Transmission Line Noise

Think­ing of imple­ment­ing a multi-lingual web site?

Sat, Feb 20, 2010

On a tech­ni­cal front not a lot, you can use a frame­work like Zend or Kohana or Rails etc. which usu­ally have the abil­ity to replace the con­tent with tags and then fill the tag with the lan­guage of choice at run time. The dif­fer­ent lan­guages reside in appro­pri­ately named direc­to­ries and can be trig­gered by the browser lan­guage tag or another mech­a­nism. If you ate not using a frame­work with this facil­ity then study one to se how it is done. After that and in no par­tic­u­lar order.

  • Why mul­ti­lin­gual? you really need a com­pelling rea­son to do it as the work­load you are tak­ing on is large and com­plex and oner­ous. I know all the rea­sons about how and why peo­ple like sites in their native lan­guage but for a multi lin­gual site’s invest­ment in money you need to be mak­ing a proper return on the invest­ment and not just doing it for the sake of it.
  • Local­is­ing, L10N or inter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion i18n, is not just about lan­guage. It is about about cul­tural dif­fer­ences. Anglo Sax­ons like cool restrained san-serif type sites. Latin and Latin Amer­i­can cul­tures like more vibrant colours and cur­sive type faces. And so on. So you need to have a mech­a­nism that will change the css for each lan­guage as well (well to be truly efec­tive you do)
  • Who is doing the trans­la­tion? Remem­ber it is an idiomatic trans­la­tion you need, Google Trans­late API will not cut it and you need a native speaker to trans­late from and to the tar­get. So for exam­ple if you are using FIGS (French Ital­ian etc) from an Eng­lish orig­i­nal. YOu need a trans­la­tor for Eng­lish to French, Eng­lish to Ger­man, Eng­lish to Ital­ian, and Eng­lish to Span­ish (see the costs mount­ing?). A good bureau will pro­vide all this for you and man­age the process though.
  • Proof read­ing. Can you speak 5 lan­guages well enough to check that above work is correct?
  • Main­te­nance. Again assum­ing Eng­lish is the base lan­guage and there is a new page or a page rewrite or even a typo you need to go through the above process and update the site so you need a good work­flow and process con­trol sys­tem to ensure that the changes and updates work effec­tively. The ongo­ing main­te­nance can be crip­pling in time and cost, work it out before you start.
  • Beware of advice form peo­ple who localise programmes/applications It is not remotely the same thing.
  • Many solu­tions actu­ally use sep­a­rate web sites for each local­i­sa­tion rather than the all in one approach. This can be coun­ter­in­tu­itive when we want to put it all into one “tech­ni­cal” pack­age. How­ever you can by sep­a­rat­ing the sites eas­ily cope with dif­fer­ent styles, and char­ac­ter sets and ltr text etc. You can stag­ger updates and man­age the work­flow more effec­tively, adding new site is far far sim­pler and it allow you to use the dif­fer­ent URL’s tha may be required and allows you to opti­mise each site for SEO