A Complete Guide to Website Translation

Mystified by how to translate your website? Get answers to your questions about translation technologies, best practices and more.

What is Website Translation?

Website translation is the process of taking your website content in its original language and adapting it, often word-for-word, into other languages to make it accessible and usable to visitors in their preferred language. 

Your website's translatable content ranges from on-site static text to multimedia content such as images, videos and PDFs. There's also: 

These all can-and should-be translated, to ensure a superior customer experience. However, when creating an immersive in-language experience, companies need to leverage the appropriate degree of translation to be the most effective. 

There are different degrees to translation, conventional translation, localisation, transliteration, and transcreation. Each approach is unique and had a different ideal purpose.  

Learn more details about the different types of translation.

Website Localisation vs. Website Translation vs. Transliteration

Website translation and localisation are commonly confused because both are similar methods of creating multilingual websites. The difference is website localisation goes beyond the linguistic word-for-word conversion of conventional translation to create an online experience that resonates within a local market's culture and regionalisms. Localising a website requires five key elements: 

  1. Language and regionalisms: Word choice is customised to accurately and authentically convey the brand voice to local customers. This includes phrases that may only be used in specific countries or regions. 
  2. Cultural elements: Communicating the understanding of local date and time formats, units of measure, and holidays and values can make users feel at home. 
  3. Transactional elements: For accuracy and trust, elements such as currency, payment options, addresses and character sets must be relevant to local customers. 
  4. Communication and trust elements: Local phone numbers, addresses, in-language customer support, legal notices and security banners are all key to earning trust from local customers. It also helps equip in-market sales and marketing teams with information needed to serve your customers. 
  5. Navigation and discovery: It’s critical that users can find and select the language they need on your website to seamlessly start interacting with your company. 

As for transliteration, it is the process of translation from one writing system or culture to another. It is not necessarily translating word-for-word, but rather translating the idea based on local metaphors, aphorisms, and phonetics. This process is necessary when converting to a language that doesn't use the Latin alphabet. Transliteration is important, but also poses a challenge because it still needs to consider meaning and requires fluency in the cultural differences between countries. 

Transliterations and localizations are great ways to generate interest and engagement among multilingual customers. Learn more about website localisation, and how to execute it in persuasive ways! 

What is the Purpose of Website Translation?

Website translation helps make your website and other content accessible and understandable to a wider audience who speak different languages. In today's globalised and hyper connected world, it's increasingly common for businesses to have international audiences. If your website is only available in one language, typically English, you could be missing out on potential customers or clients who are not proficient in English.  

Did you know? It takes the use of 52 languages to reach 99% of the internet. When you translate your website, you instantly reach new potential customers who did not speak your website's original language. Website translation expands your business into new markets, increases customer retention, and can dramatically increase revenue.  

Website translation also demonstrates your commitment to inclusivity and diversity, which can help to build trust and loyalty with your customers. By showing that you care about making your content accessible to people from different backgrounds, you can create a more positive brand image and establish your business as a leader in any country, language or culture. 

Should I Translate My Website? 

There are many reasons to translate your website. Here are the top ten most common reasons:

  1. Expand your brand reach by targeting multilingual and global markets. 
  2. Gain popularity abroad by discovering interest in your goods or services overseas. 
  3. Grow your existing international customer base by localising. 
  4. Your competitors aren’t doing it yet, so you can beat them to the punch. 
  5. Your competitors are already doing it, and you need to stay relevant. 
  6. There may be laws that require you to provide language access. 
  7. Your website analytics may show untapped markets into which you could expand. 
  8. Reap SEO benefits from engaging, multilingual online content. 
  9. Experience a boost in traffic and revenue from global customers. 
  10. Deliver a world-class customer experience. 

Learn more about the top ten reasons to translate your website here.

How to Translate Your Website

Translating and localising your website is fundamentally a technology issue, requiring automation and software to manage numerous workflows and processes. In general, there are three different technologies that can be used to handle these workflows: 

Read on to learn more about these approaches. For even more details, check out our The Technologies of Translation e-book.

Using a Translation Proxy for Website Translation

With the proxy localisation approach to website translation, technologies are used to leverage the content and structured code of your flagship website. This makes it easy to translate, deploy and operate multilingual versions. This approach can be almost effortless, meaning it requires little to no customer-side effort to launch or maintain localised websites or manage workflows. 

