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Multiple langagues on your website
Wondering about the general concept

 3:49 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've noticed a few threads on creating multi-lingual websites, but most of them are a little too specific for my liking, as I have no idea where to start here.

I'm looking to create a Spanish version of a website... hablo espanol un poquito, but not nearly well enough to avoid embarrassing myself on a website translation. I know there are free automated translators, but obviously you get what you pay for there. Is there some magical way to automate translation of pages, or do the good multi-lingual websites actually have people rewriting the copy in another language? To me, this would seem like the only feasible method.

Ok, so once you've got a translated page, what's the best way to set it up? Create a totally different page altogether? And what about these language tags? Daah, I know nossing!


JAB Creations

 3:56 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

You can do what I did, just use third party sites to translate your site automatically!

Of course you get what you pay for. Free translation sites usually don't read out in the highest quality of grammer in the language you translate to.

Original text may read like...
I went to the fair and ate some candy.

The translated version may look something like...
Go went to fair the and ate candy some.

You have to remember humans aren't translating it. I know Spanish has male and female aspects of saying things whereas it's mostly just the tone of your voice in English.

Anyway my site has 26 languages OTHER THAN English with multiple options for each language.


You can visit those urls and then translate your site in the desired language. Copy the url and paste it as a link on a translation link on your site to automate it quickly so your visitors don't have to figure it out on their own.

I'd also HIGHLY suggest if you don't like having to figure out where "七龍" is located on your site you use a meta tag no follow to stop bots from indexing the translated version of your site.

Hope this helps!


 5:25 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks Jab... yeah I had seen that option, and I guess I was hoping there was a better way to automate translating. I'm a stickler for grammar, and I know that when I see a foreign site doing a piss-poor job of translating their content to English, I usually hit the ol' "X" button.

I'll give this a go though. Thanks again.


 5:36 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

Generally you would human translate any copy you deem important enough.

Regarding serving visitors the appropriate language, browsers send a language request in the header. For example, my browser sends:

Accept-Language: en-gb,en;q=0.5

Just check this and use server side processing to insert the correct language content. You'd also want to provide an override and use cookies incase the visitor wants a different language.


 5:36 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

If it's a commercial site, get a professional translation done. End of story!

If it's free or hobby, then you could use a free translator program (or spend 50 on a translation program, they're usually better quality). If it's a community site, why not see if any of your members could volunteer to proof read your copy? Worked for Google!


 5:47 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes, it does seem that to do a professional multi-lingual site, there's no way getting around a human translation... as I would've guessed.

My next question would be, what of the tildas and other accent marks used in Spanish? Do I have to change character encoding or language tags to make sure all of that stuff shows up on-site?

Thanks for the help folks

JAB Creations

 6:15 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

On some of my translation pages (when you click the flag to enter the page for the available services) some languages are English/roman compatiable and some aren't. Just check my XML declaration at the top of each page on my site. If you use the incorrect charset then the language will not show correctly (in Firefox, cuz you are using a competent browser right? ;)).

Sanenet is correct btw; better to have no translations then a computer translation on a business site! I've gotten ripped off once with an X client of mine who played the language barrier ignorance deal to get me to work for not even enough for a months rent! So I would highly suggest not catering on a small business site to other languages unless you have someone who DOES speak that language and then format your code so if that person isn't a coder you can at least have them sit down in notepad and they can read the language with very minimal code around it in order for them to translate it.

Since my site is a hobby site in a sense each language has an intro explaining that the translations aren't done by humans and that if I sound like a retard in their language it's because of non-human translation issues.


 6:58 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

Here's a thread from last year about translating a business website into multiple languages. Some good insights are shared here:



 7:26 pm on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks again guys... and tedster, that's a great thread, even if one only reads it for the part where one member auto-translates another's post to show him how bad auto-translaters are!


 8:02 am on Nov 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

This point can not be emphasized enough. Machine translation should never be used for a website. You can use it yourself to get the gist of a foreign language site's content, but people who think they have multiple language versions of their site by using machine-translation are fooling themselves.


 6:28 pm on Nov 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

And don't forget, if you have a multi lingual site, sooner or later you're going to get an inquiry in that language - so you'd better have somebody on the staff who knows how to read it!


 6:35 pm on Nov 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Machine translation is a joke.


