Almost Wunderbar!

ALMOST WUNDERBAR! Friday afternoon. Sitting in a train from Madrid to Valladolid. I love the air conditioning on these trains! It is 38 degrees on the outside, but inside that train it just feels like if I was sitting in my freezer … But anyway, that’s not what I was writing about. I have got one hour till I arrive at my destination, so – I bought a motorcycle magazine, a spanish one (of course!). One of the articles talks about a famous German producer of high quality accessories for BMW motorcycles, who just opened his online shop to the Spanish market. Smart move, as actually only Spain and the UK can presume of having a growing motorcycle market! I’m getting nervous! I love beamers, especially the neoclassic ones! And if it’s styled like a café-racer … well … that’s also not what I was going to talk about …

Saturday afternoon, finally at home again. I’m undoing my backpack. There it is again: the magazine – and I marked the page with the article about the translation of that online-store. OF COURSE I needed to have a look at that page! The design is … functional. The text … well … to be honest I expected a more or less finished localized version. Quite a few essential texts are still displayed in English, but that’s not the worst part. Looking at the menues, I’ve noticed that they managed to create 3 different ways of spelling one and the same term … and all of them are wrong! And than there are quite a few strange grammatical issues, plus some missing words, or words that absolutely don’t fit, text left in English, etc. (sidenote: always ensure to plan enough time for localization testing – all the effort of reprogramming your web and translating will not be worth a penny, if the translated content isn’t displayed correctly!). Where have I stopped … ah … yes: That smells like MT! No, not Mr. T – Machine Translation! But then – there are those quite nicely formulated sentences in the middle of all that low quality localization… strange … I did a little bit more research and found out that they chose a staged approach. First they wanted to translate essential text and text related to their 1000 most popular items. One thousand items … that’s still a lot of text – a lot of words to be translated and to be paid. So I guess their Language Service Provider suggested them that the most cost-efficient way to have that much content translated (taking into consideration that the company we are talking about has less than 50 employess and not as much budget as the proper BMW) would be to take a MT-engine, pre-trained for the automotive sector, and feed it with some of their own monolingual content and some more motorcycle specific translations. The result is a well trained MT-engine, quite perfect for translating all the not highly visible content.

After translating their texts with the help of that well trained MT-engine, they must have had a little bit of post editing going on, done by human translators. That’s why the flow and the style at some points is quite nice, but most of it is still far away from being perfect. I’m pretty sure, that they haven’t categorized the text that had to be translated in the correct way. The most important text is the highly visible content. That includes all the text that appears on your landing page, including that bunch of words that are part of your menu structure. Any error in this content affects the overall quality of your localized website up to a hundred times more than any error within the less visible content. Nobody will worry that much if there is some typo within the description of item 893, or even if the whole description seems to be translated by google. But one error in the menu, an element that you have on your screen all the time while you are navigating … that’s … let’s say: not ideal. So the initial idea was quite good, but the categorization of more and less important text unfortunately failed. A pity – because ensuring the correct translation of these terms by a human translator would have given that online-shop a way more professional appearance and it would have taken a only a tiny little part of that budget. And as we all know: a professional looking and well designed user experiences positively affects your sales! So you better watch the details! (And please don’t get me wrong! I still love them, because I know how much effort they usually put in each item they sell!).