I’ve spoken out on this topic on several occasions over the past year or so. BurdaStyle needs to develop a clear “multilingual” profile, both as a service to its existing members and to reach new members who cannot currently participate because of language barriers. In late April 2010, I posted the first non-English technique (a translation of the Basic Bodice Block into French) published on BurdaStyle. Although the view rate is lower than for some of my more popular postings, as of today (end of June), the technique has still attracted nearly 2000 views and several people have favorited it, despite the fact that this is a translation of an existing Technique.

Also in April, I changed the key words for the fabrics international wiki to include multilingual key words – since that time, the viewing rate of the fabrics international wiki has tripled. Although this increase may also be due to other factors, it is clear that the increase of its mutlilingual profile has contributed to the growth. Finally, I was recently viewing an article about website development that indicates that the English-speaking population of the web represents considerably less than half the internet today – this is born out by the geographic distribution of views of the fabrics international wiki, which shows 30% non-English viewing, despite the fact that most of the articles are still only available in English (the highest percent of non-English viewers of the wiki are French, the second language currently supported by the site).

All this to say that multilingual access is becoming a more important issue, and one that BurdaStyle needs to address. It is all too easy for English-speakers to say, “Oh, well, everyone who is anyone speaks English anyway”, or “We can give lots of help to non-English speakers” – the latter is true to some extent, but it is clear from the comments submitted for my French-language Technique that some web surfers suffer for lack of access to instructions in their own language. It shouldn’t be an occasional “add-on”, it should be built into the site.

It is my wish that the template for inputting Techniques be broadened to include the possibility of other BurdaStyle members entering alternative (non-English) texts for the Techniques provided. That way, the images could be loaded only once, but several different language versions could eventually be made available to users, and this would draw on the active goodwill of BurdaStyle members to develop the translations. I believe Techniques and Patterns are the places to start for this – it would involve little change to the rest of the site, but would greatly enhance the utility of the published Techniques to a larger audience.

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    Jul 1, 2010, 03.40 PMby alden

    Hey Gedwoods, We would LOVE to have a multilingual site for BurdaStyle as this is such a multicultural and international site, unfortunately with a site of this magnitude the cost is just astronomical. It is on our list, however im not sure when it will come into play.

    1 Reply
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      Jul 2, 2010, 12.47 PMby gedwoods

      Hello Alden… if it is a matter of cost, perhaps we could all work to find a way to offset the costs for such an initiative. Would it help if we could find corporate or institutional sponsors for this endeavor?

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    Jul 1, 2010, 06.10 PMby wzrdreams

    That is a fabulous idea Gedwoods.

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    Jul 2, 2010, 11.19 AMby ichigogirl

    It’s a great, great idea to make the site multi-lingual, and to enable members to make techniques and other posts multi-lingual if they can. I just want to add that many of us in non-english speaking countries are not uncomfortable reading english. I actually much prefer to read things in the original language if I can, both to get the practise and to get to read “the best version”. I get terribly annoyed by websites (such as google-help, I hate it) that redirects you to a page in your own language even when you use the website in English. The worst thing is when you ask a question in english and get sent to “sorry, but the help-topis you requested is not available in Swedish yet”. Grrrr. Having said that, I do encourage you to listen to Gedwoods and make the site multilingual, but just: never take for granted that those from other language-areas always prefer to read things in their own language :-).

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    Jul 2, 2010, 12.43 PMby gedwoods

    I agree with Ichigogirl that one has to be sensitive to different preferences. The issue of patterns and instructions is, however, an area where reading in one’s own language is more important to more people than other areas of interest. I know for myself that I still have trouble reading instructions for sewing and knitting in French, even though I have lived in Quebec for 30 years and have absolutely no difficulty accessing information in French in any other part of my life. The problem is, to some extent, vocabulary. Specialized areas have specialized vocabulary, and sewing is a good example of this. Also, instructions such as patterns require that we do some rather challenging mental imagining to understand things spatially, and here again, language may be a major barrier for many.

