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Launching a Multilingual website in 7 steps

Posted by Annemieke, October 21 2013

If your audience consists of speakers of different languages, it is a good idea to launch a multilingual site offering your content in two or more languages. Launching a multilingual site can be a complex, time consuming process that you will want to get right the first time. We have set out the most important considerations to bear in mind from the start. Of course if you would like more information or discuss your project, give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723 or email

Gathering requirements

As with any website project, the key to a successful multilingual site is to think about your requirements. The following questions could be used as a starting point:

  • Will every single piece of content be translated, including blogs and calls to actions, or will you offer only key content in foreign languages? If, for example, you do not have the resources to update the blog in each language, it might be worth considering removing it from the foreign language site altogether.
  • Will you structure your sites based on languages or territories, or both? For example, will there be a separate site for Northern Ireland and Ireland, and will there be both a French and an English version of your Canadian site? How will this be reflected in the URL structure?
  • Is there an online purchasing system? Does this need to be localized – for example the currency, delivery timelines, postage costs, VAT?
  • Will images need to be localized?
  • Who is going to manage the content for each site? If you work with in-house translators and multilingual SEO providers, will they all be working in your CMS at the same time? How many concurrent users will your CMS license need to allow for? If you are using an external supplier, how will you manage the translation and SEO processes? Do you work with native speakers to check all content? Does the CMS need a workflow system to ensure all content is translated?
  • Are there any restrictions with regards to your server setup? This may impact on your URL structure and SEO strategy.
  • How will you roll out future updates to your site? Having to update several language sites may increase maintenance and translation costs depending on the technology you are working with.
  • How will you decide which language to present to the user? Do you want to use IP information to detect where a user is based, and serve content based on that location? There are some downsides to this method. Another option is to show a language selector, such as the one on
  • Do you have separate social media profiles for each market? Should your French site, for example, show only your French Tweets and Facebook posts?
  • Are the required domain names available?

At this stage it is also a good idea to consider your offline processes. For example, if you work with external suppliers, how will you respond to enquiries in different languages? You may have a customer service representative for each language, so ensure the integration with your online content is smooth.

Technical considerations

If you are creating a new website from scratch, research CMS systems and their multilingual capabilities. Most providers will happily organise a demonstration to run you through the language features. Check that the technology fits your requirements and processes now and in the future. Once you have decided on the technology that will be used, map out both the initial and the ongoing localization process. Chances are that the website needs to be created in your main language first, ensuring that all development issues have been resolved, before rolling the site out for all territories.

Include the following considerations in the technical brief:

  • The language code must be set for each language version, so that software such as screen readers can identify the language and interpret the content.
  • Ensure it's clear to search engines what version of your site they are looking at, utilising Google Webmaster Tools and Hreflang attributes.
  • Keep the content for each language on separate URLs. Don’t use cookies to show translated versions of the page.
  • Consider cross-linking each language version of a page. That way, a French user who lands on the German version of your page can get to the right language version with a single click. Linking content in one language, to the equivalent content in a different language helps Google know what your pages are about. However, setting this up may take more development than having one button for each language which takes you to each translated version of the homepage, and it is unlikely that users will want to change their preferred language frequently.

Multilingual content creation

  • Your content will need to be translated by native speakers. Think about whether your content will also need to be adapted for different accents, for instance European Portuguese and South American Portuguese, or European French and Canadian French.
  • How will content be added to the site? Will this be done by your translation company or by your internal resources?
  • When choosing a translation agency, make sure they are used to working with your preferred workflow. If you're happy to outsource all of your multilingual content creation, Media Lingo will happily work within your chosen CMS.
  • Ensure that the translators or the translation agency you work with offers multilingual SEO, as you don't want to end up with a site that is not optimized for your intended target market. They should be able to work with your SEO strategy.
  • It is important to consider duplicate content and international sites - Websites that provide content for different regions and in different languages sometimes create content that is the same or similar but available on different URLs. This is generally not a problem as long as the content is for different users in different countries. While it is strongly recommended that you provide unique content for each different group of users, this may not always be possible. There is generally no need to "hide" the duplicates by disallowing crawling in a robots.txt file or by using a "noindex" robots meta tag. However, if you're providing the same content to the same users on different URLs (for instance, if both and show German language content for users in Germany), you should pick a preferred version and redirect (or use therel=canonical link element) appropriately. In addition, you should follow the guidelines onrel-alternate-hreflang to make sure that the correct language or regional URL is served to searchers.

