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View Poll Results: Are Multi-Language Sites Obsolete?

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  • Yes

    9 19.15%
  • No

    38 80.85%
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  1. #1
    SitePoint Guru wii's Avatar
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    Question Are Multi-Language Sites Obsolete?

    The reason I'm asking is that my company is considering adding more languages to our site, all manually content, where I would suggest just using Google Translate for those occasional users that requiere this. Most people in my country (Denmark) speak and read English just fine.

  2. #2
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    Yes. Please poll people who will never use your site.

    Because doing proper user testing and actually communicating with people who do use the site is against internet law. ...Besides, talking with your customer/user is just plain creepy.

    Seriously, your audience doesn't read English at the same level. Most read at a more advanced level in a native language. What's more, reading brute force translated English is awkward and at times annoying -- a usability flaw.

    It's an intoxicating idea to point to the few people who can circumnavigate a site's mystery meat navigation and say everyone can. Just the same with text: Just because most can read English doesn't mean they prefer to or find it easier to.

    Or is this the "what can we get away with" game? Because a great many like to play that game with customers.

    Is brute force translated text obsolete? Possibly. It would be a refreshing change to go from word-for-word translation to localization: Literally re-writing and article for a foreign locale using a foreign perspective.

  3. #3
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    It really depends. I think English has become the universal language of the internet and pretty much every site is in English and maybe the language of origin. For example I have had clients with websites in other countries. When I go to their site in order to find information for the articles requested, I will notice they have the English version and the local language version. Anything more than that can be a lot of work and perhaps even counterproductive.

    I would simply say to keep it simple and a maximum of two languages! Hey, that is just my opinion!

  4. #4
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    There are billions of people out there who don't speak a word of English, so it all depends if you want to communicate with them or not. Most software developers speak some level of English (at least so they can read the docs), but your average user might not.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard cranial-bore's Avatar
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    The cost benefit is going to come into it. 37signals just announced the other day that they've added a lot (6 I believe) of new languages to the Basecamp interface.

    If 95% of your audience are fluent in English it's probably not worth the expense of localising. It may be best to poll them to get an idea of how helpful native language content would be (no difference, a bit better, much better, critical) and use that to guide your decision.

  6. #6
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    Like other have said, it depends on who your visitors are and what global markets your company is in.

    Since you are based in Denmark, would it be beneficial for the site to be in Danish? Note that it does take a fair amount of overhead to maintain what would essentially be the content of separate sites.
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  7. #7
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    From my experience most people prefer to read content in their native language.

    If we are talking about a Danish company which deals with people from Denmark then if you would have just one language that should be Danish, not English.

    Additional languages for content could need a lot of additional resources to maintain (depending on the amount of content you produce), but if you are going to have a multi-language site then make sure you do it right. Do not use auto-translators and make sure all content is provided in both languages. Otherwise do not bother. Auto-translators and partially translated sites could do more harm than good. If your users want to use an auto-translator they can do it themselves.

  8. #8
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    We offer a couple of forums for users of other languages and have had limited success. Overall I would say it was worth it to us, but google translate is getter better and better, and if I had to guess I would say the adoption rate of google translate has increased in the last year.

  9. #9
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    I've had some exposure to Spanish and French and used to think I was fairly aware. I've since learned that I was very American-English centered in my thinking. My awakening? I decided to I18n L10n my WordPress plugins. So far I've gotten translations in
    • be_BY
    • de_DE
    • es_ES
    • hr_HR
    • it_IT
    • nl_BE
    • nl_NL
    • pt_BR
    • ru_RU
    • sr_RS
    • sv_SE
    • uk_UA
    • zh_CN

    More than enough to realize that Google translate and Babelfish can't yet replace a person for doing translations 100% correctly. What they miss is assessing the context and the mood of the content. They "best guess". They're close enough so it could pass in a pinch I guess. But if you want a really professional reading site, IMHO it's best to have someone fluent in the language do the translations. You don't want to risk a faux paus. For example in American English "poof" is a neutral word. In Australian English it isn't.

