Apr 2010

Your Guide to Website Translation

In the last decade, the availability and popularity of the Internet have increased exponentially, with countless people now using computers on a daily basis for communications, shopping and entertainment. Virtually all businesses now have an ‘online presence’ in the form of tailor-made websites and website translation.

Websites allow companies to generate and sustain business by promoting their products and services to a much wider audience than was previously possible. They make it easy for prospective customers to interact with companies, whether they intend to make purchases or just to gather information.

With this in mind, it is easy to see how the accessibility of a website with the help of website translation can make a real difference to the success or failure of any enterprise.

As in the real world, the main barrier to communication on the Internet is the issue of differing languages. Most Web surfers find themselves uncomfortable with buying products or services from websites published in unfamiliar or difficult foreign languages. As such, website translation can be a logical and helpful innovation.

To assist these potential customers, and to allow previously monolingual businesses to access new markets overseas, there are many dedicated website translation companies who can be commissioned to re-write Web pages in other languages. These companies employ highly skilled, experienced and knowledgeable translators. They carefully prepare translations in the chosen target language that convey the original writer’s intended message clearly, employing appropriate registers and a natural-sounding tone.

Another response to the demand for website translation has been the invention of ‘machine translation’ programmes for computers and Web servers, which convert documents and websites between various language pairs without human intervention. Most high-end translation software is sold commercially for installation on PCs; however, a number of similar, more limited programmes are available for free use on the Internet.

It is vital to remember, however, that although computers do have some ability to parse grammar and to substitute words, they are unable to appreciate the less scientific factors that are frequently present in texts, such as semantic fields, differing registers and the expression of emotion. Furthermore, they can be confused by spelling mistakes, obscure colloquialisms or complicated syntax. The result of this is that language-translation programmes frequently generate stilted, odd-sounding or broken translations. Words and phrases are often inappropriately deciphered, sometimes with unintentionally comical (or even offensive) results! As such, most linguists strongly recommend against the use of automatic software for website translation. It is advisable to have website translation tasks carried out properly by professional human translators.

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