Translating Website Copy

googles iTranslate widget

Here's a fun game: copy a sentence into Google's iTranslate widget, and go from one language into the next and see how incomprehensible it ends up reading when you take it back to English.

I have a degree in foreign languages and another in translation. It is safe to say that I’m a snob when it comes to automated translation programs like Babelfish.

But here’s the thing: computers can’t replace people when it comes to your website’s copy. Ever.

Have you read that original content after it gets mangled by a computer program to make it pass through copyscape undetected? It’s nonsense, and no SEO in their right mind would use that kind of stuff on a website.  And that’s using the same language on both the input and the output!

The problem with computers writing copy is that they can’t get context, they don’t understand nuance, and they don’t know which of the 5 definitions of a particular word to use.   They don’t know what “not” to translate, and what they must translate. They don’t understand what kind of document you’re translating. Is it marketing copy? A casual email? A formal letter? A document for the IRS? Don’t you want a different kind of language used in each of those situations?

Granted, real translators have programs that help them speed up the process. These are basically giant databases that allow the translator to map the context (you actually pick the kind of document and the subject area at the beginning), and that use the actual translations performed by human beings to populate the if-then statements for the program. These programs still require a pro to use them, because they know what they don’t know, and can leave large swaths of text untranslated. But that’s as close as you get to an accurate translation program.

Hiring a Professional:

If you want to have your website copy translated, hire a professional translator. Preferably someone:

And best of all possible worlds would be to find a translator who understands keyword research, keyword optimization and how to write web copy that converts!

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