Archive for December, 2010

Make Your Website Multilingual in 5 Easy Steps

December 19, 2010
The starting website, Fast Smart Web Design

The starting website, Fast Smart Web Design, in English

On Staten Island, nearly every time I meet with food-pantry and soup-kitchen organizers, they mention that some new ethnic group has shown up at their doors. For example, the food program with which I’m associated expected to serve English and Spanish speakers. We do, but we also now serve Russian and Chinese speakers, and a nearby food pantry has had an influx of Albanians.

It’s hard, and expensive, to keep up with all the languages and cultures crossing our thresholds. How can you avoid spending money you don’t have on multiple translations of your materials, and yet help all the people who need your services?

There is a solution, and although it’s not perfect, it’s probably good enough: Follow a few rules for your text and then use Google Translate to create websites that can be translated on the fly into 54 different languages. (If you do mostly print materials, you can use the same techniques to translate your brochures into multiple languages. Just be sure to use a typeface like Lucida Sans Unicode that has letters in almost all known languages.)

Heres what to do:

  1. Change the text on your website so that it’s easy to translate. Use pictures and maps and reduce the text to captions wherever you can. Dont use synonyms—if client and customer mean the same thing, pick one term and stick with it. Spell out abbreviations—they dont get translated (and not everyone knows what they represent in English anyway). Check spelling and grammar carefully—errors dont translate well. (more…)