language translation vs. international sites

28 Mar 2011 - 11:08am
5 years ago
4 replies
1372 reads

Just wanted to get some opinions / experiences on this matter:

Our client is based in the U.S. has about 10 or so International sites in the respected domains, in addition to the .com U.S. site. On the .com site there is a fairly hefty drop down menu to change your site. Now, they also want to add a google translate bar to their U.S. site. The international sites are not mirrors of the US site, but they are specific to their world brand and events. I'm not very familiar with any international/languages best practices and was just curious on some outsider input.



29 Mar 2011 - 2:40pm

Perhaps I misunderstand, but the Google translate tool raises a huge red flag, if the non-US sites are not mirrors of the US site.

On its BEST day, Google Translate does only a passable job.  If your client uses industry-specific language on the US site, Google Translate will most certainly choke on it.


29 Mar 2011 - 4:19pm

If the broad idea is to serve localized/translated content to international visitors, it might be worthwhile investigating how many visitors you get outside of US and track if they choose local sites or continue in english.

What do visitors from non-english speaking countries do? If you see a lot of activity on your .com site from this group, you can provide a dropdown and track the usage results. Google translate might work if your audience understands a bit of english and is savvy to understand the limitations of Google translate. Agree with Steve, Google translate is a poor option if your content is industry specific.

Also - Re: the huge dropdown issue. Auto redirects (via geoip) on location specific sites are a viable option thesedays since the tech has been improving significantly. A 'remember my selection' cookie may be good too.

30 Mar 2011 - 8:14am

I'm an english-speaker living in a non-english-speaking country. In case that situation applies to some of your users/customers my feelings are:

I find automatic language detection by IP really frustrating as it results in pages in the local language (I'm not fluent enough yet!). If there's no language selection drop-down obvious near the top of the page, I'm forced to use google translate (chrome can do it in-browser) with all the problems that brings. There may be a way to use the language as specified in the request by the user's browser? Not sure if that's viable, I imagine lots of user's browsers are setup incorrectly/incompletely.

Also, google translate isn't just bad at jargon - sentence structures with more than a couple of clauses often get mangled, local sayings are translated literally - you're far better off employing a translator for your content, it'll come across as far more professional.


27 May 2011 - 3:53pm

Whether your translator is human or machine, simple sentence structures and plain language make translation easier.

Some great resources here:

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