Multilingual SEO strategy

One of the first things you will want to think about is the preferred URL structure. This will depend on your technical setup and your marketing goals. Google offers a wealth of information on the best set up. In short, there are four common approaches to structuring multilingual and multi-regional sites:

  • ccTLDs (country-code top-level domains) e.g
  • Subdomains with gTLDs (generic top-level domain name) e.g.
  • Subdirectories with GTLDs e.g.
  • URL parameters e.g. (not recommended)

Each has its pros and cons and so the approach you choose is down to your preferred server setup, marketing strategy and available resource. If most of your content is focused on a single territory (e.g. .com) and you want to drive SEO authority to that domain, subdirectories are preferable (search engines treat subdomains as separate entities). This is relatively easy to setup and host on a single server and can usually be managed from a single CMS. Whilst ccTLDs have advantages such as clearer geotargeting, Google recommends using subdirectories or subdomains if time and resources are limited. (Read more on


In addition to the standard accessibility requirements for any site, when creating a multilingual site there are a number of additional factors to consider. The most important ones are:

  • Ensure your images have a different Alternative text in each language using the Alt attribute
  • Ensure screen reader software can identify the language by setting the language version correctly
  • When creating a link to content in a different language, you need to let people using assistive technologies know about this by using the ‘hreflang’ tag
  • Make sure the font sizes are appropriate for each language. Depending on the languages used on your site, for example Chinese and Arabic, you may need to increase the font size.


When dealing with different languages or even different scripts, the layout of your pages will need to be flexible. In particular, include the following considerations into your creative brief:

  • The design should allow for right – to –left languages such as Arabic. You may want to mirror the entire design for such languages, this is something the United Nations have done (
  • The design should allow for text expansion and contraction. To find out how much your content is likely to contract or expand by, please read "Will the translated version be longer or shorter than the original document?". Test the layout with varying amounts of text to ensure the content won't break the design.
  • The design should include a clear and intuitive language switcher to allow users to easily switch between languages or regions.
  • Colours may have a different meaning in different markets. Whilst purple suggests royalty and spirituality in the West, it represents mourning in Thailand and sorrow in India. For a full list of colours and their meanings in different cultures, please go to

Social media

  • Subtitling videos: Do you use videos on your site? Consider having these subtitled for your foreign audience. They are an increasingly important marketing tool and a viral video is one of the best ways of driving business.
  • Which media will you be using in which country? Will you have a separate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest account for each language or territory? Who will be producing multilingual content for these channels and who will post these?
  • It may be worth using country specific social media as well. Research which ones your brand would benefit from.

Media Lingo can help you plan out the design and development of your multilingual website. For more information or to discuss your requirements, please email us on or give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723.

  Posted by Annemieke, October 21 2013
  Languages, Multilingual SEO, Website Translation



The best WordPress plugins for a multilingual website

Posted by Annemieke, September 17 2013

If you currently have a Wordpress website in one language and are looking to move into foreign markets, it is worth looking into the following plugins which allow you to manage multilingual content. Please note the information offered below is from the Wordpress site and we have not tested these plugins. If you have any suggestions or comments on this list, please get in touch. Email or give us a call on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723.