A proxy-based system is layered on top of your website to dynamically translate content in real time so that end users worldwide can view your website in their local language. Essentially, it's like a mirror is being held up to your site, and the reflections are fully translated versions. Proxies are intermediary servers that retrieve content from your server (also known as a client server), translate it in real-time either through machine translation or by taking from a set of previously approved translations, and then display the translated content to end users on your website. 

Since localised sites are built from your flagship site's content and code, the user experience and functionality is consistent across all sites. This continuity also ensures that new content is swiftly-and automatically-detected, translated and published. 



Using CMS Connectors for Website Translation

For companies that prefer to store and control translated content internally (rather than with a translation vendor), it’s possible to translate a website with a CMS connector. The connector allows content to be sent to a translation vendor, and then uploaded back to the CMS for publication. 

A CMS (content management system) is an application used to publish and manage content on your website intuitively. Examples of platforms include WordPress (WPML), Drupal, and Adobe Experience Manager. Using a CMS simplifies maintaining site content for the site administrator or content manager, especially for large websites with multiple sub-pages. In addition, CMS plug-ins allow for efficient and straightforward management of a website's various language versions directly from the content management system.  

For example, a CMS eliminates the need to alter the underlying HTML code of a website when changing content; instead, new content and images can easily be entered and edited through a protected area called the "back end." Customers would send content ready for translation to the language service provider (LSP) in the given source language through the back end. The finished translations are sent back to the CMS, where the website administrator or content manager checks them before publication.  



Using an API for Website Translation

A translation application programming interface (API) is typically provided by a translation provider and has a broader scope than a CMS connector. It allows companies to create workflows for any type of content requiring translation, not just content stored in a CMS. 

A translation API is a way to pass content between two computer systems (content that needs to be translated and the content that has been translated). It's a software interface that developers can use to add machine translation capabilities to their products or programmatically translate texts and content that their product displays in localised versions.  

APIs can be valuable tools to facilitate continuous localisation needed for multilingual site updates. Tasks such as monitoring source materials for updates, creating projects, assigning translators, and downloading and uploading files are administrative time sinks that can use up a lot of the project manager's attention, but this is where an API functionality shines. It's a precursor to accessing features that will automate tasks. 



How to Translate a Page You’re Viewing in Real Time

How to Translate a Page in Google Chrome 

Google Chrome works well with Google Translate to produce fairly accurate translations very quickly. If you want to translate a site while you're browsing on the Google Chrome desktop browser, all you need to do is: 

How to Translate a Page in Firefox 

How to Translate a Page in Safari 

Apple offers built-in translation features for iPhone and desktop. According to Apple’s support page, to translate a page on Mac or mobile: 

Website Translation, AI Translation and ChatGPT 

Certain Large Language Models (LLMs), like ChatGPT, can also perform translations, but they cannot produce the same level of quality as an NMT. While both NMTs and LLMs are transformer-based models trained to generate a response to a prompt, they don't receive the same volume or quality of training, which is needed for producing personalised and specific translations.  

LLMs are useful and serve as almost multi-purpose tools, like Swiss Army knives, but that isn't exactly the right solution when it comes to translation. You want something that is made just for your individual needs. Where the LLM tech can be useful though is with many tasks around the edges of translation and localisation, including how we prepare training data to drive up the quality of output of NMTs. 

Learn about the power of NMT technology in translations 

Machine Translation vs. Human Translation

In addition to the translation technology methods outlined above, you'll also need to consider the most cost-effective approach for your website translation project. In recent months, the level of translation quality that machine translation and AI translation offer has improved substantially. To get the best results for your specific business, you might consider using both machine translation and human translation to translate your website.  

Human translation involves the translation of content by professional linguists fluent in their international customers' industries, brands, languages, and cultures. Studies affirm that human translation generates superior engagement, conversions, and credibility among multilingual customers because human translation ensures superior translation accuracy and quality assurance due to human editorial oversight and multi-step review processes. In addition, human translation can easily customise website content for regionally preferred dialects, words and phrases. 

Machine translation uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to translate text from one language to another. Content is fed to machine translation models, which automatically translate content into the target language without human involvement. Machine translation allows businesses to use "machines" such as Google Translate to translate content at scale at a much lesser cost than human translation. Machine translation is often an integrated feature within localisation platforms and is used by companies looking to lower their translation costs. It's effective for content that does not require translation precision and extensive copywriting. AI translation, NMT and machine translation are getting higher and more accurate translation quality scores than ever before and are quickly getting better. 

