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Questions regarding site translation....

Can this be carefully done with Babelfish?



1:05 pm on Nov 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I am considering translating my very small website into a few different languages. I have translated the index page into a few. I have realized that with Babelfish, indeed, it does make some rubbish out of some of the text. I have read your advice in previous posts about aquiring a professional translation or one of a native speaker. However, I am no shape to do this right now. As far as resources go, all I have is time - no money, as I have just started. What I would like to know is if this makes sense, or would possibly work..

1. I rewrite the English text of my index page specifically for French Translation. Hoping that it makes sense in translation.

2. Upload translated page, and reverse translation back to English with Babelfish.

3. If still not making much sense, rewrite again and keep checking/rewriting parts until it does.

Will using this method produce semi-sensible results? I am merely providing a small online-only service, but would also like to reach those of other countries. Semi-sensible seems to be ok, as I would have a disclaimer of some sort explaining this site as being translated, thus hopefully foreign users would understand that it may not be perfect.

Any suggestions?


1:08 pm on Nov 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Are you planning to e-mail or speak to people interested in your product/service? If they cannot speak English then you need to learn the lingo fast!


1:12 pm on Nov 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Probably rare, but if it were to happen, I could just throw the email into Babelfish and hopefully make sense out of it, use babelfish to reply, if not, come here ;)


1:29 pm on Nov 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 10+ Year Member

IMO it can be done. That's about the only single positive thing there is to say about that.

Personally I would never put a machine-translated page up on a professional website. It would be the best way to tell your visitor that you do not care about him/her.

Find some members from around here and see if you can offer them something in return for translating a few pages. If you can't get a native speaker to help you out, I would rather no have any translated pages at all.

It can sound harsh, but in my experience the auto-translations simply don't cut if for webpages.

They're good for translation simple emails etc. and your idea of throwing your incomming email through them is good. Howwever, auto-translating your email back to them is not good either.

If you wanna do it, do it right ;)


1:40 pm on Nov 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If you do speak some French, a better way than your idea, although still not ideal, is to use Google as your translator, not Babelfish.

By Google I don't mean their page translation services, but cutting and pasting phrases into the search box. If you know a foreign language grammatically and verbally, but want to check what you are writing is correct, this can check if you are using the right phrases and, if not, give you an idea of ones that are current. This is what I do sometimes with emails that I am writing.

However, all the advice given so far is correct. A website needs professional translation.


1:54 pm on Nov 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thank you for all of your personal and professional advice and opinions. I will take what has been said into great consideration. The translation idea was just a thought, as a result of my boredom from waiting..... I probably better wait until I have enough funding available to do it the right way.

Thanks again for the support,



2:32 pm on Nov 11, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I run a site full time for a company and we use the babelfish translation service - i describe it on the site as a 'vague translation' - 90% of our content is dynamically generated each week from a database of about 12000 new products each week so would be a huge translation job where we'd need full time staff on doing it...

the babelfish works quite well for us and gets customers who have no clue of english... we also use the babelfish type text in box for a translation thing for all email contact with them - even though the translation is vague!

we were going to get the full systran package but is quite expensive for a vague search....


12:03 am on Nov 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I wrote you an answer in best German and made a babelfish translation. I would say French isn't much easier.

--- babelfish translation ---
"I think that an automated translation will hardly be sufficient, in order to provide a responding web page. It will be in each case an auxiliary solution - and not only the holprige word choice and language organization will be noticeable to native speakers. More badly still are however cases, where during double meanings the machine translation selects the wrong sense of word and thus the sense connection destroys. There it already requires some Fantasie of the user, in order to guess the original meaning of the text. From my view altogether a little recommendable."
Ok, you can guess what I wrote. But would you put this on a webpage?

Btw. babelfish made bigger mistake in sentence (2): in the original I wrote, that not only native speakers will notice the difference ...

Just in case anybody is interested in the original:
"Ich denke, daß eine automatisierte Übersetzung kaum ausreichen wird, um eine ansprechende Webseite zu erstellen. Es wird immer nur eine Behelfslösung sein - und nicht nur Muttersprachlern wird die holprige Wortwahl und Sprachgestaltung auffallen. Schlimmer noch sind aber Fälle, wo bei Doppelbedeutungen die maschinelle Übersetzung den falschen Wortsinn auswählt und dadurch den Sinnzusammenhang zerstört. Da bedarf es schon einiger Fantasie des Benutzers, um die ursprüngliche Bedeutung des Textes zu erraten.

Aus meiner Sicht insgesamt wenig empfehlenswert."


3:40 am on Nov 16, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

That's a good decision because it respects the quality of your web site.

And I'm sure you'll find a way to make the extra money to pay for the translation.


6:20 pm on Nov 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>the sense connection destroys



4:14 pm on Nov 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am in the process of doing similar but I am hiring a translator for the task.
I do however have a related question...

I am having difficulty deciding what keywords to optimise for. Are there any Wordtracker like utilities that specialise in various European languages?

I look forward to your replies.


4:24 pm on Nov 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Someone recently translated one of our sites into Spanish (my native language) using babelfish.

It was so hilarious, I ended up emailing the link to friends. We couldn't stop laughing...

Not sure about other languages but if I were to translate sites into Spanish, I would use a translator or translate them myself. The spirit of the letter gets definitely lost.

