Let’s do a quick thought experiment: Think of the website you visit the most. It could be a marketplace like Amazon or a social hangout like Facebook. Now, picture this: What if you couldn’t understand the language the website was created in—would it still be usable for you?
Chances are, for most of us, the answer tends to be negative. Even if a few words here and there might make sense, navigating foreign-language websites can quickly turn into a hassle. Thankfully, there are several methods available to effectively translate a website online.
Whether you’re a user trying to access content or a website owner aiming to expand reach, this guide will show you how to translate a web page in your preferred browser and on your mobile device—and even how to translate an entire website of your own step by step.
3 key approaches to translating a web page
To translate a web page, you first need to choose the right translation method for your needs. This might depend, for example, on how accurate you want the translation to be.
Let’s have a look at the 3 most common approaches to translating a site, what the pros and cons of each are, and how to implement them.
One of the frequently used methods to translate a web page is to hire human translators to convert content from one language to another.
Professional website translation services have the advantage of being very accurate, as long as you find expert linguists who understand both the source and target languages well and who are familiar with the subject matter of the site.
On the flip side, human translation can often be costly, and it can take a while to get the translated pages back from the translator.
Advantages of human translation:
- High accuracy
- Understanding of context
- Can adapt to specific registers and tones
- Better understanding of the site’s purpose and how to communicate that to users in the target language
- Creativity—translators can come up with catchy phrases or turns of phrase that will resonate with users
- Can create SEO-friendly translations
Drawbacks of human translation:
- Often costly
- Prone to human errors like typos
- Potential to create bottlenecks when no translators are available
An alternative to human translation is machine translation (MT), which is where you use a computer program to translate the text on your site automatically. This has the advantage of being much faster and cheaper than human translation, but the downside is that it’s often not as accurate.
Benefits of machine translation:
- Can be used for large projects
- Can be scaled up easily
- Can be post-edited for enhanced accuracy
Limitations of machine translation:
- Not suitable for all projects
- Lower accuracy
- Can’t adapt to specific registers or tones
- Not as fluent or natural-sounding as human translation
- Might need a lot of data to produce good results
- Typically unable to pick up on text nuances and idiomatic expressions
- Less creative than human translation
- Potential legal risks—if the translation is not accurate, it could be considered misleading and you could be liable for damages
While the disadvantages of machine translation might seem to outweigh the advantages, it’s important to remember that machine translation has come a long way in recent years with the emergence of neural machine translation (NMT), and it continues to improve.
NMT typically delivers impressive results, especially for common language pairs like English to German, and it’s increasingly difficult to catch grammatical or punctuation mistakes in the machine-translated text.
Machine translation post-editing (MTPE)
A third option, which is a hybrid of human and machine translation, is machine translation post-editing (MTPE). MTPE is where you use machine translation tools to generate a draft translation, which is then edited and polished by a human translator to improve accuracy.
In recent years, post-editing has become quite popular in the translation industry. This is also due to the fact that many resources are being invested in the development of the so-called “neural machine translation engines.”
To sum it up, simply weigh the pros and cons based on your objectives and choose the translation approach that best meets your needs. Now, let’s go ahead and put this into action.
Translating a web page can be easier than you’d think
Regardless of whether you want a simple basic translation while browsing the web or you want a comprehensive website translation for your CMS system, there are many solutions available out there, for every budget and every need.
From free browser features or add-ons to comprehensive localization software with several useful features and professional human localization services, everything is possible. Just take your pick.