Translation is not localisation, and in an increasingly global market localisation for web pages is becoming more and more vital.
In today’s world, if you have a business, you have a website. And if you want your business to take off and really succeed, that website can’t be something your nephew set up ten years ago that displays your phone number and address – the web is not simply some huge, complex classified ad!
Sure, any sort of website with some keywords will at least get you into the search engine indices, and that alone is worth something, but to truly leverage the Internet for your business you need to have a website that offers your customers value. And if your customers come from around the world, as they almost certainly do these days, you’ll want your website to present itself to them in their native language. Not only does that mean business translation work – it means localisation work.
Translation Is Not Necessarily Localisation
Understanding the difference between translations and localisation is vital. Translation deals with the language issue, yes – the meaning. I can, for example, take the text on your web pages and translate it into a different language. But that translation may read a little ‘off’ if I don’t adjust my translation for the specific region where the web page is being loaded. For example: You might have your pages translated into French, and set your server up to display the French text whenever it detects a request from a French-speaking country. But there are plenty of differences between how French is spoken in France – and even in different areas of France – and how French is spoken in, say, Belgium.
Will your one-size-fits-all French get the job done in Belgium? Possibly. If your potential customer is tolerant. But why take the chance? The smart thing to do is to localise your document translations so they read very naturally to anyone reading them.
This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. The scale of it quickly becomes staggering when you consider how much text has to be translated into how many dialects and then realise that every time you make a tiny change to your site you’ll have to repeat the whole process again.
This complexity is why a lot of energy is being put into initiatives to get companies to collaborate on localisation technologies that would benefit everyone with the ability to automate this process to various extents. The idea has met with the sort of distrust and hesitation you might expect from any concept that is predicated on cooperation between competitors, but is gaining ground because it would benefit everyone equally and solve a huge and growing problem in this shrinking world.
Right now perhaps the biggest obstacle is the different technological platforms used to translate and localise web content today. Bringing all of that together under a standard would have to be step one.
Image courtesy pourquoipas-trinityprof.blogspot.com