QTranslate (3.7 out of 5 stars, 816 reviews)

qTranslate was created as an easy to use interface for managing a fully multilingual website. It makes creation of multilingual content as easy as working with a single language. These are some of its features:

  • qTranslate Services – Professional human and automated machine translation with two clicks
  • One-Click-Switching between the languages – Change the language as easy as switching between Visual and HTML
  • Language customizations without changing the .mo files – Use Quick-Tags instead for easy localization
  • Multilingual dates out of the box – Translates dates and time for you
  • Comes with a lot of languages already builtin! – English, German, Simplified Chinese and a lot of others
  • No more juggling with .mo-files! – qTranslate will download them automatically for you
  • Choose one of 3 Modes to make your URLs pretty and SEO-friendly. – The everywhere compatible ?lang=en, simple and beautiful /en/foo/ or nice and neat
  • One language for each URL – Users and SEO will thank you for not mixing multilingual content
  • qTranslate supports infinite languages, which can be easily added/modified/deleted via the comfortable Configuration Page. All you need to do is activate the plugin and start writing the content.

Basic Bilingual (5 out of 5 stars, 2 reviews)

This plugin allows you to set the language of individual posts and pages and to summarize them in other languages.

The excerpts are automatically inserted right before the post content, with the correct language attribute. The correct language attribute is also set on the post titles and original content.

Polylang (4.8 out of 5 stars, 243 reviews)

Polylang allows you to create a bilingual or multilingual WordPress site. You write posts, pages and create categories and post tags as usual, and then define the language for each of them. The translation of a post, whether it is in the default language or not, is optional. These are some of the main features:

  • The translation has to be done by the site editor as Polylang does not integrate with an automatic or professional translation service.
  • You can use as many languages as you want. RTL language scripts are supported.
  • WordPress languages files are automatically downloaded and updated. 
  • You can translate posts, pages, media, categories, post tags, menus, widgets etc. Custom post types, custom taxonomies, sticky posts and post formats, RSS feeds and all default WordPress widgets are supported.
  • The language is either set by the content or by the language code in url (either directory or subdomain), or you can use one different domain per language
  • Categories, post tags as well as some other metas are automatically copied when adding a new post or page translation
  • A customizable language switcher is provided as a widget or in the nav menu
  • The admin interface is of course multilingual too and each user can set the WordPress admin language in its profile

Multilingual Press Free (4.5 out of 5 stars, 20 reviews)

This plugin allows you to connect multiple sites as language alternatives in a multisite. You can use a customizable widget to link to all sites.

It lets you connect an unlimited amount of sites with each other. You set a main language for each site, create relationships (connections), and start writing. A new field will appear to create a linked post on all the connected sites automatically. These are accessible via the post/page editor screen, and you can switch back and forth to translate them.

When you disable this plugin, all sites will still work as separate sites without any data-loss or unwanted output.

Features of the free version

  • Set up unlimited blog relations in the site manager.
  • View the translations for each post or page underneath the post editor.
  • Show a list of links for all translations on each page in a flexible widget.
  • No lock-in: After deactivation, all sites will still work.
  • No free ad hoc support is offered.

Pro Version

The pro-version offers many features to save time and to improve the work flow and user experience:

  • Support for custom post types.
  • Automatically redirect to the user's preferred language version of a post.
  • Edit all translations for a post from the original post editor without the need to switch sites.
  • Duplicate blogs. Use one blog as template for new blogs, copy everything: Posts, attachments, settings for plugins and themes, navigation menus, categories, tags and custom taxonomies.
  • Synchronized trash: move all connected post to trash with one click.
  • Quicklinks. Add links to language alternatives to a post automatically to the post content. This is especially useful when you don't use widgets or a sidebar.
  • User specific language settings for the back-end. Every user can choose a preferred language for the user interface without affecting the output of the front-end.
  • Show posts with incomplete translations in a dashboard widget.

WPLM (5 out of 5 stars, 3 reviews)

WPML makes it possible to turn WordPress blogs multilingual in a few minutes with no knowledge of PHP or WordPress. Its advanced features allow professional web developers to build full multilingual websites.

