dropdown language menuYou have a WordPress website for your business and you want it translated into one or more languages. So you pick up the phone, call a translation agency, and ask for a quote. If you like the quote, you tell them to go ahead. Right?

Wrong! Many prospective clients call us thinking that the process will be this simple. We can give an estimate for translation from your website, but other issues will have to be dealt with before we can give a formal quote and begin work. We’ve already talked about how to set up your multilingual WordPress website. Another big issue is how the translatable text in the website will be extracted for translation, and how the translated text will be put into the new foreign language site or sites.

In another post, we explain that some content management systems are more translation-friendly than others. The translatable content resides in a database instead of in a set of static files. Even when you are logged into WordPress, locating and extracting all of that content generally requires technical skills.

Locating Translatable Text in WordPress
The core content of each page is usually easy to find; that’s the content that all WordPress users normally work with. But let’s take a look at some of the other content that needs translation. First, there is the kind of content that appears on every page, but is stored separately.

  • Header: The part at the top of the page that may contain text like taglines and links.
  • Footer: The place at the bottom of the page that usually contains copyright information and may also contain links, basic contact information, etc.
  • Main menu
  • Sidebar: The bar to the right or left of the page that may also contain links, blurbs from your blog, ads, contact forms, etc. These may also vary for different types of pages.
  • Content from plug-ins: There are a huge number of plug-ins for WordPress, some of which are used to manage different types of content. A common one is a plug-in to create forms. When content is being fed into a page from a plug-in, all you will see in WordPress on the page itself is a line of code.

Then there is the content that is not seen on the page, or is only seen in specific circumstances:

  • Metadata: Information to guide browsers and search engines. This can include short page descriptions that only show up in searches.
  • Error messages: Messages that appear when a user does something wrong, such as not filling in a required field in a form.
  • Notifications: Messages to the user that show up when the user has successfully submitted a form or uploaded a file.
  • 404 Not Found page: The page that comes up when someone attempts to go to a page that doesn’t exist on your site.

This list can go on, but it should give you a good idea of the special treatment required by some translatable content when performing website localization in WordPress.

Extracting and Replacing Text in WordPress
MTM LinguaSoft usually works with a developer or webmaster to determine how best to extract and replace web content. This usually takes a single conversation. Depending upon the size of the site and the skills of the developer, we employ processes that range from total automation, where the developer downloads all the web content in a format that can be used by translators and then re-imports those files,  to completely manual extraction. Usually the process is a mixture. Whatever the process, some manual steps will usually be necessary and we agree at project launch on whose responsibility these will be.

How the import and extraction processes are done, and who is responsible for them—the translation partner or the client—will impact the project fee. Also, since your in-house or outside developer will need to be involved in the process, you should take into account the extra expenses and time involved on the IT side.

The basic page content is the simplest to handle. It can easily be copied and pasted manually or automatically extracted through WordPress to XML files and re-imported after translation. This is why you will see some sites on which the page content is translated but items like menus remain in English. MTM LinguaSoft advises strongly against this approach, which will be jarring and unsatisfactory for foreign-language users.

If a translation plug-in like WPML, which we mentioned in our earlier post on WordPress set-up for multilingual sites is used, the plug-in itself will automate most of the process. The translation partner can work directly in the plug-in, eliminating much of the need for developer involvement on the client’s side.

Automated Solutions to Website Translation
Today there are solutions that almost fully automate extraction and replacement of text. Software connectors can be installed that will give your translation partner a direct link to your site, allowing them to automatically extract text into a translation management system (TMS). There are many such connectors out there, some of them proprietary to translation companies, so specifics vary.

MTM LinguaSoft now works with a technology partner to provide a solution that automates many of the typical steps involved in web globalization projects, minimizing or completely eliminating the time that your developers and engineers must spend on website globalization. The technology is easy to use for both the client and the translation partner. It also makes the translation process more transparent by allowing the client to check on progress at any time. While connectors are built for specific CMSs, this solution will work with any CMS, not just WordPress.

These automated solutions have their own costs, which must be considered in determining the best solution for your site. However, automation can be cost effective even for a relatively small site if there are frequent changes, there are many languages involved, or if you are planning to add more languages in the near future.

Contact us for more information.

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