    2 Replies
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      Jul 2, 2010, 01.04 PMby ichigogirl

      I agree with you on that one, I too do struggle hard with french, portugese and spanish pattern instructons… I love it when the patterns are printed in two or three languages. And google translate just isn’t good enough yet. Although it’s helpful.
      Personally I struggle more when I have to explain sewing in swedish than english though (embarrassing, makes you sound like a right snob!), since all sewing-related books and websites I use are in English.
      But I know that other swedes find it hard to read english sewing-instructions.
      Though, Swedish is such a small language, I doubt there will ever be a Swedish section here ;-).

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      Jul 6, 2010, 02.29 PMby wzrdreams

      I think this is why I sometimes have trouble understanding the English pattern instructions for Burda & burdastyle patterns… the translations either don’t use the correct English terminology or leave in German terms that I don’t understand. I think the instructions must be translated from German to English by someone who is not fluent in English. The funny thing is, I am reasonably certain that the instructions must be quite simple and it is only the translation that causes the confusion.

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    Jul 2, 2010, 01.58 PMby queenvanilla

    It’s a great service to provide if there are people who can’t read instructions in english well. I like the idea of adding keywords in other languages (that might point to the same article in english maybe?) since such words aren’t widely translated.

    But I have to point out that if you choose to add something in another language, you have to post it in english as well (and provide a link). There are nothing so irritating than open a page and seeing that it’s not in a language you can read at all -especially if you are surfing an english website. That’s just … messy.

    1 Reply
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      Jul 2, 2010, 03.56 PMby gedwoods

      Agreed. My suggestion is to put Techniques up in English as the default language, but provide the possibility to add other languages. In the French instructions I posted, I put several messages in and around the post in capital letters in English to point out that the whole thing was available in English … even so, a couple of people still emailed me to ask if there was an English version available! I actually think if the multilingual capability were built into the site, it would make this easier, as it could be made very clear that English is the default but that other ADDITIONAL language versions were also available. Right now it’s a bit of a “hack” to get a non-English version up in a way that makes it clear that the English version is also there!

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    Jul 4, 2010, 03.17 AMby nehmah

    If there is a way, Geds will find it. Cordially, Nehmah

    1 Reply
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      Jul 5, 2010, 08.02 AMby ichigogirl

      Yup, Gedwoods solution sound great.
      A spin-off idea from his idea, but simpler: a chart or “glossary” of sewing-terms translated to other languages would be a great help for us in the international community.
      That would make it a whole load easier to read English instructions for those who use English as a second or third language.

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    Jul 5, 2010, 10.40 PMby gedwoods

    I have actually started such a multilingual glossary over on the fabrics international wiki – it’s in an undocumented part of the wiki, as it was an idea I had which I haven’t fully fleshed out yet (see here if you are interested). Essentially, what I did was copy over the entire reference list for BurdaStyle’s sewpedia, leaving all the links in, so when you click on them, you go to the BurdaStyle sewpedia entry for that topic. But what I’ve started to do, is to add in (within parentheses), the French equivalents of the words. My idea is then provide a French version of the page which would have the French versions of the words first (in alphabetical order as a function of the French), but would link back to the same BurdaStyle sewpedia entries (in English) – unless a French wiki explanation were available (such as those supported directly within the fabrics international wiki). The French page exists, but has no content for the moment. I’m not entirely happy with this arrangement for the terms… it’s a bit “clunky”, so I’ve been sitting on the project saying nothing, hoping that a bright idea will come along and help me solve the design problem(s). There are several problems actually with the design. If a lot of languages were supported, the list in parenthesis would be quite long and the file would be hard to read. Also, I would like to be able to click a non-English term and “go to” the relevant part of the appropriate non-English page, so one could “chain” queries regarding terms across different languages, but there is no easy way with the current organization to do that.

    But if anyone wants to have a go with inputting non-English versions of the words, please, by all means, have a go! I will find a way to preserve whatever work you do so it is used to maximum advantage! I actually had to look up some of the terms in French, as I didn’t know what they were! (although I’ve really barely started on the translations).

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