Options for Adding Multiple Language Translations to a Website

The benefits and challenges in adding translated content to your web pages

Translation books on a shelf
Translation books on a shelf.

Not everyone who visits your website will speak the same language. For a site to connect with the widest audience possible, it may need to include translations into more than one language.Translating content on your website into multiple languages can be a challenging process, however, especially if you do not have employees in your organization that are fluent in the languages you’d like to include.

Challenges notwithstanding, this translation effort is often worth it, and there are some options available today that can make it much easier to add additional languages to your website than in the past (especially if you are doing it during a redesign process). Let’s take a look at a few of the options you have available to you today.

Google Translate

Google Translate is no-cost service provided by Google. It is by far the easiest and more common way to add multiple language support to your website.

To add Google Translate to your site you simply sign up for an account and then paste a small bit of code to the HTML. This service allows you to select the different languages that you would like available on your website, and they have a very extensive list to choose from with over 90 supported languages in all.

The benefits of using Google Translate are the simple steps needed to add it to a site, that it is cost effective (free), and you can use a number of languages without needing to pay individual translators to work on different versions of the content.

The downside to Google Translate is that the accuracy of the translations is not always great. Because this is an automated solution (unlike a human translator), it does not always understand the context of what you are trying to say. At times, the translations it provides are simply incorrect in the context that you are using them.

Google Translate will also be less than effective for sites that are filled with very specialized or technical content (healthcare, technology, etc.).

In the end, Google Translate is a great option for many sites, but it will not work in all instances.

Language Landing Pages

If, for one reason or another, you cannot use the Google Translate solution, you will want to consider hiring someone to do manual translation for you and creating a single landing page for each language you want to support.

With individual landing pages, you will only have one page of content translated instead of your entire site. This individual language page, which should be optimized for all devices, can contain basic information about your company, services or products, as well as any contact details that visitors should use to learn more or have their questions answered by someone who speaks their language. If you do not have someone on staff who speaks that language, this could be a simple contact form for questions that you must then answer, either by working with a translator or using a service like Google Translate to fill that role for you.

Separate Language Site

Translating your entire site is a great solution for your customers since it gives them access to all your content in their preferred language.

This is, however, the most time intensive and costly option to deploy and to maintain. Remember, the cost of translation does not stop once you “go live” with the new language version. Every new piece of content added to the site, including new pages, blog posts, press releases, etc. will also need to be translated in order to keep the site versions in sync.

This option basically means that you have multiple versions of your site to manage going forward. As great as this fully translated option sounds, you need to be aware of the additional cost, both in terms translation costs and update effort, to maintain these full translations.

CMS Options

Sites that use a CMS (content management system) may be able to take advantage of plug-ins and modules that can bring translated content into those sites.

Since all the content in a CMS comes from a database, there are dynamic ways that this content can be automatically translated, but be aware that many of these solutions either use Google Translate or are similar to Google Translate in the fact that they are not perfect translations. If you are going to use a dynamic translation feature, it may be worth it to hire a translator to review the content that is generated to ensure that it is accurate and usable.

In Summary

Adding translated content to your site can be a very positive benefit for customers who do not speak the primary language that the site is written in. Deciding which option, from the super-easy Google Translate to the heavy lift of a full translated site, is the first step in adding this useful feature to your web pages.

Edited by Jeremy Girard on 1/12/17

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Girard, Jeremy. "Options for Adding Multiple Language Translations to a Website." ThoughtCo, Jan. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/add-multiple-languages-to-website-3469545. Girard, Jeremy. (2017, January 12). Options for Adding Multiple Language Translations to a Website. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/add-multiple-languages-to-website-3469545 Girard, Jeremy. "Options for Adding Multiple Language Translations to a Website." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/add-multiple-languages-to-website-3469545 (accessed December 17, 2017).