Is Your Website Lost in Translation? Ignoring non-English-speaking customers limits your ability to tap new markets and grow revenues.

By Mikal E. Belicove

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Is Your Website Lost in Translation?

The "language of business" is based around the common denominator of currency. Business decisions are made on whether that currency will make you more currency, cover your expenses and leave enough for expansion. But in today's atmosphere of global trade, the language of business has become a literal term.

As more non-English speakers find themselves in need of your products or services, your business may find itself in need of a translation service. One quick solution for tweaking your site's content for foreign audiences is to turn to those handy "translation" widgets, which automatically translates content into other languages.

But there's a problem. Website translation widgets are unreliable, often producing content that's littered with incorrect word usage, grammar and punctuation, and that can inadvertently insult your customers. Think about it. Would you do business with or buy from a site that has inaccurate grammar and is poorly written? Of course not.

Ofer Shosan, CEO and co-founder of OneHourTranslation.com, a site that crowdsources language translation services, says businesses face many challenges when they deal with translation of their website content, including:

  • Ignoring cultural differences between countries that use the same language. Examples include Spanish (Latin America versus Spain), or Portuguese (Brazil versus Portugal). These cultures use different words and phrases to describe the same things. Readers from Spain, for instance, will immediately know that a message was written by a non-Spaniard and might conclude the message isn't aimed at them, or worse, that you think Mexican's and Spaniards speak the same language.
  • Forgetting that websites from the previous decade lack a Content Management System (CMS). That means there's no infrastructure for localization. Site owners soon discover the major cost isn't the translation itself but the development of a new website with a CMS capable of handling multiple versions of the same content.
  • Overlooking measurements used by people from other countries. These differences include miles vs. kilometers, the U.S. dollar versus Euros or the same date structure.
  • Seeing the Chinese market as one market when it's not. For example, Hong Kong customers require a different Chinese dialect (Cantonese) and a different character set.
  • Taking a pass on the huge Arabic speaking market. That translation requires the difficult development of right-to-left adaptation capabilities from the website.

While OneHourTranslation.com is unique in its crowdsourcing approach, they aren't the only firm that provides customized transitions. Translia claims to charge 10 to 30 percent less than competing services and offers 24-hour turnaround of your content. Keylingo specializes in translating legal documents, technical manuals and scientific papers. They even provide on the spot translation services by phone or in person -- basing a translator in your office for the duration of your project. As for OneHourTranslation.com, it has recently developed an app for eBay that enables online sellers to translate their offerings via human translators or machine translation, which increases your products' relevancy on eBay's international sites.

How has your experience been with using translation services? Let us know if your business has improved or not in the comments section.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. 

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