Nowadays, users want to interact with online brands in their native language. This makes a lot of sense. Having multilingual content shows that the company cares and ensures a seamless user experience, especially for purchases.
Yet, many websites fail to offer multilingual options for users. One solution that provides real-time web translation is called a translation proxy. Let’s take a closer look at translation proxies to better understand their pros and cons, and whether they’re a good long-term localization solution for companies going global.
A translation proxy is often described as a “linguistic mirror.” Basically, users can select their preferred language on the website and the proxy will serve a real-time translation of the content. Most proxies today make use of machine translation, though some may rely on banks of approved translation strings.
Bottom line: the translation proxy layers on translated content so users can view and interact with the original website in the language of their choice. This is quite different from having a separate website for each language, or even a CMS that allows for customized translations to be manually set up.
Translation proxies can be beneficial for companies looking to get multilingual content up and running ASAP.
Real-time translation: Your users can access real-time translation of your web content with the click of a button.
Cost effective: Instead of hiring a team of translators to manually translate your content, you can simply hire a translation proxy. Typically, you’ll pay a monthly fee for the proxy service.
Minimal hosting costs: You don’t need to spend on hosting and create a new site for a popular language. Instead the proxy service works directly on your original site.
While translation proxies are beneficial in terms of initial cost and speed of implementation, they also have some drawbacks. Here are some reasons why translation proxies may not be the ideal localization solution for your website:
Site load time: Proxies can make your site take longer to load. This may be a problem for the overall user experience.
SEO penalties: Automatically generated content doesn’t go over well with Google. You might not get the same SEO power and ranking when using proxies.
Hidden costs: Proxies can get your site localized in no time. However, you may see costs hike as you get more traffic to your site, as proxies services often charge more according to page views. At the same time, any customization may require extra charges.
Little customization: You’ll have little flexibility with a proxy, as you can’t create custom translations for different locales or for dynamic content.
Little control: Translation proxies are third-party services, which means all concerns about pricing and performance aren’t directly in your hands.
Translation proxies have their pros and cons, but these pitfalls may have you thinking twice about using them in the long term.
Bleed-through fails: Sometimes the proxy scraping process fails to translate strings of content, resulting in a bleed-through. In this case, users will be served a mix-language translation that could be confusing and clunky.
Non-text materials left behind: Translation proxies aren’t able to process non-text materials, such as videos, downloadables and visuals. This means you’ll have to put a non-text localization strategy in place to make sure this content is available to users.
Lack of linguistic nuance: Proxies aren’t known for their elegance. In fact, sometimes translation proxies can fail to capture the linguistic nuance, leading to serious errors or a mismatch in tone. This lack of nuance may not win you over new customers.
As you can see, translation proxies aren’t for everybody. In fact, they may only be a good idea for timely situations. For example, proxies may be beneficial for businesses that:
- Use mostly static pages with low risk of translation error.
- Frequently publish low-traffic, text-only content.
- Require extremely low-cost, temporary solutions.
- Need to test out a new locale before investing in a long-term localization solution.
Even so, the risk of translation proxies may not be worth it for businesses, especially if you need a more customized service.
In the end, translation proxies are great for a handful of specific situations, but typically aren’t right for long-term localization. If you have important pages that matter for your product, brand, customer experience, or marketing, translation proxies likely won't get you where you'd like to be.
As you consider targeting new locales, think twice about translation proxies. You’re more likely to get better results by investing in a full-scale localization strategy that guarantees a high-quality user experience.
People ≠ dictionaries.