  • Powerful translation management, allowing teams of translators to work on multilingual sites.
  • Built-in theme localization without .mo files.
  • Comments translation allows you to moderate and reply to comments in your own language.
  • Includes CMS navigation elements for drop down menus, breadcrumbs trail and sidebar navigation.
  • Robust links to posts and pages that never break.
  • WPML is also offering full integration with Gravity Forms, so you can easily translate all the forms on your site as well.
  • ICanLocalize, the creators of WPML, offer commercial support for WPML. This support provides timely and dependable help directly from the developers.

For more information on these and other available plugins to make a multilingual Wordpress site, please go to For comments or suggestions regarding this list, please contact us on or call +31 (0)23 - 2024 723.

  Posted by Annemieke, September 17 2013
  Languages, Multilingual SEO, Website Translation



The same brain activity is used for language and tool-making

Posted by Annemieke, September 02 2013

Research by the University of Liverpool has found that the same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools, supporting the theory that they evolved at the same time.

Researchers from the University tested the brain activity of 10 expert stone tool makers (flint knappers) as they undertook a stone tool-making task and a standard language test. They measured the brain blood flow activity of the participants as they performed both tasks using functional Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound (fTCD), commonly used in clinical settings to test patients’ language functions after brain damage or before surgery.

The researchers found that brain patterns for both tasks correlated, suggesting that they both use the same area of the brain. Language and stone tool-making are considered to be unique features of humankind that evolved over millions of years. Darwin was the first to suggest that tool-use and language may have co-evolved, because they both depend on complex planning and the coordination of actions but until now there has been little evidence to support this.

Dr Georg Meyer, from the University Department of Experimental Psychology, said: “This is the first study of the brain to compare complex stone tool-making directly with language. “Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks. This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-making and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain.”

Dr Natalie Uomini from the University’s Department of Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, said: “Nobody has been able to measure brain activity in real time while making a stone tool. This is a first for both archaeology and psychology.”


  Posted by Annemieke, September 02 2013



Broadcasters accused of clumsy subtitles – should we be dubbing all films and television programmes?

Posted by Annemieke, August 27 2013

David Blunkett, Labour’s former home secretary, who was born blind, has accused broadcasters of providing a poor service to people with hearing and sight problems. He believes they are failing to deal with the issue of an ageing population suffering from blindness and deafness. He also said that the blind were left frustrated when foreign dramas and documentaries were not dubbed.

A spokesman for Ofcom said: "Viewers have made clear to us that they have concerns about the quality of subtitling. So we recently announced proposals to improve this, working with deaf and hearing impaired viewers and groups, as well as broadcasters. We expect to finalise our plans in the next few months."
In many countries, Italy and Germany in particular, the dubbing of foreign-language films is routine and comprehensive. In other countries, such as the Netherlands, most foreign films and programmes are subtitled.

Subtitling and dubbing each have their upsides and downsides. Dubbing tends to be more costly and some of the cultural nuances of the foreign film are lost, whilst subtitles often need to summarize the soundtrack rather than provide a full translation. Dubbing, when done well, can be less obtrusive whilst subtitles may help language learning.

In an ideal world, each viewer could choose to view any film or programmed either with subtitles or dubbed, but this is not (yet) realistic. At the moment, the main deciding factor appears to be a cultural one. Dubbing is regarded as annoying in the Netherlands, while the English tend to find subtitles distracting. But with an ageing population, people with hearing and sight impairments are becoming part of the mainstream, and the need for access to films and television programmes will only increase.

If you are planning a film, documentary of television programme and would like to find out more about subtitling, please get in touch. We would love to discuss your plans with you. Please call +31 (0)23 - 2024 723 or email

  Posted by Annemieke, August 27 2013
  Film and Television, Subtitling



Cheap subtitling: an expensive mistake?

Posted by Annemieke, August 12 2013

Subtitles should enable a foreign audience to enjoy and understand a film spoken in a different language whilst maintaining the integrity of the script. Of course, the translator might need to take some freedom when translating colloquial phrases, but the subtitler should stick to the intentions of the film maker without trying to add or change meaning.

