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Effective Website Translation Copy

Writing effective website translation copy is an essential first step in the process of preparing to internationalise a website. So how do you write effective copy in the source language? Here are a few hints and tips:

1) Avoid typos and other errors in the source language! This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often we receive website translation orders where we have to query the source language. For an obvious typo, the translators will simply ensure that their translation is correct, but sometimes typos can make a text unclear, particularly if the result is a real word, which makes the mistake less obvious.

2) Check the source language for excessively long sentences as word order often varies in different languages, and a long sentence will be more difficult to translate, and will not be as clear to a reader of the website.

3) Avoid cliches, figures of speech, plays on words, and humour, as they rarely translate effectively.

4) Depending on the nature of the website there may be a lot of repetition, for example a textile/fashion site may have 20 different colours of the same dress, each with a seperate page, and description. The descriptions may be identical in all respects other than the colour. We are able to offer discounts for repeated phrases within a translation, this is because the translators don’t have to retranslate the full phrase every time, however to make use of discounts we need a fully editable copy of the source text.

5) Translating for international markets may require changes to the text when compared with the original. For example if selling to end consumers in the UK VAT will normally apply, whilst selling to overseas customers there may be different tax rules. Just translating the source language for the target market will not be enough here. The same is likely to be true about issues like delivery, where to complain if the customer has a problem, even order processes may vary. Translators can’t just guess at these requirements, they need to know what the client needs to be translated.

6) Avoid translating “fluff”. Its easy to add lots of words to a website, especially if it is content managed and it is only costing you time to produce the source text. When having the site translated, you are essentially paying per source word, so in broad terms, if the site is twice the words, it will cost twice the price. It is therefore worth thinking carefully about what needs to be translated, for example on your “contact us” page, do you need detailed directions as to how an overseas customer can find your office in the UK?

In summary then, it is worth a careful think about your website content before getting it translated. You may need to make changes when preparing for an international audience.