Five common multilingual website mistakes

Really Big Mistakes Eraser

Recently, The Korea Times exposed a scandal of sorts, reporting that the English-language version of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s website hadn’t been updated in at least a month, and didn’t even feature a photo or biography of the government branch’s new minister. Not to mention that the site’s English version seems to be far less monitored and informative than its Korean-language counterpart.

You might wonder why this matters – after all, this is a South Korean site, from a country whose official language is Korean.  But according to the article, tens of thousands of non-Korean speakers have visited the site’s English pages.  You could also point out that, regardless of obligation, the site has two versions, so why shouldn’t both be equally well- maintained and -updated?

Then again, one language seems to get preference on many multilingual websites. It may be the norm, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. After all, a business or organization’s website is supposed to inform, sell to, or otherwise communicate with current and potential customers or patients.  Not having all of its language versions up to snuff won’t let a site live up to its full potential.

If you want to reach the maximum number of people via the magic of the internet, keeping all versions of your website updated is one thing to watch out for.  Here are a few other common mistakes that organizations with multilingual websites make:

Not having the language choice button easily accessible at all times.  It seems like such a small detail, but when you look into web users’ common complaints about multilingual sites (as I did when researching this very article), you’ll usually find this one among the top three!

Literally translating figurative language.  Anyone who’s studied a language even for a short while knows that idioms and other figurative phrases rarely, if ever, translate exactly or even make sense word-for-word.  But translation bots never learned this lesson.  Use them to translate the different versions of your site, and visitors will find themselves scratching their heads.

Losing out on localization.  Even if all of a website’s versions are up-to-date, they may not work for the different cultures they’re addressing.  As I’ve discussed before, verbal translation is only one part of a bona fide translator’s job; he or she should also be able to spot things like logos, symbols, and colors that could be misinterpreted, or page layout issues with different kinds of alphabets.

Underestimating the importance of social media.  If your company has multilingual social media accounts, remember their purpose: to connect to clients or patients, answer their questions, and promote your organization while showing people they matter.  That said, as with your website, it’s also not enough to just attempt a word-for-word translation: you need to keep localization in mind. Whoever’s in charge of your foreign language social media accounts must understand the culture(s) they’re dealing with, to avoid faux pas and make your company seem more in tune and approachable.

If your company or organization has a multilingual website, watch out for these mistakes.  And if you’ve already made some of them, don’t despair: you can find qualified translators who’ll not only give you properly written texts, but will also be able to point out any localization errors you might have made.  Search for professionals in your area – or, even easier, click here to find a brilliant, qualified aiaTranslations translator who’ll bring your website up to speed in any language.

by Alysa Salzberg

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