Cost-Effective Multilingual Websites
About 62% of all websites published worldwide are written in English. In Cambodia, English is the second spoken language after Khmer and most websites are using either of those languages or both, depending on the target audience. Having a multilingual website, readable in more than one language, is always challenging both in terms of budget or energy and free alternatives provided by Google are worth considering when fully and wisely integrated into the website’s design.
Creating content in multiple languages and designing a real multilanguage site is very expensive – at least doubles or triples the initial costs – and requires a considerable amount of translation tasks to be carried out not only in the beginning, when creating a new website, but also when updating it, as translation will be required for the texts found in different pages and also for all menus, navigation strings and system messages.
In order to serve pages in different languages, the best cost-effective alternative is to implement the free version of the Google Translation software for websites (the paid version is quite expensive but allows edits and stores translated pages in different locations and servers, allowing them to be indexed by search engines – which is not the case with the free version that translates the whole website “on the fly” – see below).
Pages translated by Google will never be 100% accurate! Accuracy levels obtained depend on the complexity of the original texts as well as the source and target languages. It is safe to assume that translating from/to English, French, German and Spanish will get very satisfactory results, while other languages will get less accurate transcriptions.
Users in SE Asia reported for instance that Japanese translations (mainly from original texts in English) are known to be “embarrassingly wrong”, while Thai, Korean and Vietnamese get quite good results but often idioms and common expressions might get strange results. Khmer texts are also quite decent when translated from English or French but this is not always the case the other way. Getting English or French from Khmer original pages might result in surprising sentences and sometimes nonsense.
In that sense, it is important to consider Google Translation as a “helper ” or “assistant” for visitors whose first language is not the website’s one, like English in most cases, and not as real “human-made translations”.
In addition to delivering translated pages almost instantly, this website addon offers a wide selection of languages to choose from:
Most of the time, we use flags as language selectors and most visitors are aware that they won’t get 100% accurate results as we are now all used to automatic translations tools:
But those flags, although nicely displaying on website pages, as here at this website, might be misleading for some visitors and make them think they will get a real translation.
Website owners wanting to avoid any confusion are offered 3 different language selector alternatives that can dissipate any doubts about the origin of the translation they will get, but that is also less attractive and a bit more invasive:
1 – Floating widget
A small banner can be placed at any page border of the website – usually bottom left/right corners – that reveals the translation flags only when clicked. The text inside the banner is customizable and allows for instance to replace the word “Translate” with something like “Google Translation”.
2. Language switcher with Google branding (with/without flags)
Instead of the flags, or in addition to them, a language switcher dropdown may be used with an added Google branding that clearly identifies the origin of the translations. In such a case, flags are optional.
In some cases, Google branding can also be added without the selector above and by keeping only the flags and the branding below but this requires custom coding and doesn’t fit well with all designs:
3 – Google toolbar added on top of pages
The default Google toolbar can be added on top of pages when clicking on any translation flag. This method can be used in addition to any other method above and also when using only the flags. The result is not very pleasant and doesn’t always well integrate with the website’s layout but it shows up only when the user clicks on a flag and makes it very clear about the origin of the translation he will get.
Using the flags alone is by far the best and most elegant integration for the majority of websites but the above-mentioned solutions offer three alternatives for cases where it is important to highlight the nature of those translations.
Our website is also using those flags, at the top right side above the navigation menu, so feel free to test them here!
The paid version ($18 or 28/month) of this software offers several advantages over the free version and might be worth implementing in some particular cases:
- Multilingual SEO – Enable search engine indexing
- Neural machine translations with human-level translation quality
- You can have a sub-directory (example.com/es/) or sub-domain (es.example.com) URL structure
- Translate URLs aka slug translation is possible (example.com/about-us → example.es/sobre-nosotros)
- You can manually correct translations
- In context translation interface (make corrections without losing the context)
- Translate metadata (meta keywords, meta description)
- Centralized Translation Cache – We revise and improve translations over time
Similar features are also offered by another WordPress software called TranslatePress which also integrates with Google Translate and offers the ability to refine and edit translations manually ($79/year for 1 site).
For reference, the alternative for a full manual translation software is cheaper but requires a lot more work for the client as he needs to translate every single bit of text in any additional language.
WPML is the most widely used software of this kind:
Recommended package: Multilingual CMS – www.wpml.org/purchase
First year $79.00, renews at $59/year the following years.
All prices indicated above are those at the time of publication of this article and we are not affiliated in any way with those companies.