Is creating a multilingual community really such a rare occasion?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by \o/, Sep 27, 2019.

  1. \o/

    \o/ an oddity

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    I am currently in the middle of the relatively lengthy process of planning to start a (potentially huge) niche community by some time in early 2020. It will need to cater both US-Americans and Germans (sorry, people from other populations!) very specifically, and one would think that this would be a solved problem by 2019.

    To my surprise, there are not many community software packages which natively support internationalized websites which show different contents (captions, articles and forums) depending on where the user comes from. After several days of investigating my options, I found that Woltlab seems to be the only company which provides that, with several free forums at least having (badly maintained) third-party add-ons for half-hearted incomplete internationalization. Even the popular xenForo does not seem to support this at all. I have read that IP.Suite might be able to provide a similar feature as well, I need to investigate that further.

    Why is this such an unpopular feature? Are most, if not all, of the largest communities tied to one language (= culture) these days?
     
  2. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

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    I think they probably are and the language is not necessarily English. There are many huge forums that cater only for Chinese speaking people.

    As you've already discovered Woltlab appears to offer the best option for multilingual forums and as a they are based in Germany they may well provide the best fit for you.
     
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  3. mysiteguy

    mysiteguy Devotee

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    I think the reason is the work involved limits the target market of people installing and using such features. Even with a fully multi-lingual software package, each article would have to be written more than once, as well as everything else, plus you're still going to have post in more language or another (expecting users to post twice to cover both languages is unreasonable). If posts aren't made in both languages you end up with topics segregated by language.

    Sure, we might end up with a few hundred such sites, but I don't think that's enough to justify the cost involved in coding it.

    I've been through this before from a developer standpoint, worked on a commercial software product which supported both Korean and English. It was only justifiable because the annual licenses could range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.
     
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  4. \o/

    \o/ an oddity

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    Sure, but that is to be expected and even a part of what I need here. :)
    Segregation is not always unwanted, depending on the topic.
     
  5. sbjsbj

    sbjsbj Fan

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    Yes, it is a rare occasion. The only good solution I have seen is Wikipedia, but that is barely a community.

    XF is barely capable of delivering a multilingual platform. With usergroup promotions and phrases you can create a single forum with separate nodes for specific languages. And users can choose from which nodes they want to see (they opt-in basically choosing on what language they want to surf). So thanks to phrases everything is in the foreign language and all new posts and widgets only display the nodes their languages are in. Or you can target (user criteria) based on user settings or custom field settings, to show notices for example.

    But, it is not well rounded and a lot of holes are in it. For example you can't create 1 announcement forum and let your users see threads in it in various languages. Like let's say my announcement is that "today we celebrate our 1 year". You can't have that single thread both in English and in German for example. There is no "switch" option like on Wikipedia where you can read the article in multiple languages, like you could read the announcement in both German and English (providing 2 texts of course).

    Or stuff like the Resource Manager or the Media Gallery or any other big addon (like Bob's), don't provide Wiki like switch option for instances. So the features are lacking a lot in this aspect. It is hard to build a community around 2 languages, let alone more than 2.
     
  6. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    If I understand what you're asking, there are two different problems here.

    First, creating two distinct forum streams for English and German. That's pretty straight forward. Members can declare their choice when they join and they can be directed to the correct stream or simply bookmark it. You can find lots of examples, such as Giant's forum for the bewilderingly popular Farming Simulator games.

    If you want to create a single forum that contains threads and posts in both English and German, that's another whole kettle of doughnuts. As mysiteguy said, translation isn't cheap or easy. Companies spend many tens of thousands of dollars on it. And I'm not just talking about translation software. Developing content that can be translated accurately takes a lot of time, money, and expertise.

    I would keep the language streams as separate forums. If a particular topic is important or relevant to both, you can have your moderators (presumably bilingual) create a post, summarizing the main ideas and let the discussion progress from there in both languages.
     
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  7. sbjsbj

    sbjsbj Fan

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    I agree, which is what most people do. But that has still a lot of holes, the system doesn't cover every situation.

    The biggest problem is, you can't provide your regular unregistered visitor an experience in 1 language only. You have to expose the whole forum with its every language. See your example from above. A visitor sees every forum, both the German ones and English ones. This is not a good solution, as it would irk a lot of people who don't speak one of those languages. It would make an impression of that it would be hard to be a part of such a community, where they don't speak the language which is showcased on the site.

