Genii Weblog

Support Thoughts: Multilingual Support?

Thu 25 Mar 2004, 07:27 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Support Thoughts intro
I am doing some active thinking about support forums because I am actively working to bring up our new Support Forum and still retain all the content from the past seven years.  I am adapting the OpenNTF domBulletin template to my needs (using @Midas and such).  If you want to see the progress, go to Genii Support Forum (beta).  I hope to have the support forum fully functional in the next couple of weeks.

Multilingual Support
I am active in a number of user-supported support forums, most notably the R4&5 Gold forum and the ND6 Gold Forum on Notes.Net (or LDD for those who think that way).  One thing that bothers me about these forums is that they are all "English", all the time.  Now, before anybody jumps on me, I accept that the forums are a lot easier to understand for us English speaking people when the posts are in English, and I understand that English is an unofficial standard among computer people, so I accept the necessity of having English.  What I object to is the avoidance of anything else, and the active dissuading anyone from posting in any other language.  I wish there could be a native language translation provided when the author of a post was not entirely comfortable with English, not replacing the English, but augmenting it.  This could be informal, just by requesting it of the authors, or there could be a separate field for it and a designator if the post contained a separate language version.

I envision a field on each post which states the "Alternate language", and a separate field for that language supplement.  Let's imagine someone posts a post in English, but also specifies Spanish as the "Alternate language" and posts the post in Spanish, presumably their native tongue.  English speaking people can still read the English part, but when it is very confusing, those who read Spanish can try to see if the explanation there makes more sense.  There could be a view for "Alternate language" as well, so that those very comfortable with German, French, Spanish, or whatever else, can endeavor to provide a bit better support for people asking questions in those languages.

Now, I don't want this to be confused for support for different language forums.  There are forums in different places already which serve as native language support, but they sometimes lack the breadth of experience available in the English forums (not due to any failing on the part of the native language speakers, but because of that unofficial standard I mentioned).  This plan would probably fail if too many posts only contained the alternate language, but I think that would be a self correcting problem, since people would not get the responses they wanted.  On the other hand, some posts would get answered that are not now because the English of the author is simply not adequate to the task - sort of what would happen if I were to post in a German only forum.

What do you think?

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

135.1. Stan Rogers
(03/25/2004 01:10 PM)

I'm not quite sure how you'd do it here, Ben, but I've usually tried to act as an intercessionary between the lost and the helpful when I can over at Notes.Net. I may not know the answer, but I can translate the question if it happens to be in French . I do the same sort of thing when I can see that the attempted English is broken in that uniquely French fracture (which, BTW, Babelfish faithfully renders as well), and I can tell that the poster is unable to adequately express the question in English. You may have to rely on human translation resources in your support forum, but given the propensity for collaboration that Notes seems to engender in its users, that really shouldn't be a problem.