Although web developers might no longer have much use for a simple but well made HTML editor, the ability to work with HTML remains extremely useful for translators. Why? Because virtually all text on the internet is HTML formatted.

However complicated the “back end” of a website is, it will pretty much always generate a web page in HTML format, and the text that page contains will come from a database of HTML formatted text. And for that website to work around the world, that text has to be translated! Here are 5 reasons why translators should start learning some basic HTML now, and get involved with this work.

1. Great free HTML tools

Microsoft have recently made their web editor Expression Web 4 available completely free. As this page explains, the nature of the web is changing, and the Expression line of products will focus on the development of more complex and powerful web applications.

Expression Web 4 joins other good free software tools for working with HTML like CoffeeCup. It’s by no means cheap and cheerful, however. It is as well made and user friendly as other modern software from Microsoft  like Word and Excel. The reason it’s been made free is that it’s no longer commercially useful to the web services industry.

2. The L stands for ‘language’

Seriously, HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, and it is a language. It has vocabulary vocabulary and grammar and it has certain styles and standards that are used for different purposes, just like the languages we speak and write. My education was in languages and I found HTML easy to pick up, despite not having studied maths or science for years. I honestly believe that a good linguistic background is the best place to start learning. And it’s easy.

3. It’s really useful for web localisation projects

As I said, however complicated a website is beneath the surface, the text will probably be HTML formatted. Being able to not just translate website text but also make simple edits is a really useful skill – especially if your CAT tool decides to wreck the files!

4. You’ll get to know how files work

HTML is probably the most commonly and easily used form of XML. XML is the language used not only for HTML files, but also the basis of pretty much every kind of file we use in our industry. DOCX? Based on XML. XLSX? Based on XML. TMX? Based on XML. PowerPoint  XLIFF?  TTX? File types used by Trados and MemoQ? All based on XML. Think of it as a family of closely related languages. And once you get the hang of it, you can work out how to fix it when it’s not working. And I’m sure we all have our fair share of experiences with files that don’t work!

5. Great learning resources

There is so much available for free to help you learn basic HTML skills. There is an overwhelming choice of resources on the web, but a good place to start is W3Schools. There are some great sites out there and unless you are getting classroom lessons or a recognised qualification there is really no need to pay for anything.