The Art of Translation

The World Wide Web is a bigger place than ever before. Whereas once we all ran our blogs and business sites secure in the knowledge that we were probably catering for a local demographic, now it is evident that we are writing for a truly global audience. Things are changing for the better, and one of the ways you can tell is that the comments folder on your blog is often full of spam in a host of different languages!

This leads us to a new responsibility as bloggers. For those of us who are writing without a specific location in mind, it seems that it is time to turn our focus upon the art of translation in the world of blogging. Whether we hail from a country where English is not our first language, or we are choosing to cater for a truly multi-national audience, we need to begin to think with more of a global reach to ensure our blogs are easily accessible to the widest possible audience.

According to the National Virtual Translation Center, there are over seven thousand official languages in the world. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language puts that figure closer to ten thousand. Although it would be patently impossible to cater for each native speaker for all of these languages, there are things that we can do to broaden the scope of our blogs and accommodate as many as possible.

In the early days of the Internet, everyone seemed to be focused upon learning the basics, such as HTML for formatting our pages, and that meant that US English was hailed as the standard language for the Web. Since then, as more and more countries begin to regard online access as a fundamental human right, we are more conscious than ever before of the requirement to accommodate as broad a spectrum of demographics as possible.

Widening Your Scope statistics suggest that there are an estimated 6,845,609,960 people online, across all of our continents. The Chinese language is the most widely spoken, followed by Hindi, English, Spanish, and Arabic. As Chinese is purported to be one of the toughest languages for non-native speakers to learn, it leads us to wonder how we can ever hope to access a truly multi-lingual community online.

As ever, WordPress comes to the rescue. There are resources available for people wishing to use the dashboard in their preferred language, and also translate their blog content into different languages. Until the days when the Babel Fish translation service from the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is available for us to translate languages automatically, the following steps can act as an interim procedure to make things a little more accessible.

Translating Your WordPress Admin

If you would prefer to use the WordPress admin panel in a different language to the standard English, it’s pretty easy to translate the backend of your blog. Luckily, most languages already feature in the WordPress translations service, and you can install a new language quickly. Follow this link to find the code you need, to move over to a new language in a matter of minutes.

If the language you are looking for is not readily available on the list of options, you also have the opportunity to produce your own translation. The following article shouws you how to support a bespoke translation.

Translating Your WordPress Theme

Some WordPress themes feature custom text, and this means that the translation for this needs to be undertaken separately to the admin areas. While a number of Premium themes may have a translation function built in to the code, the majority of WordPress users will find that they have to resort to manual editing of their theme to get the desired language to feature throughout their site. This is not as arduous or difficult as it sounds – it’s simply a question of accessing the relevant area and tinkering with it until you are happy with the result.

Translating Your Content

One of the most valuable things you can do in terms of making your blog more accessible is to translate the content into different languages. If you are fortunate enough to be bilingual, this is an exercise which you can undertake yourself to attract readers from different countries. However, the majority of us do not have a strong enough grasp of a second or third language to make this a viable option when it comes to keeping our blog updated.

Although automated translation services will never be as effective as human translators, who have the ability to understand the nuances and shades of language, there are still functions available for WordPress that provide an adequate basic service. There is a great plugin called Google Ajax that you can use to enable your customers to translate the content of your blog; however, any automatic translation runs the risk of misinterpreting the material that you have written and producing a translated page that makes little sense to your readers!

As the global popularity of both blogging and the World Wide Web becomes stronger, so the facilities and services for translating your site should gradually improve to cater for the need to reach a broader audience in different languages. For now, we must be content with using what is out there, and modifying the way we write to make it simpler, both for our readers in different languages, and the automated translation services that attempt to do a great job on our behalf.

4 thoughts on “The Art of Translation”

  1. It’ll come sooner than we think, I’m sure! I need to think about adding some tools to my site, it’s not hard at all. Thanks Edie, have a wonderful holiday season!

  2. Joel,

    What a staggering number of people are online at any given time. Shows us what small fish we are in a very large pond. Also, the opportunities we have to gain more visitors to our sites are wide open.

    I’m sure those who develop the tools necessary to reach people of various nationalities are hard at work creating what we need in order to connect across the web.

    This post is exciting news as we move into 2012 and beyond. The barriers are coming down around the world so that we can truly become the world wide web.

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