I have just read a blog post on Mashable with the intriguing title “10 Ways to Turn Your Local Business Into a Global Success“. The author mentions several good points, some of which are not immediately obvious. For instance, allowing for Bidi languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, in your web layout or respecting local preferences for payment systems.
However, the first item on the list I have to disagree with. The author advises to quickly translate a business’s website on the cheap, using services like myGengo or machine translation. With more than 10 years localization experience under by belt and the last three years dedicated to web localization, I can tell for sure that this is a recipe for disaster. Marketing-oriented web copy does not lend itself easily to MT. MT is usable for translating highly controlled source text or for the purpose of gisting, but not much more. Besides, there is a lot more involved than just translating the text when localizing web content. There are editing and review steps, web production, and other technical work.
Web localization is a complex craft that should not be diminished by suggesting that it could be achieved quickly and cheaply in the manners described by the author, while achieving results that provide professional quality. Maybe the blog post really is about only “9 Ways to turn your local business into a global success” and “One sure-fire way to turn your local business into a global failure.” IMHO.