Here are our top translation tips to help you create accurate, easy-to-read, and real “human-like” translations!
If there is anything we love more than multilingual websites, it’s multilingual people! Being multilingual has many cool benefits, including being better at observing surroundings, making decisions more efficiently, and being able to translate! Yeah, you don’t have to be a professional or certified translator to translate stuff, including your website. If you know a language pair well, you can translate.
But mind you… translation requires more than just being able to speak both the languages (the source language and the target language). There are many aspects that can be challenging even for native or bilingual speakers of the languages. In today’s article, we’re sharing our best translation tips with you so you can translate your business communications and channels — including your website — and thrive globally! (Most of our translation tips apply to anything you want to translate — from documents to books.)
Do your research
No matter how well you think you know a language, things might still get complicated when it comes to translation. Especially for specific industries, it’s crucial to know the terminology and jargon in both languages. And even for someone well-informed on the subject, it’s essential to stay up to date, as language is continually evolving.
So our first translation tip is that you start your translation process by conducting research on your industry in your target language. This will help you use correct collocations and word pairings to produce a translation that will make sense to your global readers. You might even come across certain phrases that are used in your industry and including these in your translation can enhance your content and make it look more natural.
Start with machine translations
Our second translation tip is that you don’t jump straight to translating your base content. Instead, create a machine-generated “pre-translation” copy first. The notion that machine translation is inadequate is slowly becoming history since AI and machine learning entered the game. The accuracy of neural machine translation engines is at an impressive 60-90% — and it’s only getting better.
Although it has come a long way, machine translation can always benefit from human review. Here’s where you — the human translator — steps in. Context is an essential aspect of the translation process that requires a human touch. So bring that to the machine translation you just produced.
Recent studies have shown that editing after a first layer of machine translation resulted in 36% higher productivity than a human translator translating all the text from scratch. So why waste time doing more work than you should?
Start your translation process with machine translation, and then just fine-tune to make sure it’s accurate, and it complies with the context. This approach will save you so much time and simplify your task!
Get the grammar apps and tools
Proofreading is just as important when translating as it is when producing original copy. In fact, when you look for translation tips, all the pros will tell you to pay attention to those nasty errors that can creep in when translating at scale. Just the way machine translation tools help you translate, grammar apps and tools make your translation totally error-free. Even professional translators can make typos and grammar mistakes here and there – and hey, it’s totally okay! Nevertheless, it’s best to avoid them as much as possible as they can make your website look unprofessional.
Having grammar tools that check your translations can help you write flawlessly and give you more confidence. Because, let’s be honest, even native speakers can get confused about tricky grammar rules. And since these tools can make sure that your text is free from typos and grammatical errors, you won’t have to waste time going over and over your translations looking for mistakes.
Moreover, some of these tools are so advanced that they even give useful feedback to improve your text quality and vocabulary! So make sure you’ve installed the best grammar apps and tools available in your target language before you start your translation project.
Follow the common practices
Languages have distinct rules and practices when it comes to translation. It’s necessary for professional translators to follow these common practices and adhere to the standards — so you must be aware of them too!
Some of these rules are so subtle that you might not have noticed them before. However, they can be quite important when it comes to conveying your message. For example, things like punctuation, capitalization, and formats might follow different rules in different languages. And making a small mistake in these elements can cause huge misunderstandings.
To ensure that your translation complies with these rules and communicates your message correctly, do your research, and be attentive to language-specific features while translating the text.
Also, don’t forget to check out specific translation tips for your target language. For example, if you’re going to translate your website to Spanish, specifically search for tips in Spanish translation to benefit from language-specific translation tips.
Getting an editor, again, is one of the most effective translation tips. When it comes to a translation project, the more teammates, the merrier! One of the easiest ways of improving your translations is by having someone else take a look and edit them. Because another pair of eyes can capture the confusing statements and inconsistencies that you might miss. They’re like the best, “real” translation quality checkers you can get.
