6 Crucial Do’s and Don’ts for Creating Bilingual Websites

We recently published this article about developing a bilingual brand and communicating your message in multiple languages. When it comes to evolving your brand on the web, you’ll need to make sure that the same brand experience is carried over online. This of course means creating a bilingual or multilingual website.

But since a website is a living, breathing part of your marketing strategy, that means that there will always be continuous content being fed into it. This is often where many bilingual websites go barreling off the rails with sporadic updating and lost messaging between languages.

There were no survivors.

So let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts typically associated with bilingual websites:

1. DON’T: Begin Translation Before one Language is Finished

It’s easy to assume that translating things on the fly will save time – or by the section if you will. The problem with translating one page or section at a time is that changes are pretty much inevitable before launch. Not only will this cost more in translation fees, but your project could potentially drag on forever because you’re having troubles getting your languages to sync.

2. DO: Wait Until your Entire First Language is Complete

You’ll make it much easier on yourself by waiting until one language of the website is finished before moving on to translation. Once you’ve got your website content nailed down, it will be much less taxing on your translator to ensure that the entire website is providing the same message in all languages.

3. DON’T: Translate it Yourself

For those of us living in the Moncton area, we know that there’s a special kind of french that many speak. I’m talking about Chiac. It’s Acadian french, really. A delectable casserole of english, french and even some aboriginal slang that is not exactly proper french. These ‘slanguages’ happen all over the place. That’s why although you may think you speak fluent french for example, to someone from actual France you may sound like a raving lunatic. What you don’t want is for your website to offer one message in english, and a completely different message in french or any other language.

C’est right bad, ça.

4. DO: Hire a Translator

If you have any second thoughts about your language speaking abilities, by all means bring in a specialist. Every language has different meanings for different words, derivatives of certain words, and so on. Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation are essential. If you don’t think you can do it properly, then leave it to the pros.

5. DON’T: Play Favourites

There’s nothing more aggravating for a visitor than seeing an under construction or coming soon message, or an animated graphic of Garfield chasing his tail. Sadly, this happens much too often. A user will visit a nice website with a multilingual option, only to find out that half of the french pages aren’t finished, not up to date, or even worse, just repeated english content. That’s no way to create a positive user experience. If you can’t keep every language of your website up to date, then stick to what you can handle.

6. DO: Treat Everyone Equally

Make sure that as you feed new content into the site that every language gets the same treatment. Now, it may be unfeasible to have a translator on hand for each and every blog post for example, but remember that you have options. You could send a large batch of new content to the translator that will be published over time, or on pages that don’t have translated content you could just remove the multilingual option and prevent under promising a feature that isn’t really there.

Now that you’ve seen a few of the mistakes commonly made with bilingual websites and how to properly manage the translation process, you’ll hopefully be much better equipped when it’s time to get knee deep into your website content.

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