SpeakLike Blog

How much does it cost to translate a website?

If you are considering an attempt to grow your website’s audience beyond its local appeal into one that captures a large, international audience, then you must translate it into foreign languages. And unlike many things on the Internet, good translation isn’t free.

Here are the options available when it comes to translating your website:

  • Machine Translation: fast & free, but low quality
  • In-house or contract translator: the slowest and most expensive option
  • Crowd-sourced Translation: faster and cheaper than in-house or contract translators, but not free like machine translation

The Machine Translation Option: Free but…

It’s tough to beat free and there are a few machine translation services that allow you to quickly translate your site’s content for free. Two of the more popular machine translation services available are Google Translate and Microsoft’s Bing Translator. If your translation budget is zero, machine translation may be your only option.

Both Google Translate and the Bing Translator have widgets (here and here) which you can embed in your website. When embedded, they make it easy for visitors to a site to translate content on the fly.

Machine translator widgets aren’t going to do you any favors in helping you grow your international audience. The reason is because they don’t translate your content automatically, which won’t help you with SEO. Because the content is only translated by request, foreign search engines won’t readily recognize it as a resource for it’s users. For example, Google.es, the Google site for Spain, isn’t going to show your site high on many search engine result pages because as far as it knows your site is only available in english. People searching on google.es aren’t going to be searching for english-language keywords. If your site is about potatoes, it isn’t going to show up when someone searching on google.es for patatas.

So while machine translate may increase its accessibility to international audiences, it won’t necessarily increase its popularity. To do that, a foreign language version of your site’s content must be available at all times. The only way to do that is to run each article on your site through a machine translation service, copy the returned translation, and paste it into the appropriate place on your website. But with Google Translate, this is not allowed because of licensing restrictions. Specifically, they restrict anyone from storing and using Google Translate content on any website.

The Bing Translator does have an API you can integrate into your content management system and automatically translate your site’s content. But if you can’t find a plugin or extension that already works with your content management system you’ll have to program your own at a significant expense. And if the objective is to get the translation for free then custom programming isn’t going to be an option.

Don’t forget the accuracy problem

The biggest issue with machine translation is accuracy. Even if you were to run each and every page through a machine translation service, it might not do a very good job of retaining an international audience. It does not have enough understanding of culture and context to know how to translate everything accurately. In fact, even Google recommends against using Google Translate for marketing purposes.

Machine translation is better than nothing, but definitely not an ideal solution to help you grow the number of international eye-balls on your site.

Contract translation services: $0.20+/word

For companies needing accurate translation services, this option has traditionally been the only one available. Businesses could hire a freelancer or an agency to provide translation services, typically as a fairly substantial costs. This route is pretty simply to understand; you contract out your translation project at a cost of $0.20 – $0.30 per word (possibly more depending on the project) and in a few days or weeks it will be fully translated.

Many companies still go this route. But for a growing number of companies it is considered too expensive and too slow. This gives rise to a number of technologically-driven crowd-sourced translation companies

Translation as a Service (TAAS): $0.06 – $0.20/word

The best way to explain how TAAS provides greater value than the other options is to give an example of how it is used. Imagine you work for a tech company that has decided to begin offering your services to customers in Europe. But in order to do so you need to be able to provide customer support with with customers who communicate in German, Italian, French, and every other European language. Machine Translation is too unreliable and traditional contract translation is too slow and expensive. Historically this would be an insurmountable stumbling block for many companies eyeing overseas expansion. But with Translation as a Service, your customer service emails, trouble-tickets, even chat communications can be translated in seconds for anywhere from $0.06 – $0.20 per word.

Translation as a Service: how it works

TAAS services typically work in this fashion: as translation projects come in, they are dispatched to the most appropriate translators who are currently logged into their computers. For example, as a French-to-English translation comes in, the system dispatches the project to someone with that skill-set. The translator translates the text and the system dispatches the resulting translation to the person that requested it.

Most TAAS platforms have APIs that allow for your business tools to be integrated with their translation system. So customer service tickets and emails can be translated from their original language to English as they come in. Also, outgoing messages can be automatically translated from English to the language of the customer as they are sent, without any additional steps by the customer service team.

