Will America Be Saved by Website Translation? How to Choose the Right One?

By Alex Buran on November 22nd, 2011

As the world becomes more global, interrelated and there is still no red tape on global online sales, an increasing amount of business owners realizes the potential in having their website translated into foreign languages. This brings new sales leads and increasing brand awareness globally. On top of it, the recent observations of people’s connectivity on Facebook reveal a shocking pattern: there are only 5 people in between any two individuals. The chain of separation got smaller from the observed 6 people by Stanley Milgram in 1960. Plus, the internet as a platform is inherently global. It only takes you one click to reach any, even the most distant website in the world. All that creates an urgent need to do something in order to market your brand not just locally, like brick and mortar shop, but market it everywhere. If customers can connect in just one click, it is important to convey your message.

So, what options the webmasters have at this time? There are two main options: widgets and Foreign Content Delivery Networks. Widgets are the small pieces of code that webmasters install into their existing websites that allow visitors to click on languages or flags and translate the pages on the fly. While Foreign Content Delivery Networks (FCDN) use cloud based approach and re-create mirror copies of your websites that allow for easy search engine crawling, geo-targeting and crowdsourcing.

Leaders in widget based website translation:

  1. Ackuna http://www.ackuna.com/ – an ambitious start-up from New York that aims to build a better machine translator. While in alpha, it still uses Google Translator as a basis, but also adds its own layer of professionally translated results to further enhance quality. Ackuna is connected to another ambitious project – the Translation Cloud http://translationcloud.net/, world’s biggest post-editing human translation engine.
    It’s WordPress widget can be found here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ackuna-language-translation-plugin/
  2. Translation Services USA’s widget (ex-ConveyThis) http://www.translation-services-usa.com/translate-this.php – similar to Ackuna, but with a slightly different button design. The underlying technology is the same.
  3. Google Translation Widget http://translate.google.com/translate_tools – one of the oldest and most venerable widgets on the web. Folks from Google did a great job to give the widget many customization options, but in my opinion, it looks web 1.0.

Pluses of widgets:

  • Easy to install
  • Free to use
  • Instant results

Minuses of widgets:

  • Lack of customization – they come with pre-supplied designs
  • Can crush your website – since they are JavaScript based, the owners can modify it in a surreptitious and harmful way.
  • Translations are not indexed by search engines and therefore, no traffic comes from them.
  • Inaccurate, offensive interpretation. Translations are only as good as their underlying machine translators. You can’t improve the results and have control over them.

As to the leaders in FCDN, there are not many. Seriously. The current market is so well dominated by Google and Ackuna that nothing else comes to mind. There is an emerging pool of tiny start-ups that make baby steps into this direction, but not a single one of them has gotten even a 1% of the potential market yet.

Pluses of FCDN

  • Full customization – create your own navigation buttons to incorporate translated pages into your existing design.
  • Stability and security – since you own the widget, no one can mess it up and inject harmful code to bring your website down.
  • Translations are fully indexed by all search engines. Since you deal now with physical pages, they can be crawled and therefore indexed.
  • Translations can be further improved by you, your community (crowdsourced) and by hired professional translators.
  • Easy to install too. Since you don’t deal with source file or hosting issues. All you have to do is to install a widget just like in the widget case.
  • Geo-targeting – it is possible to pinpoint your translation versions to specific countries and locales for improves ping responses. It’s great for local search engine optimization.

Minuses of FCDN

  • Not free – since the physical pages need to be stored, they need to be hosted and hosting comes with a price to it.
  • Slow results – when you involve humans, you need to be patient as humans can work only at a certain pace.
  • Skewed pages – not all websites can be mirrored properly. There is no magic formula that would apply perfectly for every website. When a site has excessive amount of JavaScript and server based scripting, it won’t function after processing through FCDN. The string approach will be needed.

Thus, as a webmaster and a business owner, you have plenty of options: widgets, FCDN and strings. I purposely didn’t cover strings, because I think this service can’t exist on its own. The best approach is some sort of hybrid of FCDN and strings. FCDN provides context for strings, in turn, strings make translated pages functional even with excessive JavaScript and server side scripts.

And, let’s re-iterate the main question again: “Will America Be Saved by Website Translation?” My answer is YES. We have so much content available in just one language that once we figure out a way to convey it to the rest of the world, our exports will increase to the post World War 2 levels and bring this country to prosperity again. That’s the idea that probably Peter Thiel would make excited. Peace.

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