Multilingual means more than just language translation...
The Internet doesn’t have borders or the same geographic limitations of traditional brick and mortar locales, which is why if you’re not considering multilingual/localized versions of your web presence, you may be missing out on a huge market share. A website is a communications tool, and if you don’t speak the very language of your customers, then they aren’t your customers. Multilingual translation and localization prepares your products and services for presentation to a global market, and is one of the most cost effective marketing tools for bringing in high volumes of new customers and new business.
Here are some top considerations when deciding to localize your site
Instead of making separate websites representing the different languages you want to communicate in, you can localize your website so different versions show up for different markets, automatically.
A multilingual website means more than just different language translations. Localization refers to specific formatting of things like dates and addresses, as well as currency.
On the presentation side of things, marketers and developers need to know how to design and program templates for labels, taking into account single bite and double bite character sets and to accommodate for symbols and nuances specific to a language. Reading patterns also need to be taken into consideration, like top to bottom versus left to right. Keep in mind that the exact same phrase in one language can take up enough additional space in a layout to reduce the esthetics of the page.
Most branded sites are filled with imagery and videos to help educate site visitors about the products and services a company offers. Your site should be prepared to present culturally acceptable alternatives to imagery created for the visitors from the culturally diverse global audience.
There are different ways to go about offering effectual multilingual experiences for your users. Web browsers present useful information to websites during site visits. That information includes browser type and version, information about where your ISP is, and therefore information about where you are located; they even present information about your preferred cultural settings. All of this information can be used to automatically adjust site presentation to more closely represent the site visitor’s culture. Of course this only works for a site that is designed and prepared with globalization and localization in mind. A less technical approach would be to provide the site visitor with a culture or language selection and then track and respond to their selection as they browse your site.
And remember, even if your market is just the US, you are still leaving out a great number of people by only having your website in English and not in Spanish.
How to go about translating and localizing your website?
There are a lot of good translation firms out there that specialize in all aspects of translation, from language translation and currency conversions to formatting and design - on a one-time or ongoing basis. A generally accepted language translation format file is call and XLIFF file. Many systems can generate this export file for you. You can then send it to a language translation company. The translation company will provide you with a translated set of files that you can re-import into your system.
Modern, enterprise-level Content Management and eCommerce Systems like Ektron, SharePoint and Commerce Server are already plumbed for multilingual capabilities and in most cases, it’s as simple as downloading the language pack.