My goal with this session was to get a handle on how to present content in multiple languages. While I was able to get some clarification on best practices in that regard, I got much more out of the session.
Dixon Jones was the first speaker and covered some amazing details on trends in world wide internet usage. Here’s some of the “Wow!” points I took down.
- There are 90 million more internet users in Europe than in the United States
- England alone has 40 million users online
- Over 10% of all advertising dollars in both the UK and Sweden during 2006 was spent online!
- U.S. only accounts for 21% of the 1.21 billion worldwide internet population
Dixon was an entertaining speaker and I appreciated all the U.S. military jokes. :) His first was to remind us that we should all be like the U.S. military and “Take the battle to the enemy to protect your homeland.” Worthwhile advice for any company thinking about the future globalized marketplace.
In “taking the battle to the enemy” he specifically recommends outsourcing phone support and sales support to the local area, buying a specific TLD for the country, hosting in the country, and using native translators. But, he cautions against having too many people invested in the country until you are confident that you can be successful in that country.
Jessica Bowman, formerly SEO manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car is now working at Business.com.
Her advice for content writing and keyword research in foreign languages was comprehensive. She also recommended working with a native speaker for brainstorming. The keyword tool Trellian’s Keyword Discovery was highly recommended with Overture’s keyword tool as a last ditch back up.
A major area of concern for foreign language sites is the programmer’s copy. Text like “Incorrect Password” is often mistranslated, sometimes with dire or hilarious effects.
Translators make many mistakes until you have worked with them for some time and clarified your needs. They will use different words on the same page to describe the same thing. Translators will add additional language, in an attempt at clarification, that you do not want included. So, you may want ambiguity and should express that to the translator. Ensure your content is checked against the english language version, not just for general grammar/spelling.
Some specific details of different languages to keep in mind:
- German readers have high expectations. German text is typically 3 times longer than english text. German grammar is a “killer” because words merge or split based on context. There are two distinct forms of German, formal and casual.
- UK English should be treated as a foreign language, not an offshoot of American English. British tend to be more verbose and you should still check your copy with a native speaker.
- Spanish translations vary widely based on what region your readers are in. For spanish speakers in the United States, you should use “North American” Spanish. “Spain Spanish” is extremely different than all the rest.