If you have an online presence you already have a global reach. Theoretically anyone can access your website, blogs, social media and other online materials from Beijing to Buenos Aires, but in practise there are a number of barriers that are likely to prevent them from doing so. As far as Beijing is concerned the Great Firewall of China might present a problem but a more common problem is language.
It’s tempting to think that a single English-language website will be enough to reach overseas markets and to some extent it might. Internet researcher Liao Han-Teng confirms that English remains the most commonly used language online but it’s only just ahead of simplified Chinese and other languages including Arabic and those spoken in the other BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia and India as well as China) are all growing rapidly. It’s worth remembering that the majority of the world’s population speaks no English at all and of those that do, the majority speak it as a second language. A Common Sense Advisory study found, as you might expect, that multilingual internet users preferred sites in their own native language, especially when it came to making purchases.
Many businesses already have a smattering of foreign interest – Google Analytics is a great resource for checking where visitors to your website come from – but in order to really extend your reach to specific markets it’s vital that you are able to talk to customers, clients and contacts in a language they understand.
Automatic or machine translation (MT) offers a quick and easy solution but it’s important to understand what MT should and shouldn’t be used for. Google Translate is used by more than 500 million people every month, making over a billion translations every single day. It’s great for a rough and ready translation but it should never be relied upon for publishing-quality content such as permanent website content and marketing materials. If you don’t believe us, try pasting this blog into a free translation app, translating it into a randomly chosen language and back again. Not exactly perfect is it?
This sort of machine translation can be very useful in certain circumstances, such as getting the gist of a social media post or communicating with someone in real time. More advanced translation software can be even better, using statistical techniques to recognise whole phrases and their closest counterparts in the target language, rather than always translating word-for-word.
Professional translation software
Glossaries and databases can also be incorporated into bespoke translation software. This can be particularly useful for material such as technical terms, product names and business jargon specific to your field. It can also store and search whole chunks of previously translated material that can be re-used. This can help speed up the translation process as well as keeping consistency across large, diffuse and ongoing translation projects.
One way of using machine translation effectively is to combine it with post-editing. This is where material is run through an automatic translation program but is then read and corrected by a skilled translation professional. Again, this can speed up the process and can also be considerably cheaper than using normal professional human translation. Post-editing can be light, with the human translator casting an eye over the material to catch glaring errors; or full, which may involve a more thorough examination and partial rewriting.
Whichever type and level of translation you require, translation management platforms can also help make the process quicker and easier. At Lingo24, for example, we have a cloud-based, in-house translation tool called Coach that helps linguists work more productively at our end and also allows you to control your own projects. Translation projects can be monitored in real time, you can specify your service level, audience, budget and deadlines and add and approve terms directly into your translation memory. Ease is a complementary ordering and project management tool that allows you to quickly send documents for translation and keep track of existing orders.
We might never reach the day when machines can deliver completely flawless translation unaided but translation software is getting better all the time. In the hands of skilled professionals it can help make the process far quicker and easier, allowing you to reach out and make real inroads into the global market.
*Photo credits: Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock.com