Man United will join millions of people to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse, which falls on 31 January. The club will use its own official Chinese website, to appeal to Chinese-speaking fans. It’s fair to assume the club doesn’t have to justifying the investment in translated content for the site, a mirror image of the British version.

Chinese seems to be the one language UK businesses choose to translate content and marketing material into. You may not find a website in other languages, but when you do it’s likely to be Chinese to appeal to the world’s fastest growing market.

To translate content or not, that is the question. Do you translate content into the language of your target market? Some 32% of SMEs believe having an English language website is enough when attempting to trade internationally, according to a survey by translation and transcription provider, Global Lingo.

Over half believe English is the ‘international language of business’ and therefore the only language needed for trading overseas. But 36% also admitted that they wouldn’t want the ‘expense’ of translating their website and communication material into their target country’s language.

Must you provide translations of your webpages? How many languages to translate them into? The size of most websites makes keeping content fresh a challenge. Google provides a free online language tool that translates web pages into 70 languages, adequate for basic results. But then what do I know, professional translation isn’t a service I provide, I leave that to the experts. Such as Sally McPhail,  a German language consultant, she’s invested in a German language version of her website. Go visit.

However, I will do the final step, the localisation where I take translated content and adapt it for the UK market using my industry knowledge. Most recently the brand guidelines for the People’s Postcode Lottery, produced by the Dutch speaking head office and written assuming a prior knowledge of design processes and print techniques. I was brought in to rewrite the English translation, to make it accessible and engaging. It’s a good cost effective approach to bring in a freelancer.

Being language lazy I’m more likely to be found with Waygo, an app that translates Chinese characters into English. Simply point your smartphone at the restaurant menu and bob’s your uncle, with a side order of steamed fish.

Therefore my get-round-the-language-barrier quick fix is to ignore the translation issue, and resort to the following:

  • Use video. It can be easier to create a video for each target market. Obviously this would limit the content to perhaps a welcome message and a snapshot of the overall business, products or services.
    Chinese-speaking fans of Manchester United will be able to visit to see videos of United players writing Chinese greetings, opening fortune cookies and discussing their team-mates’ Chinese zodiac characteristics.
  • Invest in customer service by hiring multilingual staff. Keep customers up to date by running social media feeds in the chosen language.

But what do you think?