And this person can be anyone that knows the language — a friend, a colleague, or your grandmother! Ideally, it would be helpful to have someone who knows the industry (go back to section “Do your research”). They might even provide you with valuable resources and materials that can enhance the quality of your content.
However, there may be certain parts of your translated content that require a professional to take a look. For these challenging parts, don’t hesitate to get help from a professional freelance translator or a translation company.
If you think there is only one right way of translating content, you’re mistaken. If you have two different people translating one piece of content, you won’t get identical results. And this doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other; it’s merely a matter of preference.
However, no matter which style or terminology you go for, one thing is sure — you should be consistent. If you keep changing the style and the terminology throughout the translations, it will make it harder for your readers to focus and understand your content.
To ensure that you have consistent content, you should decide on certain rules, style, and terminology you’ll use before you start translating. You can create a glossary to make things clear and follow it throughout the project. For example, you can choose to always use the term “ecommerce store” rather than “e-commerce website” or “eCommerce business.” Or fix how you’re going to treat abbreviations.
This is especially useful if you’re working with others on your translation project. Like I said in the beginning, different people tend to come up with different ways of translating the same content. Setting a base of rules and glossary for your translation project will make it easier for everyone to stick to the same style and make your text consistent. Think of this as putting together a style guide with all your translation tips and reference materials along with the fundamental rules and practices.
Beware of false friends, idioms, and slang
In translation, certain parts are more challenging than others. These are usually words or phrases that don’t have a direct translation in the other language. It’s hard because translating these elements accurately doesn’t just require good knowledge of the language, but it also requires familiarity with the culture.
For example, idioms, expressions, and slang are very closely related to the culture of a country — sometimes even of a city or a locale. Making a mistake when translating these aspects can cause misunderstandings or even offend your target audience. So to correctly translate these tricky elements, make sure you really understand their meaning in both languages.
Your first goal should be to find an exact equivalent, but if it’s impossible, search for different options that can give the same meaning. And if you can’t find anything that works, don’t force it and remove it from your translation instead.
When looking for translation tips, you might have come across the one that warns you against using false friends. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term — a false friend refers to the words that look and/or sound the same but express different things in different languages. For example, the word “location,” which means a particular place or position in English, actually means “rental” in French.
It’s very easy to fall into the false friend trap and say something very different than what you intended to. Don’t assume that if the same word exists in two languages, it should mean the same thing. They don’t have to be synonyms. Make sure you always check each before you use such a word in your translation.
Translate keywords the right way
One of the most important translation tips to keep in mind when translating projects like websites is keeping SEO in mind. Unlike most of the words on your page, a direct translation might not work for keywords.
To make sense of this, let’s start by understanding what a keyword means and why it is crucial. A keyword is a word (or a group of words) that visitors are using to find the content they are looking for in search engines. By using the right keywords strategically on your website, you can reach the right audience and increase your website’s traffic.
However, two words that mean the same thing in different languages might have different search volumes, and therefore the target language equivalents of the base keywords might not work as well as the base keywords.
To make sure that your translated pages perform well on search engines, you should do a little more than translate keywords word by word. The most effective way is to conduct a localized keyword search for your target language and identify the right keywords that correspond to the keywords from the native language. This way, you’ll discover new words in the foreign language that you’re targeting that can drive similar volumes of traffic that you need. Your translator will need to incorporate these in the translated content. Although this might take a little bit more time than just translating, it’s guaranteed to pay off.
While you’re here, make sure to check our top 5 multilingual SEO tips video to rank higher globally!
It’s easy to think that translation only requires knowledge of languages. But in reality, it’s a very comprehensive job. The translation tips that you just read will help you get better at it — especially when it comes to translating your website.
By following our translation tips, you can make sure that your translated pages read well and make sense to your target audience. Although it might require some extra effort, your English-language website will read like it has been written by a native speaker of your target language!
Also, if you’re translating a website, then you need Weglot! It will give you your first layer of automated machine translation and save you hours of work. Try out Weglot free for 10 days!