5 mistakes that make your web lost in translation

your web lost in translation
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Having a website these days means being open to the whole world. Clients can visit you from any spot on the planet.

The decision to have it translated into different languages is based on:

  • where you want to expand your business
  • what kind of clients you want to attract or have
  • even the possibility to find alliances with different partners in different countries

However, it is not easy to establish a business. What’s more, having it available in different languages is a tedious task but with fantastic results if all the steps in the process have been taken into account.

English is a universal language, but not all people around the world speak or read it.

When a customer is looking for information, products, or services and find them in their own native language (no matter what their English level is), they feel safe, comfortable. It is likely that the client gathers your website as a reference.

This is thanks to the art of writing, in this case, translating (adapting your content to their locale, that is web localization). Providing the same information in different languages is not all about replacing one word from a language to another.

No, not at all.

Proper web localization to avoid these 5 mistakes that make your web lost in translation


Web localization means taking extra care. This special translation adjusts many tiny and huge options to the context, culture, and knowledge of the people from the target language so they feel comfortable and safe on your website.

Nowadays, there are many options in the market you can choose from when you decide to have your website translated.

You can use Machine Translation for the internalization of your website. Well, let me tell you something: not even Google like it for websites. Besides, when you read a machine-translated text, you can notice many parts are not consistent. What is more, some words have not the right meaning because they have been translated independently and not in context. So, the whole text is not what you expected at all.

You know somebody who can speak the target language and may help. Knowing languages doesn’t make you a translator, you are a native of your language but I guess you are not an expert writer.

Then you search for a professional translator, a person you can rely on because this person has the experience and knowledge to deliver an excellent final text. Congratulations! You get it.

This translator will help you to create your perfect international site by avoiding the following mistakes most websites have. Avoid these 5 mistakes that make your website lost in translation:


1.- Wrong context

Context is key when translating. Things can be said in many different ways and context helps us to translate correctly a text, term, or sentence.

For example:

  • Sign up
  • Sign-in

With no context, “sign” is a normal verb with a very specific meaning in Spanish: Firmar. Within the context, we know it is a button. We find right after filling out a questionnaire to have access to a new site.

Firmar is clear not to be the best option here because this Spanish word has no relation to getting access to anywhere. So normally sign-in is translated as entrar, acceder, or even a simple “OK”.

But there is another relevant aspect here, the mistranslation between “sign up” and “sign-in”.

On many webs, you can see that the button Entrar or Acceder. This button is actually leading to the registering site instead of just asking you to write your username and password.

So, again, here it is about context. Knowing what a button triggers helps the translator to choose what is the best option in each case.


2.- Numbers

There is nothing more different than numbers in different languages.

1,500 is not the same in English as in Spanish. In the later, we are talking about decimals, because if you want to refer to a thousand you have to write a dot. Which actually is for decimals in English.

It is confusing, but a translator knows that because it is something related to cultural adaptation. Thus, to web localization.

1 billion in English cannot be directly translated as 1 billion in Spanish. Why? Because in Spanish billón refers to 1,000,000,000,000! So, the right equivalent to 1 billion (this is, 1,000,000,000) is mil millones or millardo.

Numbers are essential in any business and international commerce relation as it can cause great misunderstandings in budgets, sells or buys.


3.- Cultural adaptation

Knowing your potential client or buyer persona is not only about their buying habits, solving their problems, and offering the services they need. It really means to adapt your business to that culture.

Language is the principal adaptation you have to take into account, but there are more.

You should pay attention to:

  • Colours: some combinations may result offensive in some countries or cultures. It is well known that having a product with red-yellow-red colours might fail in sales here because people notice how similar it is to the Spanish flag colours.
  • Product names: Have you heard about Amazon translation into Swedish? It is worth having a look and see how some products have been translated into sexual, harassment, and violent words… Even a Korean car manufacturer didn’t notice one of their models’ name had a very strong sexual connotation for the Spanish market.
  • Days: so simple as a mistake with days, weeks can lead to a misunderstanding in the day or week when something is delivered or received, a meeting, conference, etc. In English weeks normally begin on Sunday. But in Spanish, they begin on Monday.
  • Dates: the biggest confusion at all. While English prefers to write first months, Spanish goes its way and write it in the second position. So make sure your English date 05/04/2020 is well adapted into Spanish. Because 4th of May 2020 will be in Spanish 04/05/2020.


4.- Spanish variants

Spanish is spoken in 23 countries, each of them with each own variants and vocabulary.

There is a so-called “neutral Spanish”. But when one of the differences among the Spanish countries is the use of pronouns, how can it be neutral? Or how a translator would know what is the neutral term?

It is true that if you want to use neutral Spanish you should pay attention to those negative or inappropriate connotations from the language and vocabulary. For example, coger is not the same in South America as in Spain.

If you are translating a manual and one of the instructions refers to using a tool, you’d better avoid using coger and choose other options and synonyms as tomar or even usar. Particularly if the manual is going to be used in Central or South America. Here the context allows us to go a bit further in other translations.

Spanish spoken in Argentina or Uruguay is not the same as the one used in Spain. One of those differences is the use of pronouns “vos” or “tú”. Which one to use? Again, your audience is primordial and you should know who you are talking to in order to use one or the other.

This has a close relation to the number of languages you want your page to be translated to. With 23 Spanish variants that would be chaos, so choosing the principal ones could be enough.


5.- Consistent terminology

Speak your client’s language. It can be clear and simple but use the same terms and vocabulary as in the industry or final customer.

Complex texts, with difficult vocabulary or quite a technical one, can be your worst ally in a non-tech environment.

The vocabulary you use will show the type of business you are. Use English words when needed, but don’t fill a paragraph with them and moreover if you think your Spanish readers won’t understand them.

As you can imagine after reading this article, translation is not an easy thing and has to be handled with extra care. It requires the same importance as any other step in your business.

These 5 mistakes your website may have are some of a greater group. But they all have a solution: work with language professionals, they will help you to create the perfect website for your customers and potential clients.

If you have noticed your Spanish translated website needs a review, I would be more than happy to help you get a faultless place for your business partners. Let’s get in touch!

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