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.