How to Translate Websites in Drupal and WordPress

The Right Process Saves Time & Money while Providing Independence!

Translate Websites FreedomWe are often contacted by clients that want to localize their websites with the request for translators to translate directly into the content management system. Unfamiliar with export features in their system, they copy and paste content or give us access to their servers to fetch their words. Whether you use WordPress or Drupal, your web CMS offers features to facilitate the translation process, but the path to multilingual site release can be frustrating if you don’t know what to look for.

Benefits of Multilingual Setup in Drupal or WordPress

Recently, we worked with a client to configure their Drupal setup to correctly handle the export of all their localization and translation needs. The steps involved exporting test pages and running pseudo translation to discover missing strings from plugins, menus or add-ons.

XLIFF Export from Drupal

HTM tags not hidden increasing word count and causing possible problems with formatting

Drupal had inadvertently introduced bugs in a recent release causing the XLIFF exported text not to parse correctly in the translation environment that translators typically use. Throughout the process of correcting these issues, the client questioned if it’s worth the time and efforts for getting the export feature to work correctly on the entire site. Although it may be tempting to forego the setup and simply translate directly into the Drupal CMS, the efforts put to properly set up the system will lead to cost savings and streamlines the process long term. How?

Why Translation Management System and Translation Memory Should Be Used

By using the Translation Management System (TMS) along with a strong Translation Memory (TM) tool, all the translations performed can be stored in a database that is visible and shared by the entire translation team. This will facilitate translation consistency and accuracy, since TM tools often have the latest translation enabling technologies like glossary lookup, dictionaries, spelling and grammar checkers.

Furthermore, enabling translators to work in their familiar environments as opposed to an unfamiliar content management system will maximize their productivity.

Lastly, some international translators’ reliance on their internet connections may not be ideal, requiring them to download the text to translate and work locally on the translation then upload it. Working directly in the CMS requires a constant online connection that can severely slow down the translation progress.

Without storing translations in a database that contains a match search engine, like TM tools do, translations might have to be redone for pages that share similar content, or undergo frequent changes.

Ideal Drupal or WordPress Website Translation Process

In the ideal world, the following is the process that can be applied to turn your Drupal based website into a multilingual site.

After Drupal Export Bug Fix

HTM tags properly hidden from translators to avoid formatting issues and reduce cost of translation

  1. Streamline access to content. The export/import utilities have to be properly setup and tested to ensure full and accurate export of text needing translation and then correct and complete import of translated text. Ensure that the exported XLIFF file can import and parse correctly into the Translation Management System or TM. Bugs in Drupal or WordPress export utilities or the addition of unsupported plug-ins can create problems. Alternatively, connectors can be used to automate the process, but they usually come at an added cost and another 3rd party dependence.
  2. Test the process with pseudo translation to ensure correct export and import steps. Make sure you test all text, particularly one derived from menus, forms and plug-ins. Pseudo-translation can also test for varying character encoding and character lengths. It is less costly to correct site’s formatting and theme or CMS setup before actual translation starts.
  3. Use the translation memory environment to analyze the content and identify repetitions, derive word count and to estimate schedule and costs. We have seen several cases where product subpages share very similar content. Having that info upfront gives you the ability to properly plan your rollout schedule and budget.
  4. Use the translation memory environment to enable consistency, improve quality and reduce the cost of the translation by leveraging 100% and fuzzy matches. This will save on cost and also the time to re-translate these repetitions. Savings will occur on the very first translation effort, but will geometrically increase with future releases and updates of the site as more content is added or modified to the site.
  5. Exporting the pages as XLIFF and processing them in the translation memory, enables collaboration amongst multiple translators and editors. Even if you spend valuable time properly setting up the export/import utilities in Drupal or WordPress, this time can be made up by involving multiple translators and editors on the project to expedite its translation process. Since the entire translation team is sharing a common translation memory, you can ensure that all translators are using a common terminology and leveraging each other’s work.
  6. With an online Translation Memory tool, the client in-country experts can also monitor the translation and make necessary recommendations to terminology or style. Having all the translation and the feedback stored in the translation memory, permits the reuse of approved text in future updates and work.
  7. Future updates will not require tracking where the changes are made. The translation memory tool will analyze the comprehensive content and will flag changes enabling translations to be leveraged as needed.

Translate Websites While Staying Free!

Only this kind of process enables an optimal and cost effective long term solution to translate websites, giving you full control over your intellectual property (your multilingual content and translation memories) as well as freedom to host your content anywhere you see appropriate without strings attached to any proprietary 3rd parties.


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