Another great feature of TAAS services is that larger projects are translated much more quickly than with freelance or contract translation services. The reason is because large projects can be broken into several pieces and apportioned out to multiple translators. A 100-page translation project can be broken down into 100 separate translation projects and sent to 100 different translators. Whereas a project of this magnitude could take several days, or even weeks, by traditional freelance translators, now it can be done overnight.

Multiple languages

One important thing to remember is that the cost of translation will be multiplied by the number of languages to which your content must be translated. If it costs $120 to translate your content from English to Mandarin, then you can figure it will cost roughly $120 to translate it from English to Simplified Chinese pushing your total cost of translation to $240.

In Conclusion

Machine Translation will continue to improve going into the future, but since machines can’t currently be programmed to understand context and culture, a universal translator, like the one seen in Star Trek, may not be invented until Captain Kirk’s birthday in the year 2228. Contract translation projects will always be a stable of business, but they don’t lend themselves to the scalability and speed demanded by many of today’s international companies.

Translation as a Service is a burgeoning industry capable of quickly, competently, and affordably meeting the translation needs of today’s webmasters, and at a significantly lower cost than other translation services.

Translate Large Volumes with Fast Turnaround

240,000 words processed across 11 languages in a week
SpeakLike Strings + Automated Translation Workflow + Human Translation

Our recent customer, a product manufacturer based in Europe, had a problem. They needed to prepare their website for 11 new languages in a week.  And they wanted simple handling and human translation of a large quantity of website and software content.

After a few setup steps, the custom translation system is ready for repeated use:

SpeakLike Strings handles website and software content
After our client downloaded their website content into a CSV file and set up SpeakLike quality tools (read further), they uploaded the file with close to 22,000 words into their Speaklike account at www.speaklike.com and selected their 11 languages from a list. SpeakLike translators started logging in to SpeakLike to transform the content. SpeakLike Strings accepts CSV or PO files and, for full automation, Speaklike services can be integrated with content management systems.  

SpeakLike quality tools help get consistent results
To get the best results, we worked with the client to set up their SpeakLike quality tools.

Style Guide: The Style Guide provides translators with high level guidance regarding the project, the content (in this case, marketing content), and other information. Translators often switch between different projects and look at the Style Guide for a quick reference.  Comments can also be added to individual strings for detailed clarification.

Terminology Manager: The Terminology Manager was set up to “package” their HTML code so that it can flow with the  content and be ready load in their website in 11 different languages. This packaging provides translators with guidance regarding context as well as flexibility to adjust sentence structures in their home language. The Terminology Manager can also be used to protect brand names and product names from accidental translation.

PhraseBook: The Phrase Book or Glossary helps guide translators with specific context or domain information on industry specific terms. When a word or phrase appears in the source content, the translators sees it highlighted and can reference a definition or description and a suggested translation. This glossary helps us deliver consistent results with a group of translators (more than 80 contributed to this project) and over time when updates are submitted.

Translator team building provides the best match
When quality is important, we work with clients to assemble a team of translators with high quality ratings and have a history with similar content (in this case, product marketing content) and meet our quality ratings requirements. Ratings are updated as translators do more work with SpeakLike. Many of the companies we work with choose to have SpeakLike reviewers edit content, while others use SpeakLike’s integrated review tools with their own in-country reviewers.

SpeakLike automated workflow reduces handling to save time and money
Once the original content is loaded, SpeakLike’s automated process kicks in. Jobs are set up in all 11 languages and broken into manageable chunks.  HTML code is packaged, brand names are protected, glossary items are marked, and notifications go out to translators in the special group.

Human Translation is the only way for business communications
Our translators, who have been tested, trained, and rated, log in to their SpeakLike accounts and start working on the marketing content. They have the Style Guide, protected terms, and glossary entries to guide them and, if they need help, can communicate with the SpeakLike team for assistance. With our global community of 1000′s of translators, translation continues on a 24 hour cycle, 7 days per week, every day of the year.

Human monitoring backs up the automation to deliver on time
But knowing there is a deadline, the SpeakLike team monitors the project. Unlike traditional translation firms, we don’t have project managers (except to get new clients started). Instead, we try to stay out of the way and eliminate unnecessary handling that is time consuming and expensive. We do closely monitor our clients’ submissions and translators’ work. We see where a project stands and what’s being worked on right now. Our team keeps things moving. 

