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Language – Who Can Read Your Web Site?

Written By: Grant McNamara

We assume that people looking at our web site can read the words. But can they? If they can’t read what is

presented, they certainly won’t buy. Tens of millions of people use the Internet to buy products and services

everyday, but they wont buy from you. Why not? Because they can’t read English.

English is the first language in only a small number of countries, and many people have English as a second

language. But consider for a moment the hundreds of millions of people that can’t read English. Who do

they buy from? Well it won’t be from you.

No doubt you’ve seen sites which allow the user to select from a list of language options. Perhaps it’s an

option for your site. It is a relatively simple and inexpensive option to present your web site in multiple

languages.

By giving your audience a choice you are improving your service. Everyone prefers to deal with

organisations that understand and meet their needs. Fundamental to quality service is the ability to

communicate. And you are widening your potential market by millions and millions and millions. The

benefits of allowing foreign language readers the ability to view your site are astounding. And the cost of

making the site available in multiple languages is probably far lower than you think.

There are many firms specializing in language translation services. They take your English based text and

graphics and translate them into Spanish or German or Chinese or whatever languages you think best. And

they can do the same with your newsletters, your e-books, and yes, even software products.

We provide translations of web sites. And for most jobs, clients are surprised at how cost effective the

service is. They kick themselves for not doing it earlier. Especially once the orders start to roll in from their

new markets. All that extra revenue, and so little effort.

Most web sites are somewhere between 500 and 1,500 words. The cost of translating such a small amount

of text is small, and the effort needed to amend the web site quite modest.

But a word of warning! Only human translators can accurately provide a precise translation of a specific

language. If you want a perfect translation, only a real person can assure you of getting one. Human

translators excel at creating perfect translations. When translating general topics, it is necessary to use an

expert skilled at the appropriate targeted language, for example, English into German

For specialized fields, one needs to find an experienced translator who also possesses knowledge of the

terminology in that particular subject matter. In addition, if you intend to print, publish or distribute your

translated materials to others, it is highly recommended that you have a competent human translator review

and edit the material.

And yes there are a number of automated translation products. And most work reasonably well. But their

translations only provide a rough approximation. The reader can understand what is meant, but the words

are often wrong or in the wrong order. It’s just like talking to someone who doesn’t know English well. You

can understand much of what they say, and communicate, but it is hard work. That’s how translation

software usually reads. Using such software won’t give your prospective customers any degree of

confidence that you provide quality.

Another alternative is to ask friends. No doubt you will have friends or colleagues, or friends of friends that

have language skills. It is best to have people translate into their ‘mother tongues’. A mother tongue is the

language that a person learnt as a child. If you use friends and family though, it’s a good idea to get a

professional translator to proof read the results. Proof reading is usually about 20% of the price of the

equivalent translation.

And if your budget is very small, you can include a simple welcome page for your foreign language visitors.

Here you would just describe the web site in general terms, explaining what you do and the key benefits of

the products and services you offer.

I hope this has given you something to think about.

Copyright (c) 2002 Grant McNamara, All Rights Reserved. This article may be freely distributed and

published. If you wish to publish the article, out of courtesy, please email me and advise the url.

About the Author

Author Information:
Grant McNamara – grant.mcnamara@translateme.co.nz
Grant McNamara manages The Translateme Group at www.translateme.co.nz specializing in multilingual

software development and Internet support.

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