“What do you call someone who speaks three languages?” Trilingual.
“What do you call someone who speaks two languages?” Bilingual.
“What do you call someone who speaks one language?” American.
OK, OK. It is an old joke that is, fortunately, becoming less true each year, but too many of us think that English is the only language that matters. What is more true is that, no matter where you live in the U.S., your target market probably contains many people for whom English is a second language. However, even if you are a monolingual American, there is no reason that you can’t make your website, and thus your business, more welcoming to non-English speaking visitors.
I recently added a translation feature to the TouchPro website in less than an hour after a friend showed me his multilingual website. Depending upon your comfort level with web development and the web platform you are using, so can you.
Our first stop will be Google Translate, the amazing Internet tool for all global citizens. You can cut and paste text to this page and have it translated to and from over fifty languages.
Because I regularly correspond with people in French and Spanish, I drop my English into the translate box on the left side, select the appropriate “From:” and “To:” languages in the drop-downs and, “Poof!”, the translation appears on the right. When they write me back in their native tongue, I cut and paste their email into the translate box, click the reverse arrows and now I can read their reply.
Since it is done by a machine, don’t expect to get a professional grade translation. But I rarely have any trouble understanding the meaning of the communication. Just keep in mind when you are writing for a cross-cultural audience that some of your more clever turns of phrase (puns, for example) may not translate well or at all.
You can also translate any website by copying its URL and pasting into the “From:” box on Google Translate. This time, when you click the translate button, it will take you directly to the website, but translate any text on the page into the language you selected.
So, how do you make your website multilingual? Look at the bottom of the Google Translate home page and you will see a link to the Google Translate Element. Scroll down the page to the section Add Translate to your website. Use the Wizard to determine your preferences, such as which languages you want available for translation. The final step shows you the HTML code, which you can cut and paste to your website.
The TouchPro site is built on the WordPress platform, which makes it relatively easy to develop pages from pre-designed templates. The right column is a navigation area that automatically appears on most pages (like this one). I created a “Widget” at the top of the right column to contain the HTML code I copied from Google Translate button. Then I saved the page. That’s it. As soon as I click the button to select a language on any of the pages of the TouchPro site, it translates all of the pages.
If you don’t know how to put HTML on your pages, but have a web developer working with you, ask that person to install the code for you. If you are charged more than fifty dollars (or whatever their hourly rate is), you are paying too much. On the other hand, if you are willing to pay $100, call me… (Just kidding.)
If your website is built on a proprietary platform (such WordPress or Squarespace), check the Help section or Forums for specific advice on how to add HTML code to your site.
Besides quality, the other limitation of this free translation service is that Google can translate only text words, not image words. For example, many logos with a business name in it are actually a picture of the text and can only be changed in a graphics program, not a word processing program. For your logo that is generally not a problem, because you do not want your name translated. However, where this limitation is more commonly an issue is when menu selection tabs are with words are really images. Keep this in mind when building a site or choosing a platform.
Give it a try and extend your reach around the globe today!