The translator who subtitled the film Pacific Rim recently was widely considered to have strayed too far from the original script. In addition, the Chinese subtitles were criticised for the quality of their translation with suggestions that they were inaccurate and unprofessional. For example, the translation of the phrase "Elbow Rocket" (a fighting technique associated with the Jaizu of Pacific Rim) into "Pegasus Meteor fist" (a technique belonging to Saint Seiya, a completely different manga) caused considerable annoyance.

Situations such as these seem to occur when the importance of accurate, aesthetically pleasing subtitles is underestimated. This may mean subtitling is not factored into the time and cost budget, resulting in a rushed subtitling process and a set of subtitles of low quality which do not do the original film or the audience justice.

To avoid mistakes such as these, it is important to plan the subtitling cost and timescales into your project from the start as well as making sure the finished titles are proofread by a professional editor. If you would like to discuss your project or find out what we can do for you, please contact us on

  Posted by Annemieke, August 12 2013
  Film and Television, Languages, Proofreading, Subtitling, Translation



A new language born in outback Australia

Posted by Annemieke, July 25 2013

A new language has been born in outback Australia. It is called ‘Light Warlpiri’ and is only spoken by a small group of people under 35. The creation of the new language is thought to be linked to the remoteness of the town and is believed to have emerged in the 1970s and 1980s.

This is fantastic news for linguists. When we read in the newspaper about languages that are spoken by few people, in most cases the trend seems to be that languages are dying out. It is exciting to think that new languages are actually being born. The linguist who discovered the linguist is confident that it will survive, saying “Light Warlpiri seems quite robust”.

If you are in need of Light Warlpiri translation though, you may need to wait a while. As far as we are aware, there are no professional Light Warlpiri translators yet. We will keep you posted, of course!

  Posted by Annemieke, July 25 2013
  Languages, Subtitling



Subtitle site “Undertexter” raided by police

Posted by Annemieke, July 10 2013

A Swedish subtitle website,, which used to provide online subtitles for existing movies has lost its servers in a police raid today. The site’s founders are also facing up to two years in prison.

Last year, the owner of a site offering a similar service, Norsub, was warned that his site was breaking the law. He shut it down shortly after the warning was issued and he was fined £1,640. It appears that, although Sweden used to be a country where users could share files online freely, recently companies in Hollywood are cracking down hard on online subtitling sharing in an effort to protect their intellectual property. Their argument is that websites such as Undertexter are profiting from the work of others.

The site’s founder, Eugen Archy, said: “The people who work on the site don’t consider their own interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially when we’re handing out these interpretations for free,”. Undertexter’s added on their Facebook page “Hollywood... we will never give up, we live in a free country and Swedish people have every right to publish their own interpretation of a movie/series”.

Ernesto van der Sar is the editor of the Torrentfreak news site. He told the BBC: “"These subtitles are created by the most passionate fans the industry has and they are not in any way out to make a profit, these sites exist because they offer a service to the deaf and foreign language audience that's often lacking through legal channels."

Although it is fantastic that passionate film fans want to make movies available to the deaf and foreign language audiences, this type of subtitling is harmful to the film and subtitling industries. Whilst these subtitles are created by film enthusiasts, they are almost never checked by professional subtitlers or translators. Lack of editing and proofreading inevitably results in a lower standard of the subtitles from both a linguistic and a stylistic point of view, which can and often does detract from an otherwise well-made movie. This does injustice to both the original movie as well as the subtitling profession.

Additionally, in the longer term the trend to online ‘free’ subtitling could force professional subtitlers out of their job and lead to declining quality levels in the subtitling profession. Being a professional subtitler takes time, effort and money. The technical challenges are just the start. The art of subtitling requires the linguist to be able to successfully render speech into two lines of 37 characters without losing any of the directors’s intention or nuances in the script, whilst ensuring that the text flows so naturally that it does not detract from the viewer’s experience. This is a job best handled by professionals.

