The importance of cultural diversity in educational institutions cannot be overstated. Differences in backgrounds and perspectives enrich the learning experience, contributing significantly to students’ development. This is why the diversity in student profiles plays a major role in determining the quality of an educational institution.
Moreover, lifestyle changes imposed by the lockdowns enhanced our online activities and made education more accessible than ever. Students that didn’t have the means to be present on-site before now have more flexibility thanks to the various e-learning options.
To promote diversity and accessibility further, the websites of educational institutions should be able to accommodate students from different cultures and language abilities. Considering that educational websites provide key information throughout the academic experience, they are regularly consulted not only by students but also parents/guardians who might not be bilingual.
So it goes without saying that a multilingual educational website is a crucial resource for faculty members, students, and stakeholders alike. To have a place in the competitive academic landscape, education translation must become a priority for institutions.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the main drivers, benefits, and considerations for education translation to help you get started.
Why is education translation important?
Accessibility and inclusivity
In order to reach students worldwide, educational institutions need to optimize their websites to consider all visitors. Even for institutions that target native students, domestic cultural diversity can’t be disregarded.
For example, an estimated 4.9 million children in U.S. public schools are EEL students, meaning they are English Language Learners who speak a language other than English (usually Spanish) as their native language and have limited English proficiency. Similarly, many students speak a language other than their academic language at home.
It’s also important to realize even fluent students can struggle to understand educational terminology, causing misunderstandings and setbacks. By providing multilingual content on their websites, institutions can ensure equal access to information and academic opportunities.
International visibility and recognition
A multilingual online presence is the most effective way to boost an educational institution’s international visibility. To get on the radar of various educational rankings, institutions should first make their website understandable to foreign magazines, newspapers, websites, governments, or academics that conduct research.
Multilingual representation also allows educational institutions to be mentioned in more publications and media channels, giving them greater exposure to international audiences. This way, more students, educators, and academic partners can interact with educational institutions and make meaningful contributions.
Promoting cultural diversity
As our societies become more multicultural, the way we communicate, learn and work evolves. The students that are exposed to different cultures in their academic lives are therefore more equipped to succeed in their professional lives.
This is why cultural diversity is sought after by students and institutions, but it’s not always easy to find. However, website translation is a powerful strategy that can help institutions attract visitors from target countries and diversify their student profiles.
Even seeing their native language as an option on a website signals to students that they are welcome and create an instant connection. Being able to understand key information such as the requirements and conditions easily further facilitates the application process and attracts more international students.
Improving student engagement
From academic functionalities to after-school events, students interact with educational websites regularly. Especially as the education system differs in each country, international students might feel lost when faced with procedures that they aren’t familiar with.
By translating your education website, you can help all students understand academic activities and encourage them to participate more. This will also help international students to benefit from the teaching experience and educational materials to their fullest.
How to translate education websites?
Academic Translation and Interpretation Services
It’s clear that educational institutions should translate their website, but what is the ideal solution? The first method that comes to mind might be to work with translation professionals that provide educational translation services or academic interpretation services.
This could be a good option for institutions with multilingualism at the core of their educational offering and need further academic translation services such as translating diplomas, handbooks, or other educational materials. However, most institutions don’t need such extensive translation needs that come with high costs, long waiting times, and tiresome maintenance.
Machine translation engines
A cheaper and faster alternative is machine translation engines like Google Translate or DeepL. However, manually connecting these tools to your website, displaying translations, and implementing other technical requirements is a tedious process. So this calls for development expertise that many educational institutions don’t have in-house.
Moreover, machine translation engines can’t be trusted to deliver error-free translation all the time like language services. Any misunderstandings caused by inaccurate translations can significantly damage your educational institution’s reputation and credibility.
Website Translation Solutions
What if there was a hybrid solution that enhances the strengths and diminishes the weaknesses of these two methods? This is where Weglot comes into play and helps educational institutions go multilingual without having to dedicate high budgets or lengthy waiting periods.
Weglot starts by detecting and instantly translating the content of your website with AI-powered translation engines that can provide high-quality translations. Then you can edit these translations yourself, with teammates, or order professional translations by qualified translators directly from your dashboard.
All the technical procedures such as displaying your translated pages and implementing hreflang tags are automatically taken care of, allowing you to go multilingual instantly without any technical expertise or reliance on external parties.
