Superstar’ instead.

Tip: Invest time in research and adapt your content to meet the functional and cultural expectations of the new market.

Functional aspects:

  • date & time formats
  • measurement units
  • contact information

Cultural aspects:

  • society values
  • etiquette
  • humor
  • symbols

SEO Across Countries

Translations problems might also arise when it comes to multilingual SEO. While most rules remain the same regardless of the language, there are several variables that need to be considered.

  • Search keywords are region specific

Translating an already SEO optimized content does not make it search engine friendly to your new audience.

Example: Even if ‘gifts for him’ might be a popular search in the USA, in a country that does not use pronouns ‘gifts for my husband’ might be the SEO friendly alternative.

Tip: Make sure to do proper research and find new, more relevant keywords.

  • Using Google as a search engine is not entirely universal

Some countries, like Russia and China, use Yandex and Baidu as main search engines. Consequently, there are other rules to consider.

Example: Internal links weigh more for Yandex and Baidu than for Google.

Tip: Before starting your project, try to get familiar with new search engines. You can also store all the important information in a place that’s easy to access. This way, you’ll have no problems with translation.

When Website Translation Clashes with Website Design

When it comes to complex languages, like Arabic or Chinese, there are several other game changers:

  • right to left translation
  • non-Latin characters
  • text expansion

If you’re not in charge of website design, you might imagine layout is not your responsibility. However, while working as a translator, you might also be required to expand or contract the texts when needed.

Tip: Work closely with the person in charge of website design. This way, you’ll always know whether the text length is supported. Remember that localized text is usually longer compared to the English version.

Final Thoughts

Although you might have the right words and grammar, multilingual website translation isn’t just about that. The secret to overcoming challenges is stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. You will produce the most valuable content by combining your language knowledge with a good understanding of foreign culture. Add great communication and digital skills to the table, and you’re ready to face everything that might come your way.