Design & Development

The PeC Review: Google’s Translator Toolkit

Ecommerce makes the world smaller. Or, so it might seem. Shoppers in Budapest can by products from the U.S., while an American teen could be downloading folk music from a site in Nepal.

What’s more, expanding your customer bases to include potential shoppers from around the world can significantly boost sales, particularly if you sell a downloadable product. But going global may also mean that you need to offer your store’s pages, product descriptions, and shopping cart options in two or more languages, a daunting task.

Google’s improved Translator Toolkit lets merchants quickly generate an automatic translation and provides tools to modify that translation with the help of a fluent speaker. This is an important step for a free, instant translation tool and the primary reason that I am awarding the Google Translator Toolkit four-and-a-half out of a possible five stars in this, “The PeC Review.”

“The PeC Review” is my weekly column devoted to introducing you to the products or services that I believe can help you to improve your ecommerce business.

Machine Translation Is Never Enough

Each time that I have written about translation, I have been emphatic about my belief that professional translation requires a professional translator.

I think it is acceptable to use machine translation for short phrases, like navigation labels, but for product descriptions, legal text, policies, and checkout, you should use a translation service.

Using Machine Translation as Starting Point

Using a professional translation service, however, does not preclude you from using a machine translator as a starting point, since some translators are starting to charge less for editing than they do for translation.

And this is actually something that the Google Translator Toolkit does very well. Rather than just returning a block of translated copy, it places your original copy and your newly translated copy side by side. Next, it provides tools for a translator to modify the machine translations, and it even allows you to share those modifications so that other translators can build on your translator’s work in the future.

Learning From Others

Another helpful feature in Google Translator is that it shows you how other users have translated a particular phrase in the past. This may not directly help you with the copy from your website, but it can help you compare translations from vendor sites or look at how similar phrases were translated on Wikipedia.

Translation Memory

The Google Translator Toolkit supports translational memory exchange (TMX), which is an open XML standard, created specifically to make it possible to save and share translations.

To put it simply, you can translate a phrase or a page or a whole site, save that translation in the TMX format, and then call on that translation memory for future projects. For example, imagine that you operate a store that sells air purifiers. You translate your entire site, and two weeks later you introduce a new product. You could start a translation of that product description from scratch, but why? You have already translated a lot of very similar copy, and translation memory can help you to find those phrases that you have already approved for use. Then you only have to translate any new phrases from the product description.

Four-and-a-half stars

Testing the Google Translator Toolkit

I am pretty impressed with the free Google Translator Toolkit. It has great features, and I still believe that it does a good job of actually translating.

I put together a list of five common ecommerce-related phrases in English and I translated each into French. Then I translated the French phrases back into English to see how the Google Translator Toolkit did.

Original English: You do not have an item in your shopping cart.
French translation: Vous n’avez pas un article dans votre panier.
English re-translation: You have no items in your cart.

Original English: Add to cart.
French translation: Ajouter au panier.
English re-translation: Add to cart.

Original English: Subscribe to our newsletter.
French translation: Abonnez-vous à notre newsletter.
English re-translation: Subscribe to our newsletter.

Original English: Shop by brand.
French translation: Magasinez par marque.
English re-translation: Shop by brand.

Original English: Register. Forgot your password?
French translation: Registre. Vous avez oublié votre mot de passe?
English re-translation: Register. Forgot your password?

Summing Up

The Google Translator Toolkit lets merchants begin with machine translation and improve from there. It brings together the idea of instant translation and the recognition that good translations require a human element. It integrates translation memory into a free tool, and it does all of these things well, earning it four-and-a-half out of a possible five stars in this “The PeC Review.”

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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