Multilingual Websites

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A multilingual web site is a site where most of the content is available in several languages.

For your multilingual site to be successful, you have to consider three areas and adopt three strategies:

First: areas

1. Compatibility of your site

• Technical
Tools that can handle different languages (Operating Systems, Databases, Content Management Systems, etc.)
• Socio-cultural
Suitable design (graphics and colours are interpreted differently by the various cultures)
Suitable content (sensitiveness: religious, ethnic, racial, political, etc.)

2. Language servicesalt

• Translation
In-house translation (if your Organization has translation services)
Outsourcing (where you can pick translators based on their scientifc backgrounds and expertise)
Machine Translation (the best investment if you are generating much content)

• Managing translations

• Web editing
One editor per language, or a combination of languages
(Chinese+Spanish, Arabic+French, etc.) = don''t dump translations on your web site!

• Quality assurance
Consistency (style guides and glossaries)
One word, one meaning, one part of speech (convince your reader that you know what you are doing)

3. Global gateway for the site

This can be achieved throuh a combination of design elements and information architecture technologies to ensure that:

• Readers find their languages versions as quickly and effortlessly as possible
• Control over the site is centralized
• Consistent image and message are conveyed to the world

Second: strategies

1. Before building the site

• Define target audience
• Tackle technological challenges related to languages
• Develop content in your main language that is suitable for most of your languages
• Define metrics to measure your performance (traffic, pages, etc.)

2. During the process of building the site

• Develop a network of allies and partners within the organization to support your activity - you will need their support

3. After building the site

• Collaborate with similar online multilingual communities (benchmarking and learning)
• Define web site marketing and promotion tools
• Build long-term trust
• Get feedback (the life force)
• Keep an eye on emerging technologies

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