5 ways to translate your website

Balazs Benedek, Easyling's CTO

An overview of website translation options by Balázs Benedek, CTO and co-founder of Easyling.


For any website translation project, there are five approaches to choose from, all of them matching different client priorities: SEO-friendliness, the client’s IT resources, translation quality, security requirements, budget-friendliness, or short time-to-market. For LSPs, it is crucial to understand the advantages and disadvantages of these options to be able to a) explain the clients what options they have, b) help them pick the right choice for their needs and priorities.

The 5 options are as follows:

1. Manual source extraction and target injection (copy/paste) and sending files (HTML, XLIFF, XML, RTF, XLS, etc.) back and forth

The client extracts the source content, sends it to the LSP for translation, then injects the translated content back. This can work with static content, but huge manual effort and IT-expertise is required. Copying and pasting segments into the CMS’s database or interface is inconvenient and prone to making errors. Translation is done in an out-of-context environment, corrections and ongoing maintenance is difficult.

2. Using Content Connectors

Some CMSs have content connectors that enable the extraction of the source content from the database and then injects the translated content back (for instance WPML for WordPress). As a downside, content connectors come at a cost; translators work in an out-of-context environment; corrections and ongoing maintenance is difficult.

3. Using a multilingual CMS

The client gives the LSP access to the CMS where the translation is done. In this case, translators must learn to use the CMS; there is a learning curve and overhead cost of training. There is also a risk of potential damage while using the system due to the lack of routine. CAT tools and translation memory are not available in this environment, making translation less consistent and translators’ work less productive.

4. Translation Proxy

Translation Proxy provides fully automated solution including automatic content discovery, word count, content extraction to XLIFF, in-context review and automatic change detection. It is an SEO-friendly solution, i.e., the foreign language versions will be discoverable for search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). Meta tags are also translated and crawled.

The disadvantages are the following:

- Since translation is not injected back into the CMS, clients tend to worry about the ownership and control of the translation.

- Providing foreign language versions is an ongoing service associated with an on-going cost.

- Security concern: for certain types of content, the involvement of the Proxy provider in the traffic is prohibited by law or company policies (e.g., credit card information, health records).

5. JavaScript-based translation

Translation happens real-time in the foreign visitors’ browser on-the-fly. No ongoing costs and no 3rd party – hence no security issues – are involved. However, this solution is not SEO-friendly. The translated site is not visible to the search engines because the foreign versions are created on-the-fly in the visitor’s browser by clicking on the language selector (a link or a drop-down list item). Where SEO is not an issue, it is a perfect solution: e.g. for Intranet sites or web applications (CRM, Sales Tools).

In many cases, a mixed approach may be the winner, depending on the various content types of the website. Understanding the client’s’ needs, priorities and the capabilities/differences of the available approaches is crucial for finding the right solution(s) to satisfy all parties.

(This article was originally published on the ATC Blog site at http://www.atc.org.uk/atc-blog/entry/how-to-identify-the-optimal-method-for-a-website-translation-project.html.)

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