Neural machine translation (NMT), is the best machine translation, NMT uses deep learning and artificial intelligence to analyse the source sentence and find patterns to create a suitable translation in the destination language. This technology is based on deep neural networks, an interconnected series of "nodes" modeled after the human brain. Before translating, NMT software will be given training data such as different examples of translations for a certain text. The software is then "trained" to produce the most accurate translation. Some partners like MotionPoint, offer Brand Adaptive NMT, Brand Adaptive NMT is a special form of NMT that is trained and learns based solely on the human quality translations approved by you or your company, creating a translation machine custom-made for you.  

Translation proxy technology, CMS, or API translation systems are all capable of using machine translation to translate website content. However, a hybrid approach to translation is generally recommended. For example, Google Translate can easily translate content that has less web traffic or is less sensitive to translation quality. But machine translation can also be used on important web pages with human translators set to post-edit with an editorial and quality assurance team for accuracy and relevance. This can make human quality translation less costly. 

Machine translation with human-in-the-loop post-editing can come in handy for content like product descriptions or other straightforward content that use machine translation since they do not need technical, cultural or emotional nuance when being translated.

Challenges of Website Translation

Translation is more complex than language and words. It's also about process and technology. Here are some noteworthy challenges to consider about website translation. Follow the links for details and best practices. 

Website Translation vs. Traditional Translation

Website translation requires technical nuances that make it challenging for traditional translation agencies to handle. Such nuances include: 

Traditional translation solutions can’t distinguish code from content, can’t handle coordination of multiple workflows across platforms and contributors, can’t keep up with constant updates, and struggle to preserve the look, feel and function of your website. 

Thankfully, digital-first solutions can easily handle code, multiple platforms, fast deadlines and more.

2 Examples of Successful Website Translation

Aventa Credit Union 

Aventa Credit Union is located in the Colorado Springs area and is expanded into more southern Colorado counties, resulting in member growth from Spanish-speaking communities. Aventa wanted to ensure all their members had access to financial resources in their preferred language, so they decided to translate their website into Spanish. In 2020, Aventa focused on hiring bilingual Spanish-speaking associates and leveraged their workers' fluency in Spanish to translate English content for their website. But, this took away from other work employees were hired to perform. Employees who knew Spanish also didn't know the same Spanish, resulting in inconsistent translations.  

Aventa hired MotionPoint in 2021 during a rebranding effort to translate and localize website content for the various Spanish dialects their clients speak. Using translation connectors, a reverse-proxy system, and web plugins, Aventa's content translation and localisation is now effortless. New content is quickly localised into Spanish and published on Aventa's digital channels in less than a day with little to no work required from them. 

Urban Health Plan 

Urban Health Plan provides comprehensive, affordable primary and speciality health care services to several boroughs in New York City. The organisation supports these communities with 12 health centres, a mental health facility, a workforce development programme, school health programmes and more.
UHP leadership identified several goals for the project: 

MotionPoint translated and delivered UHP's Spanish website in less than 60 days. Our fully managed platform delivered a localised UX that educates Spanish-speaking patients on UHP programmes and services. And our translations conveyed the warmth and empathy that is so integral to UHP's brand voice. 

Don’t Translate Your Website!

Let MotionPoint do it for you! We offer a full suite of translation solutions and work with you to handle all of your translation projects and needs. You can avoid unexpected costs by partnering with a concierge-level translation company like MotionPoint without sacrificing quality. 

With our MP Core technology and Adaptive Translation™, a mix of AI, Algorithmic Translation, and Translation Memory, we produce high-quality website translation for less cost in 60 days or less. 

What is Adaptive Translation™?

MotionPoint’s Adaptive Translation™ involves three main steps: Artificial Intelligence, Algorithmic Translation, and Translation Memory, plus an optional human layer of review. This smartly engineered translation technology is able to create human-quality translations while reducing human translation costs. Here is how: 

Translation Memory 

Your translation memory is a database that stores previously translated words or phrases on your localised website. Once these segments are used, they can be republished at no cost to you. Using a translation memory tool helps you get fast, automatic website translation that adheres to your brand voice and guidelines with no extra human intervention. 

Algorithmic Translation 

The value of Algorithmic Translation in website translation is human-quality translation at machine translation rates. Algorithmic Translation automatically identifies and translates similar language patterns. The algorithmic element of adaptive translation translates in real-time at almost no cost without sacrificing quality. 

Artificial Intelligence  

With MotionPoint’s Adaptive Translation™ model, you can choose which form of AI will suit your needs the best: generic NMT and brand adaptive NMT. 


Brand Adaptive 

Get a demo today to learn more about how website translation with Adaptive Translation™ can help your business grow.


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