Downloaded strings ready to use helps you launch
In this example, the first few languages were completed within 48 hours. Each time a language is completed, our client receives a notification and then logs in to their account to download the CSV file, ready to load into their website.

Ready for updates — only new content gets translated
SpeakLike now becomes an extension of the client’s content management system, storing translated versions in many languages. Any time new content is added to the website or changes are made, the customer can upload the whole website to process only the new or revised content. We don’t re-translate what is already done. The previous translations are returned from SpeakLike’s translation memory, ready to go. When its time for more languages, just log in to www.speaklike.com and add a language to the project. All of the quality tools are ready to use for updates and new languages. 

Send us an email to set up your free SpeakLike enterprise account and access SpeakLike Strings and the quality management tools: sales@speaklike.com

Babel No More

How many of you struggled to learn a second language? For many people, it is a true challenge. There are some out there for whom it is a breeze, almost effortless to pick up multiple languages. These language superlearners, and research into what makes them “hyperpolyglots”, are the subject of Michael Erard’s latest book. This book has gotten a lot of attention recently, from many publications such as the Economist, and even our Twitter feed. I’m definitely putting it on my To-Read list. It seems fascinating how people can train their brain to learn how to speak and even think in more than one tongue.

Any of you out there extraordinary language learners?

Do You Speak Text?

While digging through piles of newspaper in my folks’ house, I stumbled upon a great article in the NYTimes Magazine that provides a glimmer of hope for both literacy and heritage tongues. It amazes me how new the written N’Ko alphabet is, relatively speaking. More importantly, as much as people protest the degradation of writing skills from the truncation involved with texting and now Tweeting, there is some reassurance that SMS can in fact enhance the vitality of a language and encourage more people to learn how to read and write. Technology is not the enemy in this case. In centuries past, languages were kept going by Bible translations. That’s not to say that missionary work is not still relevant. Rather, cellphones are a much more universal tool with benefits beyond interpersonal communication. Now, the main obstacle is affording the equipment and developing the firmware, something we tend to take for granted in the developed world. Perhaps all the mobiles phones that have been tossed aside for swankier smartphones can be repurposed for indigenous languages.

The blog post raised another fantastic point –

Whether a language lives or dies, says K. David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, is a choice made by 6-year-olds. And what makes a 6-year-old want to learn a language is being able to use it in everyday life. “Language is driven from the ground up,” says Don Thornton, a software developer in Las Vegas who specializes in making video games and mobile apps in Native American languages. “It doesn’t matter if you have a million speakers — if your kids aren’t learning, you’re in big trouble.”

Regardless of the language spoken, the vitality of a language and the multilingual capabilities that give people an edge in work and life hinge greatly on early childhood learning. Kids seem to soak up everything like a sponge, hence why we are loathe to use bad language around them. If a society want traditional languages to survive, it is crucial to include it from day one. My mother used Italian as a secret language with my grandparents when I was young, and I started understanding it around age seven. If only I had started earlier, maybe I would have more fluency and comfort. Imagine what could be done for endangered linguistics!

Glad Tidings

From all of us in the SpeakLike team, we wish you and yours a happy holiday season! We have had a very busy year and are looking forward to exciting and great things in 2012.

Mea Culpa

Did you know that The New York Times has a blog on grammar, usage, and style. In a world of text-speak and changing educational standards on writing and grammar, it’s heartening for me to see one of the primary papers of records (and yes, my paper of record) scrutinize not only their facts but also the structure and style of their articles. Two days ago they published some of their errata related to foreign words in articles. It astounded me that their error rate can be as high as 50% for non-English words.

Part of the reason I’m having a problem getting my head around this is, there are so many “foreign” words that have burrowed their way into the English language. New York in particular is a hotbed of linguistic mashup. I’m also shocked that spellchecking did not pick up mistakes in spelling or accentuation.

In any event, it’s easy to lose something in translation even when you speak the same language. It’s so important, in my humble opinion, to ensure that people young and old are equipped with the right tools and training to write clearly and understandably so that the message does not get clouded by the delivery.