  10. #10
    padawan silver trophybronze trophy markbrown4's Avatar
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    At work we've built up a language dicitonary which contains words and phrases.
    When we develop a new part of the system we can add new items in English with a simple API like Translate("LANGUAGE_KEY") and then later on down the track when we need support for a language we(or the client) can hire a translator to populate a column for a specific language.

    And it just works.

    It's great to do the work up front on a framework - then you dont have to think about language until its required.

  11. #11
    Programming Team silver trophybronze trophy
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    Yes, I guess that's about how gettext works in WordPress. Each "phrase" is mapped to a translation file. Then depending on which language is opted for, the app replaces the English with that language.

    No duplication of code, only the text.

  12. #12
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    We have a site which has this tagline:

    huur een vakantiewoning, verhuur een vakantiewoning

    I really can't find a decent way to say that in American English. For British English, we're using Hire a holiday home, Let a holiday home.
    However in American English and in Spanish, there really isn't a good one-word way to say "rent" and "rent out". So there's no American English version (which is good because Hire and Let mean very different things in US English!... Let a holiday home do what?) and the Spanish version just repeats itself:
    Alquile una casa de vacaciones... alquile una casa de vacaciones
    which sounds really, really, really retarded. Though way back when I could speak Spanish, I don't think I ever heard anyone say they were a landlord, I only heard alquilar used by renters. Still, this is something a transation service, supposedly by human beings, did. Either they didn't realise how strange it is, or they simply couldn't find a good way to do it.

    Now imagine a robot like Google doing that. Disaster x a bazillion.

    Guess what google translate called "bicycle" when it encountered our Dutch site with the word "rijwiel" (another term for bike instead of the somewhat more popular "fiets")? It called it a pennyfarthing!

    I thought that was a type of money, so I had to look it up. A pennyfarthing is one of those old-fashioned Victorian bicycles with the giant front wheel. I've seen them in parades and circuses, but we sure as hell don't have those things running loose in the streets!

    Get humans to translate if you need more than a sentence in another language of regular content.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    There should either be a human translation, or no translation at all. The result of a Google Translate translation can be painful to read.

    Also, you can't count on Danes being able to read and understand English. In my experience, the majority of Danes above the age of 25 are not comfortable speaking, reading or writing English, and many will avoid doing so altogether if they can at all help it.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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  14. #14
    SitePoint Zealot huit's Avatar
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    I'm noticing an increasing trend in Asian sites offering content in multiple languages. Mainly because the brand/company is trying to branch out into other Asian countries, and usually English speaking countries as well. I personally think it is very convenient. It also gives the impression that the translation you are getting is accurate since they (hopefully) care enough to hire a real translator rather than use an automated service like Google Translate.

    Along with adding multiple languages, the content is sometimes cherry picked for the foreign language versions. On the one hand nice because you get tailored content that is significant for your region (based on language), but on the other hand you aren't getting all the info that you could if you were able to read the site's primary language. I guess it will always be a compromise.

  15. #15
    Floridiot joebert's Avatar
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    All I have to say is that the few times I've used online translators I've been able to pick out the bits and pieces of information I needed, but I'm sure I wasn't getting the message as the author intended. Slang, proverbs, etc don't seem to translate well.

  16. #16
    Non-Member Musicbox's Avatar
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    Online translators like google translator works just fine, a site with multi language support always increases site traffic and there is a popularity of website content.

  17. #17
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    It's funny I found this thread. I was about to post the same question.

    Though most of our site visitors are English based (us-en, gb-en) I was going through our Google Analytics when i found that we also get quit a lot of German (de) and French (fr) visitors as well. In normally don't go though Google analytics with so much detail but we are developing a new site design to communicate simplicity and our Global presence.

    BTW, our business is not design based but global investments and finance.

