How to succeed in translating your website

translating your website Translation work is becoming more and more important with the digitization of economies, which makes it possible to sell all over the world…

Provided precisely to have a site that reassures your foreign customers.

Naturally, an expansion strategy is based on 4 phases:

  • Move from regional to national.
  • Then from the national to the Francophonie (Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal…)
  • later the English-speaking countries because of the “universal” aspect of English for most markets.
  • Next comes the translation of the site for less competitive markets with strong languages ​​(eg Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, etc.) to avoid excessive competition from England and the USA.

This digital strategy is necessarily accompanied by related means:

  • The translation of its website, its commercial documents (brochures, contracts, etc.)
  • Recruit people in France with backgrounds in international companies (or at least people who speak a minimum of English, with a policy of continuous training in English).
  • Recruit international profiles to ensure the sale and support of products and services (at least via the Web) in France.
  • Have sales representatives in the most important countries, and if possible buy a small local company to already have a commercial base.

These people can help you translate your website, often by proofreading the work done by a specialized translation agency.

To help you, here are 13 simple tips to help you translate your website, especially an English website translation.

1 – Always give a model to take as an example to define the final result you want to obtain

This is the most common mistake: provide a site or commercial documents, and tell the agency “translate all this for me!”.

However, without a benchmark, the agency or the translator will begin to translate your website without knowing your technical specificities, the key messages you want to convey, the technical terms you use…

It is therefore essential to provide him with a typical example of what you want to achieve.

You can do this with the help of a local customer, a distributor, an employee of your company… the whole thing is to have a “standard” of measurement.

For example, take 1 page of particularly significant text, and do the translation yourself in order to show the tone, the layout… that you want to obtain.

This will be the standard and the reference text to which your translator will refer.

If possible accompany this with a video where you translate the text “live” explaining how you switch from the French version to the English version of the site (ex: via a screencast with, via Screencastify, via a Zoom recording …).

By adding a “live” version of the translation (even 15 minutes), you will explain essential subtleties in the translation process.

This will also allow you to check for yourself that the text is simple enough to translate, that there are no misunderstandings, that it is possible for a novice in your sector…

Note: if you cannot obtain the “standard” translation externally, ask the translator to translate 1 or 2 pages for you, then have a native of this country who knows your job proofread it for feedback.


2 – Use a native translator

A Frenchman who writes a text in English will always have a little bit of French that will transpire in his texts…

It is therefore necessary to choose a person who has been immersed in this culture in order to integrate all the specificities of the language.

Please note: English and American are not the same… Some expressions and ways of writing words are different. Depending on the country you are targeting, you will have to choose one or the other of these nationalities.

Here is an example with 100 differences which illustrates well the difference between the two languages ​​(because we can really speak of 2 languages):

3 – Make short sentences

Avoid long sentences that contain several pieces of information at the same time, and which can ultimately lead to misinterpretations.

Use short sentences to highlight your vision.

It is necessary to use concise and clear sentences for any translation, even if it means cutting it into 2 or 3 sentences.

To facilitate the understanding of the text, it must be as simple as possible, it is necessary to put 20 words per sentence at most.

This simple rule will save you the big blocks of indigestible and complex text…

Whether it is a translation from English to French or from German to French and vice versa, it is valid for all other languages.

Similarly, to improve the readability of the translation, the key passages must be read aloud (slogan, first lines of presentation, etc.).

This reading aloud test allows you to know if the text will be easy to read for a person, and that there will be no complexity in reading the translation of your website.


4 – Pay attention to the typography rules of the different languages

For example 100 euros is written 100 € in French… but in American, it is $100.

Similarly in English, there are dots between numbers… in French they are spaces.

Most countries in the world have the habit of writing dates in the following way: put the day first, then the month and finally the year as November 17, 2020 (therefore abbreviated: 17-11-20) .

While for American English it is the month that comes first, followed by the day and ends with the year: 11-17-2020, however, this is not valid for other languages….

Hence the importance of hiring a  translation agency and not an intern or a person who does not master the subtleties of a language…


5 – Define a lexicon of names to use

Without knowing it, you use abbreviations, a lexicon of words… specific to your profession. Indeed, some words can be written in different ways. So some people will talk about CRM or CRM, or GRC (French translation of CRM but very little used). In the same way you can also write Relation Client or Relation Client S …  It is therefore necessary to define a lexicon of words to use, so that your translator does the right job and that you do not have to come back after him.

To facilitate the translation of the same concept, while maintaining the quality of the text:

  • you have to write the same thing, in the same way each time so as not to waste too much time during the execution.
  • avoid using synonyms to be clear. If you try to write the same idea in different ways, it will affect the consistency of the translation in general


6 – Do not ask for a literal translation, but to translate the meaning…

We must avoid making a literal translation of the words, we must make a translation of the meaning.

In any case, you should never translate word for word, it is essential to specify this to your translator.

Sometimes it is better to reduce 1 page of text to 2/3 of a page if it allows to keep all the meaning (especially since in French the texts are generally much longer than in English to express the same idea)… Except for legal texts where words are important…

Furthermore, there are words that have no meaning in the language into which they are translated.

Thus in English, verbs can become words, whereas in French this is not said (eg: liking a word…).

7 – Avoid puns, jokes, metaphors…

translating your website There are words that can offend or change the meaning when translated from one language to another, but this is often the case when trying to be humorous.

It is therefore important to remove jokes, expressions, puns, metaphors… when translating.

