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Krystel Gosselin

Krystel Gosselin
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Translating For The Web: Unexpected Elements

Published by gosk02@uqo.ca on 2012-06-04

“There are so many things you normally don’t consider while translating!”


This statement, I once received during an e-mail conversation with a fellow language practitioner, brought me back to a conference I attended during last year’s Translation Week. The conference itself was about localization, but also the variety of elements to translate inside a webpage, or software program, which were not just text.


It’s true that, as far as content goes, translating for the web is very similar to translating a normal text. Words are words, after all. We all know, however, that translating goes beyond words. We want to deliver a message.


Traditionally, the message is conveyed through words, whether it be in the form of an article, a press release, a novel or a letter. In recent years, the Internet has been one of the most efficient ways to transmit a wide variety of messages, thanks to its speed and high volume of users.


When we think of the Internet, though, we do not simply think of the text. Think about it for a moment: what makes our experience so different when using an internet browser, compared to traditional media?


Images, videos, widgets, applications, country-specific websites, interactive menus, and much more.


As I mentionned earlier, the subject of the conference was localization. According to the lecturer, the translator’s task was not only to translate the text to reflect the location-specific details in the text, but also the content of the website that was not detailed in words.


The example he gave was the weather widget at the bottom of the sample webpage.


The widget was originally set to display the temperature in the users’ area and was set in Fahrenheit. Although this may seem like a mundane element, it’s a known fact that certain countries (Canada for instance) check their weather forecast in Celsius and not in Fahrenheit.


What are the chances of dealing with a website with a weather widget on it? Slim, I agree, but a website translator will still face non-traditional elements he will need to translate for the users. This may take the shape of hidden text (also known as alternate text) that appears when your cursor hovers over an image, a link to a website with the appropriate language for the user, subtitles for a video, voice-overs, currency for purchases, advertisements, etc.


One could even go as far as choosing more content-appropriate web elements for the users. Color schemes, pictures, choice of music, and sometimes even the layout can be different from one country to the next to appeal to its users. This can be seen when you browse a website that has multiple versions for different countries, like the IKEA website. That, though, falls into the realm of localization.