    So, thank you guys for the thread and answers! Decided to create a multilingual website that will communicate with English, German, and French visitors. So, thats answered but I have another question. I also noticed a 30&#37; of our traffic is from iPhone users. Should we also develop an iPhone based web version or continue with our current mobile HTML version? I guess I'll start another thread for that one.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Online translators like google translator works just fine
    No offence but, no they don't. Even for translations between common languages, like German and English, the translations are absolutely rubbish. They can be used to get an idea about what the page is about (most of the time), but they are not a viable replacement for a trained translator. A site which use machine-translated text will look very unprofessional.
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  19. #19
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    I agree. They don't do too bad, but the best is still what I would call "broken English". Enough so you can figure it out, but it doesn't read smoothly.

    For example, I have this line in one of my plugins:

    "The following options were not paired correctly. Be certain to check their information carefully before you remove them."

    The (human) Dutch translator gave me this for it

    "De volgende opties werden niet correct gekoppeld. Wees er zeker van de informatie zorgvuldig te controleren voordat u deze verwijderd."

    And Google translate gives me this English for that Dutch

    "The following options were not properly linked. Be sure to check the information carefully before you removed."

    True, I don't know Dutch so maybe the translator did wrong, but I'm betting the Dutch more approximates the original English than it does the Google English.

    And I have no idea how good this Google Dutch is for the original English

    "De volgende mogelijkheden werden niet goed gekoppeld. Wees er zeker van om hun informatie te controleren en zorgvuldig door voordat u ze verwijdert."

    But it gives me this Google English for the Google Dutch

    "The following options were not properly linked. Be sure to check their information and carefully before you remove them."

    Which is NOT what it started with. So something definately got a bit mangled somewhere.

  20. #20
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    Online translators work just fine if you want people to have to pick and dig their way through your information. So for those 5% of customers who are determined to buy from you no matter how difficult you make it for them, yes, online translators are just fine. For the other 95%,I hope your competitors all send you a thank-you card.

    Here in Canada, most francophones can work their way through an English site. And many of them do...when they cannot find what they are looking for in French.

    So the main question you need to ask is how badly you want the business you would miss by not offering the other language. There are costs and there are benefits to competing for that market, just as there are costs and benefits for every other marketing strategy.

  21. #21
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    Yes, google translate is fine for your personal use for getting the general gist of content, but like others have said, its translation is far from perfect and the result is certainly not something you'd turn in as a published work. It makes you look...well...somewhat illiterate to a supervisor, teacher, customer, visitor, etc.
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  22. #22
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    I think the best thing to-do is to determine what your visitors want, for some reason people seem to feel that it's OK to make decisions on behalf of the end consumer irrespective of what will make their life better / worse. In most situations my recommendation would be to use Google Translate for every language until such an occasion occurs that enough people use international versions to justify independent and proper human translations. Having a faulty Google translate is better than nothing but it's certainly no improvement on the real thing. To see how bad the likes of Google Translate are, take a paragraph of text, put it in Google Translate and then translate it into another language, then take that text and re-translate it back into English... that pretty much sums up how poor those digital versions are.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Oh, I just found this beauty. I translated the Danish sentence 'Vigtigt: N&#229;r du skiller din motor ad, skal du altid huske at behandle t&#230;ndr&#248;rene forsigtigt', which in English is 'Important: When you disassemble your engine, always remember to handle your spark plugs carefully'. In Google Translate, it turned into this:

    Important: When you divide your engine ad, you must always remember to turn the tubes gently

    I wouldn't want to be the auto maintenance website that gave this advise to someone
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  24. #24
    SitePoint Addict Newviewit's Avatar
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    Dig into your analytic's and find out what your customers want. What language, search terms, etc. Not all websites require multiple languages but it is definitely necessary for large international sites. Just have a look at the biggest website companies. They all have multiple languages/sites that cater to individual languages.
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  25. #25
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    Always use human translation, never Google for business websites. It will heart the business. Google translates automatically, no grammar, so no sense for more then 50% of the content. I been there, done that!
    I always use translation companies for my clients.


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