Moreover, you can take your multilingual website project to the next level with features like auto-redirection, media translations, or the glossary!
Best practices for multilingual education websites
The best place to start when you’re deciding on the languages to target is your current website visitor demographic. Even if your website is not translated yet, you’ll still have visitors from other countries, and it’s a strong indicator that you’ll benefit from optimizing your website for this audience.
To find this data, you can check your visitors’ location or browser language on Google Analytics, or if you’re using a website translation solution like Weglot, this information is readily available on your dashboard.
Target underrepresented cultures
Another strategy is to target underrepresented cultures in your institution to boost diversity. To achieve this, start by analyzing your current student population and identify missing continents, countries, or ethnicities.
By translating your website, you’ll start appearing in search results and reach your target audience where they are looking for educational institutions. This will give you a head start among your competitors, and you’ll further increase your chances of acquiring students from target countries thanks to the localized enrollment experience your website provides.
Consider providing variants
You can translate your website to language variants (British English, Mexican Spanish, Lebanese Arabic, etc.) to take your targeting a step further. For example, French is spoken in many countries but translating your website to Belgian French clearly indicates that your institution welcomes students from Belgium.
The same goes for large countries that speak many different languages, such as China or India. Thanks to word of mouth, your institution might be popular among students from a specific region, but you can enhance representation by translating your website to language variants and targeting specific areas.
Dedicated keyword research
Keywords are one of the most impactful elements of websites, so they require extra attention when going multilingual. Considering their power in matching your website with the right audience, they should be treated as assets rather than mere words.
So be aware that when you translate keywords in the literal sense, you might be missing the mark as educational jargon varies greatly based on country. Even the same term that is used in multiple languages might mean different things in the context of education.
For example, the word college in English is defined as “an educational institution providing higher education or specialized professional training.” However, the same word means middle school in French and refers to private educational institutions in Turkish.
For the best results, conduct a dedicated keyword search for your target country and plan a customized multilingual SEO strategy.
An important decision for multilingual websites is to determine their website structure to host translated versions of their website. Depending on preference, there are three options to choose from:
- Top level domain (e.g. English version: www.example.en)
- Subdomain (e.g. Spanish version es.example.com)
- Subdirectory (e.g. Korean version www.example/ko)
It’s not possible to say one of these structures is superior to another, it all depends on your institutional structure and how you want to organize your translated content under your website.
Take a look at our guide on subdirectories vs subdomains to understand the key differences and determine the best URL structure for your educational institution.
Among the best multilingual SEO practices, language consistency has a prominent place. In the web translation process, important elements such as the navigation menu, footer, popups, and user-generated content often go unnoticed and weaken the true impact that could be achieved from multilingual content.
Sticking to one language per page doesn’t only prevent search engines from interfering with your page content, but it also ensures a uniform user experience for international visitors.
Adaptation of education terminology
As we mentioned before, academic language is specific by nature, and the terminology varies based on the country and the educational system. Localization, the practice of adapting the content to make it resonate with the target audience, is efficient in ensuring your translated pages convey the accurate meaning.
Moreover, some terms might not even have a direct equivalent in another language due to the differences in the educational system. This is where you’ll have to pay extra attention to the translation process and go the extra mile to modify your translated content to be understood by the audience.
When it comes to website translation, disregarding cultural differences is a critical mistake. Things that are considered neutral in one language may be very offensive in another. There might be unexpected elements like images, links, or even emojis that can damage your content when left unchanged or enhance your translations when localized.
Furthermore, differences in numbers, dates, currencies, or formats can twist the meaning of your translations. As these elements are even more important for educational websites, make sure to research the usage of even the most fundamental systems.
Localization considers the complete user experience. Therefore, in addition to localizing your website content, you should also localize the website navigation. From the orientation of your page layout to e-learning features, web behavior that’s not natural to users will impair the overall experience.
You can get an understanding of online habits and trends in a country by browsing the web in the target language. By copying the repetitive practices, you can create a user experience that feels familiar to visitors.
In today’s world, access to education is easier than ever, opening up opportunities to reach students worldwide. So website translation should become a fundamental practice for educational institutions that want to diversify their student population, enhance the academic experience and promote inclusion.
To go multilingual with your educational website and welcome students all over the world, start your free Weglot trial today!