One of the most important aspects of website localization for Chinese market is website translation to Chinese. Investing in a qualified translation of a website can hardly be underestimated. Poorly translated site is not only an off-putting one to visitors, it also gives an impression that the product or service behind it is probably just as poor.

When it comes to Chinese market, it is often a good idea to have your site translated to both Simplified Chinese for Mainland China audience and to Traditional Chinese used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Even though, both Taiwanese and Hongkongese would have little problem reading content in Simplified Chinese, having those two choices would be seen as showing respect to millions of Traditional Chinese readers. Large number of corporate executives and managers of companies in China are from Taiwan and Hong Kong and it would certainly be a good idea to offer them proper translation as well.

Website translation to Chinese doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg

If you are on a bootstrap budget, the first thing to try would be finding a freelance translator through sites like Elance.com or Odesk.com (recently merged to Upwork.com). It’s by far the cheapest option but could also be a hit and miss.

Many freelance translators, who are native Chinese speakers, don’t have a good grasp of Traditional Chinese and would simply use machine translation program, like Google Translate, that simply substitutes Simplified to Traditional characters. As a result, Traditional Chinese translation would look awkward and, sometimes, completely unreadable. If you use any of the freelance translators, make sure to test them first by asking them to translate a paragraph to both languages and have it verified with a native Taiwanese or Hongkongese.

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A word of caution: for website translation to Chinese, never hire translators who are not native speakers, this would be a complete waste of your money. You should also make sure to verify the work before you release the payment.

If your company has a decent budget for a website translation to Chinese, then, by all means, consider a professional translation firm or a local marketing localization agency. They would typically pay attention to details that are beyond a straight translation, such as proper formatting of time, date and currency.

You still have to exercise caution while hiring a professional translation company – unfortunately, many of them are simply one-two man operation, regardless of what they say about themselves on their website. Large number of them would use machine translation software with some corrections afterwards. Be prepared to shop around for a while as, in my experience, 80% of such firms provide very low quality work.

Just like with the freelancers, you should test the quality first by asking them to translate one paragraph and, if you suspect that machine translation has been used for any of the languages (most likely Traditional Chinese), don’t hire them.

If you are prepared to spend anywhere around $1,000 or more, make sure to have a written contract with such company. The contract should stipulate that the company must correct the translation within 2-4 weeks after submitting it to you if you find any issues. There must be a legal recourse clause in the contract in case of substandard quality of the translation but it’s always time limited, so make sure to check their work carefully as soon as you receive it.

Now to the technical side. Most websites use CMS (content management system) that make inserting new language a much easier process than editing HTML or XML files. You have to make sure that your system supports Chinese which shouldn’t be a problem with all modern CMS.
A website can also be configured to load a specific language based on IP address location. However, there should be an option to change an automatically selected language because not everyone who may visit your site should be assumed to be able to read Chinese. Besides, IP address based geolocation would not work if a site visitor uses VPN – a very common way to bypass China’s infamous Great Firewall in order to get access to blocked sites.

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