- Free online tools to translate any website
- How to translate your own site
- Choosing sub-domains or separate sites
- How to approach different types of content
- Why avoid automatic translations?
- Convert idioms to their local language
- Translate keywords
- Take your local audience into account
Free online tools to translate any website
Skip straight to the section on how to translate your own website into English, or another language.
For those wishing to simply visit a foreign language site and read it in English there are 3 simple ways to do this:
- Install the English version of Google Chrome as your web browser. When you visit a foreign language site, it will automatically ask whether you would like to translate it at the top of the page.
- Visit https://translate.google.co.uk/ and enter the web address in the large box that appears, then press the translate website icon .
Note, when you normally use Google Translate you simply enter the text, select the translation language and it completes the online translation as you type. When converting a whole website to a different language, you must press the icon. If you're unsure what language the site is in, choose 'Detect Language', as shown in the image below.
- Visit https://imtranslator.net/compare/ and enter the text to translate. Choose the language you're entering and your preferred language, then press Translate. This will then compare Google Translate, Microsoft Translate, and Translator, so you can see 3 different translations simultaneously and decide which automated tool is best.
With any of the above translate options, the quality of the text will be sufficient to give you a general idea of what the foreign site says. Avoid these tools for professional translations of your products or services, for the reasons explained later in this blog.
What about your own site?
The internet is a formidable tool and if you use it to the fullest extent, then your possibilities are endless. With the development of the internet, reaching an international audience has become far easier, and having a multilingual site will help to maximize your exposure. Translating a website from one language to another, say from French into English, presents certain obstacles that must be overcome. Here are a few tips on how to translate a website from French, German or other European languages into English.
Separate sub-domains or separate websites?
When translating your website, the first question might be whether to use a single site with separate sub-domains or sub-folders, or to have completely separate domains, with a dedicated website per language.
It’s entirely possible to use WordPress, PrestaShop, Drupal or a handful of other CMS systems to create a multilingual site with a shared database, whether you use separate domains, or sub-folders. Read our guide on choosing how to structure a multilingual website.
How to approach different types of content
If you're translating Terms and Conditions or Client Reviews, it's essential that the translated version of these web pages reflect the original version accurately. On the other hand, if you're translating your blog or guest posts for third party sites, this can be a very loose translation that's adapted to the local culture.
Website content on the left in the image below need the highest level of accuracy. For content on the right localising it to reflect the local culture is far more important, with a sliding scale for those items in between.
Some other tips when it comes to translating different web pages:
- Terms and Conditions - These must mention your official company name and address, even if you use a different brand name or domain name for different countries. Carefully check whether each mention of a country in the Terms and Conditions needs changing or not and whether these need modifying due to any local laws. This is particularly important for international sites covering multiple continents.
- Reviews and Testimonials - If possible, allow visitors to read the Review in its original language too.
- About Us - Emphasise a local presence if you have one, if not, edit the translated content to not make a big deal of your location.
- Product or Service Descriptions - These need a good balance between being accurately translated on a word by word basis and adapted to read easily. It's also important that you use an SEO translation to be sure that the product descriptions contain relevant keywords with high search volume, low organic competition, and semantically related terms.
- Social Media Shares - The larger your company is the more likely it is that you will have different things to talk about in different countries.
- Blogs - If you have lots of blog content on your site, it's worth checking which blogs receive the most traffic using Google Analytics or a keyword tool like SEMrush. Only invest resources in translating the blogs that have already had success in the original language.
- Guest Posts - Building quality multilingual backlinks to your site helps you rank well in Google in multiple languages and if you have relevant and up-to-date guest posts in one language, you can translate them into multiple languages. It's also an equally valid strategy to write completely different guest posts for each language.
Why avoid automatic translations?
The most obvious piece of advice you can get when it comes to translating anything for professional purposes is don't use Google Translate, or any website of the sort. They can be helpful in understanding a language you don’t speak, but most of the time, they are still wildly inaccurate. Despite all the improvements added to these online programs, they translate a sentence mechanically, without thinking of the particular meaning you intend to convey, or the subtleties of the language used. They therefore often generate inaccurate translations.
A study by Princeton University found that at least 40% of words are polysemous - have more than one meaning. It's therefore no surprise that automated tools struggle to contextualise when translating from one language to another.
In French you might say that something "Coûter les yeux de la tête", Google translates this literally as "Cost the eyes of the head", but to translate French into English accurately, you would say, "It costs an arm and a leg".
To give a German example, a German speaker might say "Da kannst du Gift drauf nehmen", which becomes "There you can take poison on it". This would likely confuse your readers, as "You can bet your life on it" is a more accurate translation, which any reasonable human translator would understand.
