70 thoughts on “Going multi-lingual”

  1. Another factor to consider…

    Something I’ve found recently, while working on a multilingual site in Japan (japanese, english, portuguese and spanish), is that essentially, we as developers need to consider the standards created by other sites created primarily in that language.

    For example, most, if not all, sites in Japan use simple left-to-right (ltr) writing for in the language. And you typically find magazines and signs written in this system as well. Even though they tradionally learnt right to left and in vertical sentencing, they can still read ltr japanese, and are accustomed to doing it thusly on sites these days.

    If you really want to cater for multiple visitors (in my case, I’m writing a site for an international centre) rather than just provide text translations, you need to understand the standard layout of sites using that language, and the format they typically use.

    Sure you should still push the envelope, but all the while, the amount of websense an average user from each culture has, needs to be considered. This is especially so for countries that have developed their own unique culture of web… or who are still left behind in the mid-90s.

  2. Yes,

    I agree that there are cultural expectancies. The ones you’ve mentioned seem to be about ‘Web Design’, which I hadn’t considered at all here :)

    These ‘standards’ you talk about for Japanese seem to be used on bad web design that evolved because if defaults set by English domanence of the web. Thus left-to-right becomes a norm, which is sad.

    Do you suppose that if you did do it the traditional way that it wouldn’t be understood?

  3. Understood maybe – but how would you lay it out?

    The medium – and the audience – haven’t been tried and tested with the text format – esp. not with vertical sentencing.

    The web is truely a global medium, and I kinda like the way things are common regardless of culture. I love multiculturalism, but I also like being able to communicate across language barriers.

    ..But hey, maybe that’s just me – too much programming, database normalisation and all that crap.

  4. I think its an aesthetic design challenge rather than a data design challenge. The directionality of layout can be completely controlled in CSS, the trick is designing layout that will work in Western AND Easter wrting styles, or detecting the language of the user agent and then switching layout. If your using good CSS based layout you shouldn’t have to change the HTML structure, just a simple reference change.

    The hardest part will be for the graphic designer, and I find few understand the challenge or manage to meet it. This is because design collages don’t teach “Web Design” beyond Dreamweaver. HTML and CSS is usually too much for their non-technical minds and so most are left to their own devices.

    But I digress, most of the web is the way it is because Americans set the standard for the technology (I HATE spelling colour as ‘color’ in CSS or example, I won’t start on a linguistics rant…grrr). I think once designers in Japan really take a good look at the web some will start to do things more to their tradition including the design.

    I don’t think that Kanji will ever be able to communicate across language barriers no matter which way the type is set. I also think that the audience will figure it out if the type is laid out top to bottom right-to-left, as we would notice immediately if our it happened to our language.

    I think it would make the sites look new and fresh and give the designers a chance to play with new ideas, or at least the good one :P

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