    So, this only works, WHEN someone registers and makes a decision. Then they can truly (with a lot of holes) have an experience of seeing the whole site in one language only. Right now the "newest post" section should be slammed with both German and English threads, which is very confusing for visitors who don't speak one of the languages, as tried to explain. You can get over it after someone registers and after someone conciously chooses a specific language in a setting.


    That is a bad idea. Then you would have like a Youtube comment section, where you see a lot of foreign people speaking foreign languages. It dillutes the place and you no longer want to scroll down when you can't have a stream-lined discussion about a topic in one language.

    A good solution would be, if one could filter only the relevant replies in the relevant language, but as I said, XF for example lacks a lot in that departement.
     
  8. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

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    Internationalization of language needs to be evaluated at multiple levels:

    - on static Site information. This includes things like the menus, the title, footer and header links, etc. Most software packages include this.

    - on different content. This would be where you would have a German section and an English section. Invision Community can handle this through multiple methods: you can either simple create different boards with different permissions or create clubs for the different languages.

    - on same content. This is nearly impossible. You would need user generated content to be available in multiple languages in real time. If you don't, you would have a fragmented discussion.

    Even if you're able to achieve perfect internationalization down and within to the granularity of content, I think it's important to think through the ramifications of allowing multiple languages.

    There's a reason why companies define an official language for their customer support communities. There is technical language, idioms, and cultural context that are important for compliance and marketing concerns.
     
  9. sbjsbj

    sbjsbj Fan

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    I am not sure what you mean by that and if I agree with that.

    Why nearly impossible? On the contrary, very easy to accomplish, see Wikipedia.

    Surf any Wiki article you want, as example the Berlin article.

    upload_2019-9-27_18-55-52.png

    You see on the left sidebar, with one click you can switch the content to a specific other language.

    Imagine a thread, which would have a setting/filter like that. Just click on the language (if available) and the content would switch to that language. Not an auto-translation of the main language, an entirely manually made translation (of course if someone provided that content). And the replies would also be unique to that language.

    So, let's say my thread is "How are you today" with 17 English replies. Switching the language to German, of course if someone provided a translation of the question, then it would have its own replies, maybe only 4 replies to that thread.

    Not sure why this should be impossible? It would be just a reloading of the page with a different thread ID, where somewhere in the database it links those 2 threads to each other, so the choosing language process knows which thread to load by selecting a language.
     
  10. \o/

    \o/ an oddity

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    In the meantime, I did. Looks like IPS doesn't even have an official German language pack (anymore?) and the third-party offers are outdated. Well, well - so much about that ... :)
    (I sent a support request, but I don't know if anything will surprise me.)

    For me, it's more like creating two communities which share a domain and probably an off-topic area.

    I am sufficiently fluid in both languages (assuming we can agree that English and German are both "one language", we won't talk about Texas vs. Oxford / Hamburg vs. Strasbourg, please ... ;)), so translating contents would not require a machine as long as I am an author in my own community. The actual problem is to provide a native-language community for both kinds of people where they only see "their" part (and, optionally, shared areas). It's even easier in WordPress although WordPress is incredibly complex these days ...

    Yup - I mean, if they're bilingual, they might opt-in, but the default should be "oh, you're German? Here's what the administrator has for Germans! (And click wherever to see the English part as well.)"

    To a very varying extent, according to my observations. The title is relatively flexible, most BB systems allow to set it in the ACP - now most software packages fail to provide a translatable interface here. Amazingly, FUDforum has a hack for that, at least.

    The "Clubs" feature sounds quite nice - I wonder if there is a way to have "language-based clubs". Maybe the support will answer something about that ...

    Wikipedia is a good example for what can be done if you can swim in donations and your community has too much free time. But yes, the interwiki feature surely is nice and I wonder why boards rarely do that.
     
  11. Nev_Dull

    Nev_Dull Anachronism

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    I don't see that as a problem. No site can pre-determine an unregistered visitor's preferred language. If anything, it's an incentive to see that a forum accommodates multiple languages.

    You misunderstand. What I'm saying is a thread in the German section that is relevant to both, could be summarized (in English) and posted in the English section, so those speakers could have their say as well.

