7 Basic Tips for Testing Multi-Lingual Websites

Nowadays a number of websites are deployed in multiple languages. As companies perform more and more businesses in other countries, the number of such global multi-lingual web applications will continue to increase. Testing websites supporting multiple languages has its own fair share of challenges in today’s world. 

In this article, I will share seven basic tips which will enable you to test the multi-lingual browser-based applications in a complete way.

What You Will Learn:

Tip # 1 – Prepare and Use the Required Test Environment

If a website is hosted both in English and Japanese languages, it is not just enough to simply change the default browser language and perform identical tests in both the languages. Depending on its implementation, the website may figure out the correct language for its interface from the browser language setting, the regional and language settings of the machine, a configuration in the web application or other factors.

Therefore, in order to perform a realistic test, it is imperative that the website is to be tested from two machines – one with the English operating system and the other with the Japanese operating system. You might want to keep the default settings on each machine since many users do not change the default settings on their machines.

Tip # 2 – Acquire Correct Translations

A native speaker of the language, belonging to the same region as the users, is usually the best resource to provide translations that are accurate in both the meaning as well as context. If such a person is not available to provide you the translations of the text, you might have to depend on automated web translations available on websites like wordreference.com and dictionary.com.

It is always better to compare automated translations from multiple sources before using them in the test.

Tip # 3 – Get Really Comfortable with the Application

Since you might not know the languages supported by the website, it is always better for you to be very conversant with the functionality of the website. Execute the test cases in the English version of the site a number of times. This, in turn, will help you to find your way easily within the other language version.

Otherwise, you might have to keep the English version of the site open in another browser in order to figure out how to proceed in the other language version (and this could slow you down).

Tip # 4 – Start with Testing the Labels

You could start testing the other language version of the website by first looking at all the labels. Labels are the more static items on the website. English labels are usually short and translated labels tend to expand. It is important to spot any issues related to label truncation, overlay on/ under other controls, incorrect word wrapping etc.

It is even more important to compare the labels with their translations in the other language.

Tip # 5 – Move on to Other Controls

Next, you could move on to checking the other controls for correct translations and any user interface issues. It is important that the website provides correct error messages in the other language. The test should include generating all the error messages.

Usually, for any text that is not translated, three possibilities exist. The text will be missing or its English equivalent will be present or you will see junk characters in its place.

Tip # 6 – Do Test the Data

Usually, multi-lingual websites store the data in the UTF-8 Unicode encoding format. To check the character encoding for your website in Mozilla: go to View -> Character Encoding and in IE go to View -> Encoding. Data in different languages can be easily represented in this format.

Make sure to check the input data. It should be possible to enter the data in the other language in the website. The data displayed on the website should be correct. The output data should also be compared with its translation.

Tip # 7 – Be Aware of Cultural Issues

A challenge in testing multi-lingual websites is that each language might be meant for users from a particular culture. Many things such as preferred (and not preferred) colors, text direction (this can be left to right, right to left or top to bottom), the format of salutations and addresses, measures, currency etc. are different in different cultures.

Not only should the other language version of the website provide correct translations, other elements of the user interface E.g. text direction, currency symbol, date format etc. should also be correct.


As you might have gathered from the tips given above, using the correct test environment and acquiring correct translations is critical in performing a successful test of other language versions of a website.

About the Author:

This article is a guest post by Inder P Singh.

It would be interesting to know your experience with testing multi-language websites.