As a professional translator + technical writer + power user, I have occasionally had the chance to combine these skills in the too often neglected art of localisation. I know my position must sound biased, but I think that having your website or application interface translated can only be beneficial to your business as it is to mine.
If you are a company, especially if you sell products or services at an international level (who doesn’t, now?), having a multilingual website will undoubtedly increase your audience and make life easier for visitors and potential customers who stumble upon your site, like it, and want to explore it — and do some shopping if you offer an e-store as well.
If you create/develop software, supporting multiple languages — both for the application interface and related documentation — means expanding your user base and perhaps having fewer support-related headaches when customers write you asking for help because they don’t understand how certain features work or because they made mistakes due to not understanding English very well. An application with multilingual support has better accessibility and usability.
I know that English is one of the most studied languages in the world. I know that, especially in the technology sector, people are supposed to know some basic English to find their way around your English-only website or application. But don’t take things too much for granted. Now, thanks to the iOS platform and devices and their ease of use, more people who never touched a computer before are starting to get familiar with these gadgets and these ‘tech things’. Among these people there are a lot of users of a certain age, who are less likely to have studied a foreign language in their life, or if they have, it might not necessarily be English, or they only studied it at a very young age and aren’t proficient in it. They could certainly benefit from a localised application and from a website that could talk to them in their native language, without resorting to automated tools such as Google Translate.
When I see Mac or iOS applications I love, and realise they only come in English, I usually try to contact the author and propose an Italian and/or Spanish localisation. So far, however, the interest from the other part has been depressingly low or lacking entirely. The most polite response I’ve received was along the lines of We’re not currently exploring this possibility, but we will contact you when we do. Most of the time the answer is either monosyllabic or my email isn’t even acknowledged.
I understand that having someone who takes care of such task means more expenses for the company or developer, and that it may not seem worthwhile at first because of the risk that the audience gained through a localised version of the application or service might not be enough to warrant the added cost for the localisation work, but if your product is already well known outside of English-speaking countries, I believe the risk of failure is fairly low. In my view, localisation is always added value. And in my case — when I directly address you with a proposal — you could at least talk to me and ask for a free estimate. If the localisation work is easy and doesn’t take too much of my time, the compensation I may ask could very well be just a licence for your application and to be added in the credits.
But apart from my services, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of localisation in a world that’s getting more and more interconnected. It’s ironic that in an age where Information and Communication are two of the most abused words, many people still can’t have a decent user experience because a website or, more importantly, an application isn’t available in their language.