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Multilingualism

The European Union has 24 official languages. The use of these official languages in all legislative and informative EU documents guarantees that every citizen can understand the laws which apply to him or her, be well informed and take part in public debates. These are all essential pre-requisites for a transparent and democratic EU.

This is why our aim is to provide the public with the information they are looking for in their own language, or at least in a language they can understand, although the final choice of languages may vary according to the nature of the information and the target audience as well as depending on the availability of human and financial resources.

 

Description

The availability of the information in multiple languages, ideally in all official languages of the EU, is one of the major strengths of the EUROPA website. When a website is created, the language issue is therefore one of the first aspects to be tackled. A well-thought decision must be taken on the language policy of the site. It will take into consideration the type of content of the site, its main target audience and the resources available. It is essential to discuss this policy with Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) so as to adopt a realistic approach to multilingualism.

During site operation, when content must be created, it is also important to involve the DGT’s web unit at the earliest opportunity - while you are still drafting or even before you start. Waiting to contact DGT until the moment you are ready to submit files for translation is far too late. Experience has shown that the final product is much improved if DGT can collaborate from an early stage on web projects, checking original web texts to ensure they are suitable quality for translation/web publication, and providing native speaker editing of these texts where necessary. Other benefits include DGT advice on other issues related to multilingualism on the Web and scheduling of translation work as far in advance as possible.

 
 

Steps

  • Define the language policy of the site according to target audience, nature of web content and available resources.
  • Notify the DGT’s web unit at the earliest opportunity of your web project – especially regarding volumes and languages. Include them in the drafting process from the start, in particular by providing sample texts for comment and linguistic advice.
  • Define navigation policy for languages (including splash page, if any).
  • Describe the language policy in the “About this site” section, with sound arguments defending it.
  • In the design phase, keep in mind that adjustments might be necessary, depending on the language.
  • Follow language-related IPG recommendations on URLs, file naming policy, site names, procedure for requesting a URL, etc.
  • Send content for translation (relevant deadlines and possible delays to be taken into account in the overall planning). For further information on how to request the translation (available resources, procedures, etc.), see the relevant “Tools” section below.
  • When choosing the templates for your site, keep in mind all the relevant multilingual elements: keywords, metadata, characters ALT, WAI, etc.
  • Define the language policy for the management of functional mailboxes (i.e. how to handle incoming messages in any language, translation of both messages and replies, multilingual collection of standard replies, etc.)
  • When planning the promotion of the site, define all language aspects related to both the site itself and the promotional tools.
 
 

Evaluation Criteria

  • Site(s) availability in the appropriate official language(s)
  • Final product quality as regards not only the original text but also translations
  • Users’ feedback related to language offer and issues relating to quality of translations
 
 

Inputs

  • Project description defining the new site
  • Language policy proposed (including  the relevant justification)
 
 

Outputs

  • New site available in x number of languages
  • Translations of original text(s)
  • Proofreading documentation/proofs
  • Glossary of used terms
 
 

Work Guidelines and references

Training

Language recognition training courses are sometimes provided by DG HR. At the same time DG HR, in collaboration with DG COMM, holds regular courses on “Writing for the Web” in EN. These courses help information providers write clearer texts, suitable for web presentation and also address the multilingual aspects that relate uniquely to the EUROPA site.

Tools

The DGT is able to help you process your documents in 24 languages. However, not all texts can be treated on an equal basis, different priorities and different solutions are on offer according to the documents’ importance and nature. DGT therefore offers a variety of linguistic treatments and language tools which can be found on the site of its web unit.

Contacts

Further information on multilingualism issues can be requested by email to the EUROPA team.