Multi Lingual Website
Making a multi lingual website is different, you need to sort out domain names, web server configuration, URL structure, page layout and the translation of content are likely to be high on your ‘to do’ list. With all that keeping you busy, meeting the accessibility requirements for your website may slip to the bottom of the pile. This shouldn’t be the case as making your multi-lingual website accessible is easy to achieve.
What is a multi-lingual website?
A multi-lingual website is a website where the content is written in more than one language. The information displayed in different languages is often the same, but maybe tailored for different audiences. Booking.com is an example of a multi-lingual website as its content is available in 35 different languages.
Unlike assistive technologies such as screen readers, Google does not recognise language identifiers such as ‘lang’ attributes in the code of the page. Google tries to work out the main languages of your pages itself. In order to make language identification easier for Google, Google recommends only using one language per page.
The length of words varies from language to language. Content written in one language may take up more or less space on the page than another language. The design of the website should cater for different length words used through the site.
Depending on the content on your multi-lingual website, it may not be possible to change the layout and design of your site in this way. You can overcome these types of problems by using shorter words to fit in to the space available on your page and making sure you have your content translated before making essential design decisions.
A character encoding is essentially a key to decipher an encrypted collection of letters and symbols used in a writing system. There are many different types of character encodings so it’s really important to make sure you use the right character encoding otherwise people may not be able to read the text on your pages. Character encoding also helps computers understand your information, if you use the wrong encoding your pages may not be found by some search engines.
If you are creating a multi-lingual website you may also need to provide links to the other language versions of your site. If the page you are linking to is written in a different language to the current page, you need to let people using assistive technologies know about this.
If you don’t provide a primary language code or set the code incorrectly it may be impossible for someone using a screen reader or Braille device to understand the content. If the primary language of the web page has not been identified, screen reading software in general will read out the content in the same language as the default setting for the screen reader. So if your screen reader has English set as the default language, it will read out web page content in English.