Bad Website Translations – Why Even Bother?

Huh? In front of a montage of languages for bad website translations

“We don’t care.” That’s what North America’s bad website translations mean when you click on the language widget and it offers a semi-literate result. The message your website sends when half the page isn’t translated and the other half sounds like it was written by Latka Gravas (Remember him? The pidgin-English-speaking foreign character of unknown ethnic origin on the old TV show Taxi?) is that it’s ‘good enough’.

“Hey, I know, let’s throw a couple of other languages on the website and see if we get any new business. Don’t put any marketing money into it; just install a plug-in.”

Example of English-to-Italian translation showing a few missed phrasesWidgets and other bad translators famously don’t catch everything. In fact, almost no translation solution apart from humans, which is your most expensive option, produces a perfect solution, especially if you want to translate into multiple languages. That’s what seems so great about plug-in widgets except all you’re doing is insulting people in many different languages.

That’s assuming they ever find your site, since people everywhere prefer to shop in their primary language. So if you sell women’s clothing in a region with a high number of Spanish immigrants, they’re not going to look for pleated skirts, they’re going to look for faldas plisadas.

So, even if you offer faldas plisadas, are they going to find your website if the SEO hasn’t been optimized for Spanish keywords?

Google query website translations for Spanish, very good, for pleated skirts
¿Ves tu web aquí?

What you may not know about your visitors (or non-visitors):

  • 65% of online users natively speak a language other than English
  • Visitors are three times more likely to buy a product from a website translated in their native language
  • Users browse twice as long on websites translated in their native language
  • 78% of the US Hispanic population speak Spanish as their preferred language (roughly 42 million)
  • 68% of Chinese users spend less or no time on English (only) websites
  • 15% of Canadians are ethnically Asian as are about twenty million Americans

Source: Common Sense Advisory

So what does it look like when your website translation misses items in the menu bar, the graphics, and on occasion, most of the website?


Example of bad Spanish menu bar translationThat’s Cumbre de Canadá, por favor

Bad website translations that look sloppy demonstrate how little the company values its non-English-speaking potential clientele. It tells them that even if they can muddle their way through adding their desired purchases to the shopping cart, they’ll probably encounter straight English during check-out and if they need to return an item or require any other help, they’ll probably have to deal with an English-only customer support specialist.

You don’t have to invest in a United Nations of multilingual resources, translation, support people and logistics suppliers to attract, retain and grow your foreign language-speaking potential customers but you do need to put a little more thought into it than just customary bad website translations.

Example of bad French translationC’est Français? Vraiment?

Yappn uses Enhanced Machine Translation, also called Hybrid Machine Translation, for greater accuracy by utilizing several different translators and then applying our own rules and customer-designed lexicons so that when you find an English word on a foreign language website, you meant for it to remain untranslated (i.e., Dr. Pepper does not become Dr. Poivre or Dr. Pimienta.) We also provide real-time multilingual live chat translation so that your customers can get help if your product has caused them intergalactic distress.

Screenshot of an English chat conversation

Screenshot of the English language chat translated into Chinese for website visitor














As always, nothing beats a good post-editing by a human who actually speaks the language, but with enhanced machine translation that takes less time and effort than running your entire website through a translation widget.

With a little planning for budget and strategy, you can provide a much richer, more respectful multilingual experience for your prospective non-English-speaking customers and without a long implementation time either.

You don’t have to settle for bad website translations or even worse, translations that fail to execute at all, leaving the visitor to wonder why they’ve chosen Latvian but are still seeing English. The quick solution, of course, is to start over again and find a website that actually cares about your experience and demonstrates some real respect.

Remember that the foreign visitors aren’t always in other countries. Many of them are right here, visiting your competitors’ websites if they offer more than bad website translations and non-existent customer care.



Yappn Corp offers translations in 67 different languages and when you choose Latvian, you get Latvian.
For more information please contact or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.



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Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn.

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