Translation in CMS

If your web presence is international, and you’re using a CMS with multisite-management capability, you likely have to address translation. A common process is: webmasters extract the text into Excel files and send to The Translator, map the translated text in Excel back into the right places on the other-language copy of the website. In this process, The Translator might be a person, a group, a machine-translator, or a combination. Pure machine translation (MT) has been notorious for odd results like “turn lid around circle until grip” or the famous “all your base are belong to us.” MT has improved over the years, but it still needs significant human cleanup.

Human translation can be very efficient with translation memory (TM). TM sees a phrase it translated last Tuesday on a previous page, which had the correct translated phrase verified by a human in the system the first time around, so this time TM just plugs in the known correlated other-language phrase. It doesn’t have to re-translate the same phrase every time it’s encountered. This is a good blend of human-&-machine translation process. Note that in this human-&-machine process, there is actually no regular “Machine Translation” happening.

A drawback in these examples is the need for a webmaster or web developer to extract text, send it, then re-insert the translated parts into the right places. It’s a drawback because it’s expensive. Systems are maturing that provide an interface that does the extract-send-receive-reinsert process at the click of a button or two.

One example is ClayTablet, which is a CMS plugin. It doesn’t translate anything. It gives you a sub-menu inside your existing CMS. You open a page in English, click “translate this page,” select the other-language, and click send. Behind the scenes, ClayTablet sends the page (or many pages at once) out to your Translation Service of choice, collects the translated copy back again, and posts it for you into your other-language website in the correct location. You open your other-language website, and the newly translated page is done and posted for you.

If you do global multisite management, you’ve already faced the translation issue, and addressed it one way or the other. I have read blogs and forums arguing that Machine Translation is ready for primetime. My impression, however, is that MT is high risk for embarrassing outputs that make you look bad. MT has a lot of maturing to do before it can replace human translators, though it can work as a helper to a human. Still, your best bet today is human translation, human input into a Translation Memory system for efficiency, and an automated send-&-receive like ClayTablet. That translates to higher quality and less cost.

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