The Internet connects more than 230 countries representing over 26 major languages. According to The Computer Industry Almanac Inc ., there are an estimated 150 million Internet users worldwide, and Global Internet Statistics reports that non-English language speakers make up about 43 percent of the online population.

If your e-commerce company is considering launching a multilingual Web site to reach non-English users, there are a number of important factors you need to deliberate. One of the pivotal points is how you’ll translate information that represents your company. In this article, we’ll take a look at the essentials of translation services and software.

Translation software
There are basically two levels of translation available for developing multilingual Web sites. The first is translation software, which provides a good alternative for companies wanting to present a limited amount of information. Software translators provide quick, approximate translations for a wide variety of languages offered at a relatively low cost. Such translations work well when a company simply wants to present information for general interest, has a finite amount of information to translate, or wants to translate only small amounts of information—such as database headers and notes. We’ve listed some excellent translation software packages below.

Translation services
The problem with any translation software package is that it provides machine translation, which means your Web pages will invariably contain some grammatical errors or out-of-context meanings. In addition, translation software can’t translate text graphics. To ensure a high quality translation, an e-commerce company needs to either bring a translator onboard or outsource translations to a translation company or a language-specialized Web site development company.

You’ll need to carefully weigh the volume of anticipated documents with the cost involved; professional translation can run as much as 25 cents per word. It is also important to note that many translation services use software for first stage translations, but then pass documentation through a series of editors for error free translation. Should you decide to outsource document translation, you’ll need to develop a good relationship with the company that’s translating for you. You’ll also want to consider the ramifications of a big user response to a multilingual Web site, which could mean an increase in e-mail and customer support translations.

If you don’t anticipate lots of customer interaction, your company might want to consider working with a Web development company that specializes in creating Web sites in specific languages. With such development companies, the translation is part of the package, and the holistic approach often makes for a better overall product. We’ve listed two Yahoo! source pages below that include a wide spectrum of Web translation services.

Additional resources

Bruce Spencer is a freelance technical writer who has been working in the information industry since 1983 and writing about the Internet since 1995.

Tell us what you think about translation software and translation services in the e-commerce marketplace by posting a comment below.