Automated tools can generate ridiculous or even hilarious translations. Just watch on Youtube some songs processed through automatic translation websites in various languages and then back to English. The translated version will be considerably different from the original! Besides being funny, a bad translation can have a significantly negative effect on what you are trying to accomplish. It will make you seem less serious and less professional. If you want to do things properly, then it is better to trust a qualified human. The English translator will know when to keep the structure word for word, modulate, transpose or adapt.
Another step to avoid misunderstandings and ensure your brand keeps its reputation is to have a native English proofreader carefully proofread the text to make sure that you have used the right tense, conjugation, and haven’t made other inadvertent mistakes.
In short, the better the content of your website, the more professional you will appear.
Convert idioms to their local language
Idioms are expressions, used in all languages, where the meaning does not come from the words themselves but rather from the context. To be more explicit, when one says “It's raining cats and dogs”, it does not mean than animals are literally falling from the sky. It just means that the rain is pouring heavily.
Using idioms when translating your website is a good way to localise your site and connect with your audience. Idiomatic expressions make a website more lively, everyone knows them and uses them, and to some extent, it puts you on the same level as your audience. Using idioms helps visitors relate to your website and form an emotional attachment to your words, so they are a very good tool when used properly. As we have seen at the top of our list, however, they don't always translate well from English to French.
To overcome that obstacle, you can use online dictionaries like Wordreference, Lexilogos or Reverso which have collected these idioms and give you their equivalent in French, German and other languages, thus allowing you to sound more accurate and authentic.
Translate keywords from French, German, et al into English
If you want to increase traffic to your site, then the most effective method is to improve your position with search engines via English SEO for relevant keywords that have a healthy amount of search traffic each month.
When you translate French to English, German to English, or another language, you also have to research those keywords in order to pick the best translation possible. Choose a keyword that is as close to the original as possible, but that also has a high monthly search volume. If no-one searches for a particular keyword, it won’t generate any traffic. Also look for synonyms and semantically related keywords in each language in order to multiply your chances of being found and to avoid repetitions in the content of your page.
With modern algorithms, Google penalizes keyword stuffing, so don't just jam a keyword in as often as you can. It’s far more important that your content reads well to keep visitors engaged and interested in your content.
It’s important that you also translate the page URLs (web addresses) and the Metatags, as these are all essential for SEO. The URL, Title and Description Metatag are all that appear in the search results on Google and other search engines and when you translate them, it’s essential to also include the best keywords in the translated content, as well as writing them in a way that helps make your page stand out in the search results.
Whenever the team at Indigoextra translate a website, we always start by providing a report of the monthly search volumes for a range of different keywords, to ensure that we focus on the most relevant keywords for each page. Please get in touch if you'd like assistance with translating your site, or helping it rank with the search engines in the UK, USA, France or Germany.
Take your local audience into account
Finally: target your website and its translation to your audience. You will not sell the same product in an identical manner to an English person and a French one. Depending on the language, culture and geography, the needs of your visitors will evolve. For instance, selling a linguistic trip to Montreal to learn French to English people is a great idea, but selling it to French people just doesn’t make sense.
There might be some differences in the best way to sell a product, simply because English people have different references than their European counterparts. If you want to sell a music album in the UK, comparing it to British artists, rather than German or French ones, will resonate more deeply with potential customers. It is thus very important for you to adapt your content and selling techniques to your target, work with what they know and show them that you take them into account.
In the same way, taking into account the differences in culture also goes through the use of details such as:
- Specific symbols like quotation marks (“...” in English but « ... » in French)
- Punctuation in numbers (£1,000.50 vs. 1.000,50€)
- The placement of the money sign (£10 vs. 10€)
- Phone number formats (012-345-6789 in the USA vs. 01 23 45 67 89 in France)
- Specific phrasings (like salutations in letters)
- The tone of your message (serious, formal or casual)
- Other cultural differences (this can also impact the overall design of your website, what different colours represent, etc.)
- The weather - if you're talking about the British weather, then you may need to rewrite a chunk of text if you're adapting an article that mentions the French weather, for example.
- Sensitivity - some subjects that are more or less sensitive in different cultures
- Links to other websites need adapting so they are still useful for English visitors
- Other differences in companies, chains, agencies' names, acronyms, laws ….
All of these will be used differently in an English-speaking country and in France or Germany and are ways in which culture plays a big role. So if you want to connect with your visitor, localise your site to their culture.
Translating your website into another language is an effective way to increase your visibility and generate more traffic. In order to appear high with search engines and to convert traffic into sales, you need to be sure that you work with a professional translator who understands all the challenges involved. A professional website translator and SEO expert will help you go beyond the language barrier, generate more traffic and help build customers.
Indigoextra translate websites into English from 5 different European languages - Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Read more about our website translation service.