For example :

  • a piece of cake = fingers in the nose (and not finger in the nose)
  • be dressed to the nines = to put on your 31

Otherwise, ask someone who understands both languages ​​to adjust the text so that the metaphors make sense in translation.


8 –  translators on one-page texts to measure the quality of the translation.

 translating your website The goal is to validate the quality level of the translation in order to be sure to have the right person for the website translation work. Indeed, even a good translator who does not have a good knowledge of your sector of activity will not be able to produce an excellent translation. Similarly, make regular points without waiting to have 100 pages to validate, and realize that the translation is horrible…


Note: you can also ask your first foreign clients/prospects to give you feedback on the quality of your translation.


9 – Redo a global check once the translation of the site has been carried out

Once the translation has been done, you have to correct spelling and typing errors, and adapt the text to your style (cut long sentences, add diagrams, cut useless sentences, add examples…);You can use more powerful tools than the word corrector (which is suitable for basic use) such as Antidote by Computer Druid in French. For texts in English you can use for example Gammarly:

Finally, you have to reread the document and compare the source and the result.

After comparing the two texts, the quality must be improved because there are always differences in meaning, elements to be deleted… between the two texts. We must avoid writing a text that is in good French or in good English, but which sounds “false”. This is the principle of “beautiful inaccuracy”, that is to say, making a translation that seems to be beautiful (no mistakes, sentences in perfect French…) but which nevertheless does not sound French or English. Indeed, even a text that is without facts can be totally bad…

There is a significant discrepancy between the meaning of the text and its translation.

However, only an expert from the country can do this verification. And if you do not have this knowledge, simply ask a specialized consultant (eg using Linkedin). In order to validate the correct translation of your text. To do this, ask him to reread a few key pages, and do a 30-minute review via Zoom. Webex, Teams… to get a debrief. If necessary, the native can determine the proximity of the translation. By comparing the two texts. For example by opening the two word documents next to each other on the same screen.

10 – If you are translating a website, opt for a direct translation in the site to have the formatting and the management of the available spaces

Generally, the translated text of a website is delivered in Word or Google Docs format to be imported into the CMS. After each modification or correction. However. If it is simple for you and the editor in terms of proofreading (eg: management of comments. Versions…), it still leaves all the formatting work to you… hence the interest of also outsourcing this part.

This option is often more expensive 

translating your website Indeed you will not have to redo the implementation on the site from Word or Google Docs files. To do this, all you have to do is translate directly. In the CMS (the backoffice or site administration area). This is a very practical method if you want to save time. You duplicate the texts in French on English pages, and you ask the translator to do the translation directly. (Often he will translate on Word to have the correction functionalities of spelling. And then copy the text into the CMS). The principle of language management in a website is to have Pages and Articles. That will be displayed according to the chosen languages. It is enough to install a plugin in WordPress or Drupal or Joomla. Like for example like TranslatePress or WPML on WordPress. The translation is then integrated directly into the site for direct layout.

This work is interesting because it allows to see the text directly in situation.

Especially since most often the French version of a text is often longer than the English version. And therefore you will immediately have an idea of ​​the design. These are the big agencies that often do website translations via a CMS to be more consistent. This method will reduce translation processing time. However, it requires more proofreading to correct various mistakes. Spelling, grammar, typing… since the text will have been written directly.

There is also the translation of the WordPress theme (ie the design of the site), in order to Frenchify it.

It is a different job from traditional translation, because it involves translating small elements such as:

  • “Read more”
  • “Read time”
  • “Next Page”
  • “Author”

Personally, I use the Loco Translate plugin on to translate the English words of my WordPress themes.

11 – Pay attention to the visuals you use (website translation and other translations)

The visuals of translated websites must meet certain criteria before they are put online:

  • Avoid publishing visuals adapted to the target (eg do not put photos of “European” people on translated pages for people in Asia, Africa, etc.).
  • Check if the visuals are acceptable in the country where the publication will be made (ex: photos of men or women in undress)
  • The cultural relevance of a website will increase according to the number of its visual contents (ex: photos of buildings to sell products in France to SMEs)

To facilitate the connection with the public, it is necessary to use visuals in correlation with the culture of the targeted public in order to gain their confidence

It is advisable to use visuals that reflect the target’s identity: photo of the target’s city, photos that resemble the target audience

Note: preferably buy the images rather than on free image sites such as Pexels, Unsplash.


Have the translated text validated by a specialist or a trusted contact

To ensure the quality of the text, it must be proofread before it is put online by a person in the sector who will give you their business vision.

The proofreading of the text can be done by the translator, a sales representative in the country, or you, this step is very important to correct the various errors such as typos, spelling errors, grammar errors…

However, it does not replace reading by a person who knows the sector and the profession in the country of destination.

For example, you can ask a consultant, a client, etc. to spend half a day reading the most important pages of your site and give you feedback on the quality of the translation overall, as well as suggestions for corrections .

Do a proofreading with a calm head, changing the medium (ex: on paper)

By dint of reading and re-reading the same text on a PC, we no longer see the mistakes.

You have to “let the text rest” for 1 or 2 days, and come back to it once you have a fresh eye.

This allows for careful proofreading, without proofreading bias.

Similarly, on the important pages (home page, product pages, about, etc.), it is necessary to read aloud to check the fluidity of the text.

If necessary you or the translator will modify part of the text so that it is easy to read and easy to understand by the reader.


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