Website translation more than words

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The Canadian Tourism Commission knew exactly how to optimize its website to foreign markets. It knew that Germans prefer canoe trips, while the Japanese are fond of organized bus tours. The multilingual version of its website reflects these preferences.

“It all comes down to understanding your clients,” said Huiping Iler, chief executive of, a Web translation service in Ottawa.

But there are few examples like this one, she says. Most companies don’t bother to understand their audiences when they translate websites. Sloppily made multilingual sites either turn off international clients with bad translations or don’t show up at all in Web searches.

Take the concept of an open house for a home for sale. This is a practice unknown in many countries, yet companies nonetheless push the service on their foreign language sites, even translating the words “open house” literally.

This is not only a linguistic and cultural blunder, but it also keeps search engines from pointing to a website.

“There’s a real lack of understanding,” Iler said. “People who do marketing are often uniling

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