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DateFriday, July 22, 2011

Mind Your Language

Going Global? Star Translation's Damian Scattergood Provides Some Excellent Tips to Make Website Translation Easier & More Successful



STAR_Globe.pngBreaking into international markets is a challenging task for many companies. Boosting sales is top of your company agenda and picking the right approach is important for the best ROI.



Where do you start?
Developing a new product and bringing it to market can cost in excess of € 100,000. An easier way to expand sales is to translate your current product and start selling to a new country. Taking a product global can be done for less than € 10,000. Within a few weeks you can translate, launch and start developing global sales.



Whilst cost effective it's important to get it right first time. Translation and Localisation is more than just about translating the words. Asking the right questions at the start of the process ensures you deliver a successful and profitable launch first time.

Points to consider when designing English documents

Everything starts with a clean source document. Whether it is a user manual, a HTML file or a XML file structure or a complex InDesign file, it is important to consider translation from day one. It is easy to design a document that is difficult and expensive to translate so a little thought at the start will save you a lot of money.



Text Expansion:

For most languages the translated text is actually longer that English. German for example is 30% longer than English. This means the layout may change after translation. Text may move, columns and pictures may be in different places and the file will require some rework after translation.


STAR_Text_Crop.pngFor Manuals & Documents

  1. Never use TAB to align text as they all have to be redone after translation. Use a table or columns instead as they resize easily.
  2. For figures and diagrams remove text from the diagram and replace it with numbered callouts. This way a simple numbered table can be placed at the bottom of the diagram - making translation easy.
  3. For complex design tools like Adobe InDesign, Framemaker and QuarkXPress think about fonts, layers and page structure during the design phase. We can give you lots of advice in this area.


For Websites:


  1. Is your website encoded for translation and will it display accented characters?
  2. Don't put text on buttons and graphics as this is expensive and slow to translate.
  3. Remember to translate all metatag information to ensure foreign language search engines visibility.
  4. For images watch out for any image that might be unsuitable for certain audiences. Some images might be politically incorrect in some countries.


Get Advice During the Design Phase:

  1. You should ask your translation vendor for advice during your design phase. They should be able to advise you on the best document structure to make translation easy.
  2. Remember to have your translation vendor have a look at your images to ensure they are internationally acceptable. You might be surprised what might cause offence. This way you only have to design your product material once.
  3. Remember if you have a design flaw in your original documents it will be in all translations. If your document is translated in 10 languages it has to be fixed 10 times.



Selling Internationally on the Web

When you launch and start selling online there are a number of steps to follow. You need to ensure your web site plan works for both your international design and processing international sales. The simple steps to a good international website are ...


Building Your Website.


Design: The first step is to design an internationally aware and enabled website that is both translatable and will work for international SEO in all languages. You should pick a design that has experience in this area of have your translation agency recommend one.



E-commerce: Your sales engine needs to consider foreign languages, foreign currency payments and any local e-commerce tax laws.



Translate & SEO the Site.

The next step is to have your web content translated and SEO'd.


Remember the site should consider multilingual SEO during the design phase. This should include all your text content and your website metatags to improve your visibility on foreign language search engines. SEO should include foreign search engine submission. Google is the largest engine in the English speaking world, but is the largest in China. Have you planned for submissions to the best search engines for each target language?



Customer Communications.

  • Can customers send you an email in their language?
  • How will you process orders in other languages?
  • Best practice is to have stock answers for the most common questions. These documents should be professionally translated. This gives a professional image every time you communicate with a potential client.
  • Free translation services deliver very rough translation quality but are useful for basic communication. You can use them to understand your client's questions and then reply with a professional translated response.




Marketing Your Website:

  • How do you plan to advertise your site?
  • Will you use Multilanguage SEO?
  • Will you use Google Adwords?
  • Will they be translated? Google has text restrictions of 25 characters per line - so you have to choose your translated words carefully. Does your vendor know this?



Points to Consider Developing Your Website

1. Is the Website Internationally Enabled?


Before you begin translation of your website you need to ensure that the website is internationally ready.



Internationally Enabled
If you translate your website will it still function correctly? Has it been coded to handle foreign characters?
The web code design may contain code that will not accept foreign language input. You need to check with your web developers that they can deliver a fully Unicode-compliant website. We recommend UTF-8.
Your e-commerce engine needs to be able to handle foreign languages, foreign currency payments and any local e-commerce tax laws.



Internationally Aware
Translation is more than just words. Around the world there are many locale differences. Some countries use a comma as a thousand separator, others use a full stop. Does your product cost €1,029 or 1.029 €?



There are many such elements to test your product for:

  • Date and Time Format
  • Currency Formats
  • List Separators
  • Telephone Numbers
  • Address Formats
  • Proper Names and Titles
  • Measurement Systems
  • Page Formats
  • Conventions for Capitalisation, Uppercasing and Lowercasing


When it comes to the international testing of your product all of the above locale issues need to be covered. You should also check sample filenames and content for locale issues.



There is a tendency to use flags on websites to signify country information. This can be politically sensitive in some countries and is recommended. While it is fine to use an American Flag to represent your American website, we do not recommend using an American flag to represent your ‘English' language site. Flags represent political boundaries not language. We recommend using a drop down menu with a list of the languages that the site is translated into, preferably in the language itself e.g. Francais, Español etc. This is also more SEO friendly.





STAR_Damian_Thumb.pngAbout the Author:

This document was written by Damian Scattergood, Managing Director of STAR Translation Services, Europe's largest privately-held translation company.


Damian can be contacted directly at +353 1 836 5614 or



Going Global Health Check

You can take the first steps to international success with a STAR Going Global Health Check.

A search engine health check on your English website
An SEO health check on your localised site (if you have one) or analysis and advice for potential translation
Review of your current documents, designs and software layouts for translation.
Recommendations for Document Authoring, Design.
Recommendations for Website Design.





STAR Ireland is part of the STAR Group, .






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