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Speak My Language

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How do you consume or provide content for a multi-ethnic audience in native languages? Technology is closing the gap with these solutions.

Website Multilingual Support

The obvious benefit of multilingual support is readership that transcends borders. More people benefit from the writing on web pages. There are several basic methods of translating web pages into different visual languages.

The best way is to manually translate everything. Then provide alternate menu selections or different domains. The downside is that it is most expensive and complex to maintain since everything you publish must undergo translation on mirror pages.

A much easier method is to rely on dynamic browser translation. Safari, for example, offers the option to translate pages that it detects are in a non-native language. Though this is a popular browser, not everyone uses Safari. It may very well be that the majority of your visitors use something else.

A non-intuitive method is to copy the domain name. Then visit translate.google.com. Click the Websites button and paste the domain into the search field. Some formatting, like custom fonts, may change.

Another method is to embed the free Google Translate widget with over 100 visual languages. Support and deployment of this beta widget discontinued in 2019 for new users. Prior sites were grandfathered into unsupported usage. Then, in 2022, with news sites in mind and dozens of additional languages, it reemerged for non-commercial websites.

The widget can be somewhat erratic, periodically vanishing from view. Unfamiliar languages interfere with form submission on surveys and subscriptions. To prevent this, developers can embed notranslate classes within key transaction areas and menu selections.

A better dynamic solution for commercial sites is Google AI. This cloud computing option comes in three flavors, from basic to AutoML Translation. Some advanced options include translating word groups and phrase customizations. There are nominal monthly fees bases on usage.

Facebook AI offers M2M-100, the first multilingual machine translation (MMT) model that can translate between any pair of 100 languages without relying on English data. The open source code is here.

Multilingual Horizon

Most other translation options require copying and pasting text or speaking words into an app. Alexa can translate spoken phrases. Artificial Intelligence will soon close the gap on useful options.

When writing for a website with the goal of translation, it is best to utilize simple sentences with few words and little, if any, homographs. This, and minimal colloquialisms can minimize improper phrasing.

Despite technical advancements, please use your best judgement when reading any dynamic language translations. When enabled, this site disables translation of key transaction options. This means that some page elements appear in English, regardless of the language a user selects.

Activation can slow performance, particularly on mobile device. But since it increases traffic in remote areas where Internet service is poor, your page load times can suffer with a menu of over 100 languages. Unless you starve an international audience, think carefully before implementation.

ClinicalPosters.com began using the Google Translate widget long before cancellation in 2019. Best for reading blogs, it resides as an option for an administrator to enable within the page footer. If you benefit from dynamic translations, please let us know in the comments below.

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