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November 2015

Language Choice on Websites

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Are you looking to grow your company into an international, or even global, force? Obtaining a broad reach that spans countries requires several things: a unique, groundbreaking idea; a truckload of ambition and the ability to take risks; a highly motivated and team-oriented culture. But in order to reach an international audience, you also need an international outlook.

Benefits of Multilingual Websites

For many people as well as many companies, English is a ‘lingua franca’, a bridge language that facilitates communication between people who don’t share their first or native languages. In the 21st Century, English is for many companies the lingua franca of international business, technology, diplomacy and broadcasting. But relying on English alone on your website risks alienating those who don’t know English, or who could more easily use another website that provides a similar service with multiple language choices.

The benefits of multilingual websites are that they can better facilitate communication between different people. For example, on a commercial website designed to facilitate trade between individuals, translation tools that allow communication in different languages can prevent breakdowns in communication or understanding. Such websites also reach a wider online audience, and are well placed to receive greater prominence in search engines in other countries that use different languages. This is important as internet use has recently become common in non-English speaking areas such as Africa and East Asia, while internet use is flat lining in places like the USA, Germany and Sweden, where English is more common.

Providing customers and users with a range of language choices shows an international spirit, cultural sensitivity and a willingness to go the extra mile. It increases customer loyalty and user conversion while also strengthening the relationship between users of different locations, thus building the possibility of a global community of supporters of your brand, a crucial step to becoming an international player in our highly globalised economy.

How to Make Your Website Multilingual

In making your website multilingual, you will have to first decide which languages to use. This depends on your target demographic as well as the nature of your business. If your business is a local restaurant, then you might want your website’s language options to reflect the languages used in your local area. On the other hand, a company that distributes to several specific countries and is trying to appeal to a handful of others would focus on the languages in those countries. A travel company with flights all around the world would obviously want to include as many languages and as wide a range as possible.

Having decided which languages to use, you’ll need to determine how to implement them. You could hire a translator to go through your site’s content and rewrite them into every language you are using. However, if you’re using more than a few languages this process can be very time consuming and will need to be updated whenever content is changed or added to the site. You might be tempted to just run your site through Google Translate, but even though the widget is free and Google is a well respected search engine the translation feature is prone to mistakes which would be unprofessional for a business website. Translation is much more than switching a word in one language into the same or similar word in another. It is a skill that requires an understanding of context and tone, something that Google Translate isn’t yet capable of.

A good compromise between these two alternatives is to use Squarespace, a high quality drag and drop website builder. Along with some great mobile responsive website templates, Squarespace allows you to create index pages and anchor links for alternative language versions of your website. Squarespace lets you plan and translate your own content, creating duplicate pages for the different languages and ensuring that it’s easy to change content across the board. For more advice, go to Squarespace’s support page for building a multilingual site. As we regularly make use of the website builder’s services to support our clients, Wirebox can help you if you are looking to create a well designed website with multiple language options.

By admin November 2015

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