 1:39 pm on Nov 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

As both a web developer and a translator (yeah, I'm funny that way) I seriously recommend anyone building multi-language sites to have the copy translated/proofed by a professional. If you don't have the resources, stick to languages you know. (And remember to have the copy proofread even if you're using your own mother tongue - typos and bad grammar make the visitor wonder if everything else on the site is the same quality...)


 8:50 pm on Nov 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Tulip, I definitely agree... but i'm talking about a database-driven site (sorry, should've mentioned that earlier), so unless I have the company hire someone like yourself at whatever thousand dollars/yr, it's going to be tough to get content translated AND proofread every thirty minutes. That would be the reason that most of us use machine translations I believe.

Hanu- I don't know if i'd say machine translations are a joke per se... in fact i'd bet that Babelfish's translation of a given website is just as good/bad as a 17-year-old high school student's attempt. Surely, both translations would probably suck equally, as both parties are basing the translation on standard textbook theory. So yeah, maybe it's a joke, but you're basically saying at that point that anything other than a professional translation is a joke. I would agree with that statement, but I'd still rather have a free service that makes somewhat sucky translations than none at all, as long as i'm aware of the limits of the service's capability.

I know plenty of native spanish-speakers who would rather see a butchered version of their language on a site than an English version they can barely understand... it's on us as the webmasters to decide whether our audience will be turned off by the bad translation, or if they will be able to live with the translation as long as they feel that you as a website owner are recognizing the presence of their culture. America's still in the early stages there, so a business can often cash in when they do anything that remotely looks like an attempt at multiculturalism.


 10:36 pm on Nov 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

i'd bet that Babelfish's translation of a given website is just as good/bad as a 17-year-old high school student's attempt.

Babelfish really falls apart on words with multiple meanings and a 17 year old would probably get that right. Machine translation has big problems with context, something that comes naturally to human beings.


 1:38 pm on Nov 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Babelfish is not too bad for quick and dirty translations when you want to get some idea of the content of a website - but I'd never actually use automatically generated translations as I would not be able to guarantee the quality. In my opinion it would be ok to provide a link to Babelfish (or some other translation tool) as a friendly gesture to foreign-language visitors, but I'd strongly advise against using machine translations instead of a human translator. No one likes to see their language butchered, but if it can't be helped, let the visitors do it at their own risk...Just concentrate on making sure that the original language on the website is clear and correct: this way the translations will also be better.


 9:36 am on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

I know plenty of native spanish-speakers who would rather see a butchered version of their language on a site than an English version they can barely understand...

I'd argue that putting a butchered language version of your site up is worse than none at all.

Turn the situation around. If you went to a site displaying gibberish English or English that looked like it was compiled by a robot just how confident are you going to be to plunk down your credit card number? I'd jump back on the SE and find a site that at least could put a natural sentence together.

Place links to machine translation services if you think that will help your visitors, but don't waste your time actually making pages with that junk.


 8:18 am on Nov 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'd argue that putting a butchered language version of your site up is worse than none at all.

I'd second this. It looks unprofessional and it shows utter disrespect for the people of the target language.

Better to employ a full-time in-house translator.

Costly? Yes.
Alternative solution? Can't think of a single one.


 9:25 am on Nov 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

A heavily trimmed version of the main points of the site in those some other languages just to help newcomers to introduce to the concepts or products could be a third way. From there you can redirect them to the original versions and adding a link for Babelfish or the like


 9:55 am on Nov 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

But, why are you trying to attract non english speakers when you have neither the capability nor the infrastructure to deal with them? What happens when they send you an email in their language and you neither know what they are saying, nor how to reply?


 12:18 pm on Nov 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

I run a translation agency in the UK and we handle quite a lot of work of this nature.

Machine translations are a joke if you want to be taken seriously. Just to give you a taster, Russian is a language of endings. The ending of a word will change depending on the context, tense, case, etc.

It also has masculine, feminine and neutral forms, plus the word 'you' is different depending on whether you are talking to someone in a friendly manner or a polite manner.

A machine can never understand context and so will get everything wrong.

I can give you some tips if you want to sticky me, plus don't forget that if you are translating the body you will need to research the keywords and translate the meta tags or the site might not be found in a Spanish search.

Submitting to specific Spanish language SE might be a good idea too.


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