Se Habla Español
Did you know?
- Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the world, behind English and Mandarin Chinese.
- According to the New York Post, as of 2015, there were 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the United States, and another 11.6 million who were bilingual. (41 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. is more than there are in the whole of Spain!)
These are more than just fun facts — if you do business in an area with a population of Spanish-speakers, or if you do business directly with the Spanish-speaking community at home or abroad, you should consider having your website integrated into Spanish to reach that segment of your target market.
Here we’ll discuss three of the most popular options for translating a website into Spanish, and the pros and cons of each.
Translating a Website Into Spanish – What are your Options?
Option 1: Google Translate
Pros: Google Translate is free, very easy to install (just some extra code), and it’s more accurate than some other online translation tools.
Google uses a statistical learning approach to translation rather than a rules-based approach. With a rules-based approach, you basically end up with a word-for-word translation, which any professional human translator will tell you can be sorely inaccurate.
A statistical learning approach means that many (but not all) of Google Translate’s translations are selected from translations already existing online. That gives them a bit of a leg up when it comes to accuracy.
According to Redline Language Services:
[Google’s statistical learning approach] feeds billions of words (both monolingual text and “aligned” text that humans have translated) into its program. Then it lets the tool find popular matches.
Cons: Google Translate is a machine translator, so you’re missing the human element to translation, which will affect context and relevancy to your audience. While the program has improved over time, its accuracy is still in question. Also, images cannot be translated by Google Translate.
Redline went on to say:
… when you use Google Translate, you are handing over your text to a faceless tech giant with no guarantee of getting an accurate result in return. (This is the true cost of “free.”)
Our opinion: Unless you have a really small Spanish-speaking audience and zero budget, Google Translate is not for professional use.
Option 2: Translation Plugin
There are several translation plugins out there: Google Language Translator, WPML (WordPress Multilingual Plugin), Polylang, qTranslate, Transposh, Multilingual Press, and Stella are a few.
Pros: Like Google Translate, plugins are easy to install, many are free, and they save you the time and significant cost of having to have your site professionally and manually translated.
Cons: Plugins are also machines, so you can expect some things to get lost in translation, which could end up being confusing or off-putting to your Spanish-speaking audience. Additionally, from a website maintenance and security perspective, a translation plugin can interfere with other plugins on your site and make the website more difficult to manage. Also, as with Google Translate, images cannot be translated by a machine.
Finally, your design could be compromised by a translation plugin. According to Panama Creative Services:
Translator plugins cannot redesign a page’s elements to compensate for the extra space, or reduced space, caused by shifting text – this can sometimes cause a page’s layout to be compromised.
Our opinion: Unless you have an e-commerce site and need all your data in one place, we don’t recommend plugins that could compromise the look and functionality of your website.
Option 3: Mirror Site
A mirror site is a separate website that is a duplicate of your English site, translated into Spanish by a human translator.
Pros: Human translation is ideal to ensure accuracy and relevance to your audience. Every language has regional dialects and nuances; for example, when speaking Spanish to someone from Spain versus to someone from Mexico, yes, you are speaking Spanish to both, but elements of the lingo will be different, including figures of speech and so on.
You also won’t have to worry about the translation affecting the design, functionality, or security of your website.
Cons: It’s more costly and time-consuming than adding a bit of code or a plugin. Also, if you have an e-commerce site, you won’t want to use a mirror site because vital data will not be confined to one place.
Our opinion: Unless you have an e-commerce site, we highly recommend this route. Yes, the cost is higher, but the value to your Spanish-speaking audience will far surpass that of Google Translate or a translation plugin.