Twitter’s Gone Global

There’s no doubt that Twitter has become an international icon in social media, providing a way for people around the world to spread information far and fast. Although English remains Twitter’s first language, Yahoo news reported on a recent study by social media monitor Semiocast which suggests that the popular social website is becoming more global.
In the past year, tweets in Arabic have jumped from 99,000 per day to over two million per day. Other languages have also made incredible gains, such as Thai, which grew by 470 percent during the same time period. The estimated 5.6 billion tweets used in the study included sixty-one languages!
Getting your company’s message out through social media like Twitter can be more effective through tailored localization. Speaklike can help you reach a broader and more global audience by offering business-quality translation for your company’s online presence. From translating websites to blog posts, and even tweets, Speaklike’s services let you communicate more accurately to more people
faster than traditional translation services.

Found in Translation

As the world gets smaller and even the most isolated cultures open up, more works of literature are being translated to reach new audiences.

The Chinese government is supporting China Publishing Group’s effort to translate 500 classics of social science literature, one of the largest projects of its kind in modern China. China’s biggest publishing house is adding to its existing collection of foreign works to further academic and cultural development. In light of the inconsistencies in English language education, the translations could serve an important role in exposing Chinese students to social science writings from other places and times.

Meanwhile, in Cairo Humphrey T. Davies is hard at work translating Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s
Al-Saq ‘ala al-Saq
. The award-winning translator is tackling this complex book, fraught with archaic language and obscure references, to increase accessibility and exposure to a masterpiece that many in the Arab world have heard of but few outside of academia have actually read. Al-Shidyaq, one of the first Arab novelists and a modernist ahead of his time, has never been translated into English, like of the literature in the Arab world. Many of his ideas on freedom of expression and human rights will resonate with participants and observers of the Arab Spring; this project could not have come at a better time.

Finding talented translators who can bring works to life in other languages help spread art and thinking, which makes the world a more interesting, and more educated, place. It can be a small(er) world, after all.

Life or Death?

Adam Gopnik commented on a recent article in The New Yorker that there are no dead languages. Treating languages like they are dead, he explains, is akin to “studying biology today purely in terms of species living now.” Yes, most students learn that there are animals and plants that no longer walk the earth. I would disagree, though, that most biology classes not focused on evolution keep the extinct in mind. Following that logic, there are very few language classes out there for languages that are spoken in limited context, let alone not spoken at all, with the notable exception of Latin and classical Greek.

In fact, there are many efforts to keep endangered languages alive. Mark Abley chronicled many of these efforts in his 2003 book Spoken Here. Even in India, there is some concern that their competitive advantage in English language fluency could stifle the other existing languages and dialects. Here in New York, there is a great example of a “regular guy” contributing greatly to grassroots language revival of Irish Gaelic.

A world where everyone understands each other is a lofty ideal. However, this should not necessarily come at the expense of local cultural and linguistic diversity. Losing the different abilities to express one’s self would make the world smaller, but also a more boring and less vibrant place.

Who’s Tweeting What, Where?

At SpeakLike, we love new ways of looking at how people communicate. That’s why we think
the map of Twitter users by language is so cool. Eric Fischer, the map’s creator, used data collected by Google Chrome to illustrate Twitter’s global nature. The images are striking.
English, shown in gray, is densely packed into the Anglophone world, with some Spanish and French
noticeable in the United States and Canada. The attached article points out some other surprising
information, as well. Despite the Chinese government’s official ban on Twitter leading up to the
20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 2009 and the existence of an alternative, state-run microblogging service, people there are still managing to tweet, as can be seen in the substantial green glow (Chinese) along the country’s urbanized eastern seaboard.
While at first glance, the map suggests that many users are divided along national lines, the high
resolution version with tiny, multicolored points in metropolises indicates cosmopolitan, multilingual
cities across the world. It’s clear that having a Twitter presence in only one language limits businesses’ ability to reach as many potential customers. SpeakLike can help companies reach their audiences around the world by providing Twitter translation. Just choose the language and which tweets should be translated and begin expanding your group’s reach today!
Here’s another map of where SpeakLike’s Twitter followers are located.