  Posted by Annemieke, July 10 2013



Why to conduct Multilingual SEO before having your website translated

Posted by Annemieke, June 10 2013

One of our clients recently requested that instead of us doing the Multilingual SEO review at the start of the localisation project, he would prefer to do the translation first. That way, he reasoned, we could have the website translated sooner, see initial SEO results sooner and start monitoring the results and fine-tuning the translated copy gradually over the next year.

Whilst we would certainly recommend monitoring the SEO performance after launching your language sites, investing some time at the start of the translation project to create your multilingual SEO strategy is essential. Without a properly localised SEO strategy, money and effort could be wasted on unsuitable content and tactics.

We always undertake keyword research and competitor analysis as part of our Multilingual SEO activities. The outcome of this research is a guide for translators and transcreators when translating a website as it contains the phrases and keywords they need to focus on. Additionally, this research occasionally dictates a site structure that deviates from the main site in order to reflect the target market's demands.

Doing this research not only speeds up the translation process, it also returns faster SEO results and most importantly, long term relevant search traffic.

  Posted by Annemieke, June 10 2013
  Multilingual SEO



Five common misconceptions about Translation

Posted by Annemieke, May 14 2013

1) The more languages a translator speaks, the better

It would be great to work with a translator who speaks many languages fluently, wouldn't it? Realistically, most translators specialise in one language and are pretty busy just keeping up with the relevant professional literature to keep developing their knowledge of that language. It is also best if translators are immersed in their target language (their native language) to keep up with linguistic developments. Some manage two, but any more and it is unlikely that a translator is able to maintain the required standard.

Therefore Media Lingo prefers to work with translators who specialise in one target language only.

2) All translators translate books

There are many specialisms within translation and most of the work is for business related purposes rather than literature. Many translators start out translating copy in an area they have a professional background in - such as aviation, chemistry, geography, film or food & beverage - whilst others study a language and don't specialise until later on in their career.

Whilst some of Media Lingo's translators have translated books, this is not one of our selection criteria. Our main priority is that they have up-to-date knowledge of their specialist area.

3) Every word or phrase has an equivalent

There are many words and phrases in every language that don't have equivalents in any other language. Conversely, in some countries there may be several words to describe something where there is only one in English. Translation therefore requires in-depth knowledge of two languages as well as creative writing skills to recreate the source text in the foreign language.

4) Once someone knows all the words, translation is just a matter of converting them correctly

When I went into my translation exam a number of years ago, a friend of mine commented on the pile of dictionaries and linguistic reference books I was bringing in. She said "isn't that cheating?".

But even if a translator knew the dictionary by heart, translation is about re-writing copy in a different language and for a different audience. The source text is the guide from which the meaning and intention should be taken, but it is then up to the translator to successfully create a foreign version that retains the intention of the writer, communicates his or her message, and reads like an original piece.

5) Translators are always changing the meaning of copy

Every non-translation event I go to, I get the same response when I introduce myself as a translator. "Ah, I know of this experiment where they had a document translated into German, then into French and then back to English, and it came out saying something completely different!". I have heard several variations on this story, both with automated translation and professional translation, but no-one can ever tell me what they mean by "completely different". I am very keen to find out, because I think this is a myth.

When using machine translation, I don't think you can expect much more than a literal translation when you translate the copy for the first time. The next language will then, naturally, not make sense. However paid translators should be able to retain the message and intention of the source text even if it goes through several rounds.

  Posted by Annemieke, May 14 2013



10% Off Translation and Subtitling in May and June

Posted by Annemieke, April 26 2013

Now is the time to get your website translated!

If you've been thinking about getting your website translated, now is the perfect time to do it. Media Lingo is offering 10% off your first translation order in May and June! This discount applies to all translations and subtitles that are translated into two or more languages.

Looking to expand your client base?

We have added information on our website about some of the languages we offer and the number of potential clients you can reach through each language.

Have a look on the website to see what we can do for you, and please contact us to discuss your requirements on +31 (0)23 - 2024 723 or

Kind regards,

Media Lingo

  Posted by Annemieke, April 26 2013
  Subtitling, Translation, Website Translation