While some browsers such as Chrome, already feature built in translation features, you can’t always rely on that to handle translation for everyone. Fortunately, there are some great options for adding multilingual support to a website. We’ve done a few so far and have used these two approaches.
- Automatic Translation: Mass translations using a service such as Google Translate
- Manual Translation: Targeted translations using a software add on or plugin such as The WordPress Multilingual Plugin, WPML.
Pros: Inexpensive, and easy to implement, with about 75 languages supported.
Cons: Translations are not precise and you must rely on third party service; it can slow things down a bit; and can break menus and layouts.
Example: Our site at www.web1776.com (Click on the fish icon on the toolbar on the left and translate away.)
When is automatic translation beneficial?
If you have a target audience and it is primarily one language such as English, then automatic translation provides a quick and easy method to reach non-native speakers.
Chances are good that if a visitor is looking for information or services from your site and need a translation, they have used online translation services like BabelFish, Bing’s Translator, or Google’s Translator before. Providing in-page translation services removes that extra step needed by the visitor and provides a better experience.
Google Translate wizard lets you piece together a widget for your site with a few clicks, giving you display options (dropdown vs automatic), language options, and even integrates with Google Analytics to track translations.
Pros: Perfect translations and end-user experience.
Cons: Limited translations and it will add expense to the project.
Example: Alpha Beta Translations, www.translateinterpreter.com
When is manual translation beneficial?
Manual translations are beneficial when your audience has more than one (but not too many) dominant languages. In these situations, it is more important to maximize the quality of your audience versus maximizing its size. Most translation services charge by the word, but what you get in return is a near perfect translation.
WPML (WordPress Multilingual plugin) is the perfect tool for manual translations. By allowing you, your team, or a professional translation service such as AlfaBeta to translate for you, WPML makes it easy to translate large sites quickly.