When web content is created, the language issue is one of the first aspects to be tackled. This is a guide to the preparatory work that needs to be done to decide which languages to provide.
The Commission's web sites are an interface with the general public. Therefore non-discrimination is a primary factor when deciding on language coverage.
The Lisbon Treaty strengthened the provisions on the public's right to participate in the policy-making process. There is also a wish to bring the EU closer to the citizens. The language coverage should be decided with these aspects in mind, and in the understanding that restriction makes the Commission vulnerable to criticism.
If the content concerns EU citizens' rights or obligations it should be provided in all official languages. Investigate also whether there are legal or political requirements to publish your content in all languages.
In other cases, 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 resources.
Checklist for deciding on language coverage
The language coverage on the web should be evidence-based and coherent. To achieve these important objectives:
- Check if similar content has already been translated. If so, consider collaboration and/or linking to it. From a user perspective, we should avoid duplication and offer one entry point.
- Define the organisational goals of your web content as well as your target audience. Setting goals help you measure whether or not you have an efficient website.
- Decide who ensures the content is fit for the web and ready for translation (must be native speaker or equivalent, and trained in writing for the web).
General vs. specialised content
The following can be identified as general content to be published in all official languages:
- content created in response to a legal obligation
- online public consultations, when the general public is the target audience
- access to funding
- any stable content with a wider audience
You may publish all language versions at the same time or first the original language and any other language version at your disposal. If you plan to have it translated, a notification should make that clear.
Specialised content, targeted at a limited audience or experts, may be provided in a few languages or even just one, depending on the users' needs.
The following can be identified as specialised information:
- technical information
- funding for research
- campaigns, fora, blogs
For web sites with a more limited or specialised audience, make sure you understand the users:
- their profile (profession, age, etc.)
- their usual working languages
- where they come from
- if some of them might be excluded due to language barriers, etc.
Make sure they can find all information they look for in the same navigation language from start to end.
News and news-related information
Information that is urgent and short-lived, such as news items, sometimes has to be made available very quickly. In such cases an option is to publish the text first in one language only (taking the target audience and users' needs into account) and add other languages later, in one or more steps, provided it is still meaningful for the target audience.
Ideally, the texts should be proofread in every language one final time before going live. DGT can help you with this.
Once your content is online, follow up and analyse the visits to verify whether the choice you made was the right one.