Transalating is serious business, IMHO only.


5:32 pm on Nov 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member heini is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Big_Dug - welcome to WebmasterWorld!

Strange as it may sound there really is no equivalent to wordtracker or similar products on the market.

Your best option would be to go to the local versions of Espotting, Overture and Google, using their respective PPC tools.
Anyhow - the best keyword tool is not worth much without a local speaker exoert evaluating the suggestions.
Just imagine doing a search for some english phrase on a keyword tool: Automaticall, without really realizing it, you'd scan through the list, extracting useful related terms, skipping over so many other terms.
That knowledge after all is what makes the use of keyword tools work for going from much traffic to qualified traffic.


1:57 pm on Dec 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for the welcome and the suggestion Heini.
I think our translator may have their work cut out for them in the weks to come.


2:01 pm on Dec 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

May be it could take a little bit more but I think is mandatory to have your site translated by mother tongue person.


4:11 am on Dec 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Machine translation could be a cost-effective solution (actually, no-cost) for a non-commercial website willing to target international users, or –- as rumbas said -- for translating incoming emails.

Thinking about using machine translation for a professional website is simply a good way to deter your potential clients and show them that you are not able to conduct business in a professional way. Companies wishing to publish alternative-language versions of their websites should seriously consider looking for professional help, and have the site localized in the target language/s and market/s, not only the content presented in the reader’s mother tongue.

There’s actually a big difference between translation (the pure adaption of words from the source language to the target language) and localization (adapting a product to a specific language, culture, and market).

Moreover, the localization of a website is a particularly delicate and complex operation, involving diverse skills and requiring specific experience in the coordination of work phases: as with any localization project, it is not enough to simply convert text into the destination language; rather the success of a website localized into a language different to the original depends on several factors. To enumerate a few:

a) The contents must be adapted to the linguistic and cultural system of the target language: things like dates, calendars, measurement units, and monetary notations should be in the correct format (in Switzerland and Korea, putting an X in a box -a common technique on web pages for selecting items from a list - suggests that the items should be excluded rather than included); there are also legal and taxation issues that need to be addressed to do business, including e-business, in different countries.

b) The communication tone and general structure of the website must be suitable for technical standards and stylistic requirements in the target market. Even content “classification” should in some cases be adapted to specific geo-linguistic areas. Also notice that while “western” languages are read/written from left to right, some languages (like Arabic) are read/written from right to left, thus implying possible changes needed in the layout and general structure of a website.

c) The graphical components must also undergo any necessary transformations to meet the linguistic and cultural communication requirements: colours may need to be altered as they can convey different implications or simply work better in some countries than in others (black is seen as the sombre colour of mourning in many cultures, but white conveys the same in other countries); some images - especially those symbolic of national pride or patriotism - need to be switched; graphics may support slogans or captions that contain plays on words that make no sense after translation (a German ad for a bank shows mice sitting on some coins., and the text below the picture reads 'Hier konnen Sie Ihre Mause anlegen', which translates into English as 'Here you can bring your mice'...In German, 'Mause' ('mice') is a slang word for money...this graphic - as well as the text - would have to be changed for different readerships)

d) Any scripting components (Javascript, Php, Perl, Asp, database, etc.) must be adapted to and harmonized with the resulting product.

e) The page formatting must be taken into account and made compatible with the demands of search engine and directory positioning: keywords which work in languageA might not work the same in their translation in languageB (a page optimized for the English term hotels should be localized in Italian taking into account that there are two terms (hotel and alberghi) which are equally used as search terms…) .

As such, each website localization project should involve a team of professionals including mothertongue translators, reviewers who understand and know how to deal with the linguistic, technological, cultural and marketing aspects of the final product, and local SEOs.

Finally, remember that localizing a website is just the starting point. The company should be prepared to have incoming inquiries from potential clients, and set up an effective way to handle them (the goal is to be able to handle as many queries as possible reducing human intervention to a minimum). Here machine translation could useful to understand the meaning of an e-mail, but template replies should be made available to cover the most common situations (multilingual auto-response). Notice that a study conducted by Sony, which operates websites in 14 languages, revealed that nearly 80 per cent of all inbound queries could be dealt with through about 20 standard answers.

Yes, sure translating is serious business, and localizing a website is an even more complex and serious one.


6:17 am on Dec 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

that's some excellent replies so far

what I'd like to add is...professional translation costs less than you expect...the essential thing is to be able to have the translation checked independently...although it's usually possible to get that done very cheaply or free it isn't always easy to arrange...it is, however, essential

I've put together a description of how we went multilingual with a small staff and moderate budget at [ericjarvis.co.uk ]


10:41 am on Dec 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Excellent description Eric! Everyone should read it. ;)


1:10 pm on Dec 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Human translation is always best.

I know of the organisation that owns the best translation software available in the world, however it is not for sale (the Chinese Government offered a couple of billion dollars for a licence to use it - they were refused).

Even this has major pitfalls that are constantly need to be altered, a few eg's:

...English - "dressed up to the nines", in French this becomes "dressed up to the thirty-ones"

...English - "lead up the garden path", most other languages become "mislead"

Automation is very hard work and BabelFish and others are just Mickey Mouse toys for entertainment.


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