    And that could work fine for anything you post. However, not all your members will be fluent in both languages. And even if they are, they are unlikely to want to take the time to translate every post they make. I don't know what the subject matter of your forum is, but if accurate translation is key, it takes a great deal of skill and experience to create localized content that can be translated without introducing miscommunication.

    Ultimately, if you want every visitor or member to only see content in their preferred language, you are probably better off making two sites.
     
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  12. sbjsbj

    sbjsbj Fan

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    Not true. I think the user agent also saves in which language someone browes that site currently. It is not perfect but 99% the language someone has his device/browser set in will also be his native language.

    Ah, right. That is possible right now anyway. But it is not convenient and this way you lose the connection to the original thread, which then later gets translated, unless you manually also put a link. But, wiki's system is much more intuitive and convenient, just press a button and you are good to go without trying to find the correct node and copy/paste stuff.
     
  13. \o/

    \o/ an oddity

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    This depends on the browser - the recommended behavior is a fallback to a default language. But what would be the default language in my case? WBB has a language chooser to "fix" that, at least.
     
  14. LeadCrow

    LeadCrow Apocalypse Admin

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    Woltlab would likely be the most suitable forum script for these needs. It localizes not just the user interface but also access to topics and media accordkng to users' linguistic criterias, without needkng to create separate language-specific sections. Second best would be ocPortal/composr but its a suite thag has not aged well interface-wise

    As for why multilingual forums are rarely catered to, I presume it's due to the burden of management. Staff can only effectively moderate content expressed in their own languages, and the easiest workaround is creating language-specific sections with their own staff. This approach also has the merit of working universally, in case you switch forum software.
     
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  15. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Administrator

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    There are plenty of forums that would love to be multilingual. My suggestion for language nodes is the 26th most popular suggestion for xenforo. So its not that there is no demand for it.

    But with IPS or XenForo you can set only 1 language. Therefore Google will not bring you new users for the other languages than the main board language set. Woltlab is the only option.

    The use of language packs is IMHO an an approach from the previous century that makes as much sense as 56k bandwidth now. CrowdIn lets communities translate anything. Not just default interface phrases. CrowdIn is not exactly new. Reddit has been using such methods since 2012. That's how behind the times forum language packs are.
    https://crowdin.com/projects#showcases
    https://crowdin.com/project/reddit

    The most successful forum on the planet (Reddit) owes its success partly because of its availability in every language. Its amazing that its still not possible to set forum language or filter by language with xenforo or IPS.
     
  16. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Administrator

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    I don't think this is true. If the function exists to translate an article or any type of content, then that doesn't make it mandatory to do so. In practice what would mostly happen is that members would translate the content that they find of interest. This is what happens on wikipedia and I have seen the same happening on my sites.
    For the specific combination of languages you mention (Korean with English) it is probably very niche, but as long as admins can select languages themselves this need not be the case.
     
  17. LeadCrow

    LeadCrow Apocalypse Admin

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    I presume granularity is really the issue. Language selection is not applied at a post's level so content in multiple languages has to exist in different locations for structural reasons. The database concept of a 'thread' cannot reliably store content written in multiple languages and also allow readers to only view replies written in specific languages without polluting the main index and cache, so only altering presentation works.

    Take even Google's traduction service, it assumes the entire webpage is written in no more than one language and does not handle multilingual input well (keep in mind different alphabets and character encoding)
     
  18. doubt

    doubt Tazmanian

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    The content has to be translated already to find it interesting.
     
  19. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Administrator

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    If you assume that no one can understand more than one language then yes. But in many countries people know multiple languages.
     
  20. sbjsbj

    sbjsbj Fan

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    The default language is whatever you set in XF as default. Also XF has also a language chooser.


    This is the 2nd time this is mentioned and I don't get what the problem is.
    The database concept is already there, it probably needs just an additional column to store which threads are linked with each other.

    Imagine this TAZ thread you are reading right now. This thread has the id 151808. Imagine me pressing a button somewhere here on this thread, which let's me create another thread. I press it and make a translation of the first post and hit save. Bam, I have another thread with a different id now in this same node or somewhere else. So 2 threads.

    Now imagine on the left sidebar (or somewhere else), just like Wiki, it will show now "English, German" for this TAZ thread. When I hit "German", it loads the thread I created a second ago. When I hit English, it comes back to this thread again. And all threads have their own replies, just like usually.

    What database concept is missing here?
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
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