We were recently approached by one of our agency clients to convert their client’s existing Umbraco site to be 4-way multilingual (English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese). We’ve got plenty of experience of multilingual using Umbraco, so we worked with them to understand their requirements, and then chose the best approach from the many different options available to them. In conjunction with their translation agency, we ensured a smooth transition from initial idea to finished site.
The key factors in this implementation of multilingual Umbraco were that the client was starting with 4 languages but this may be added to in the future; that not every page would be translated on every language site; and that the site would be managed by non-native speakers of each language.
By understanding this, we recommended that the client use what we call the separate branches approach to multilingual in Umbraco (see our Slideshare). This means that each language is effectively it’s own site and can have it’s own content, and adding new languages is simply a case of adding a new section to Umbraco for the language content, and updating the Umbraco “Dictionary”. There is no need for developers to get involved.
The disadvantage of this approach is that it can be a challenge for non-native speakers to find and edit content - however on balance we felt that separate offline processes could be used to manage the difficulty of finding and editing content.
In order to create the translation-ready version of Umbraco we:
Edited all templates and macro’s on the site to ensure that all english text is not hard-coded
Created the Umbraco Dictionary for each language
Created language branches of the content of the site
Exported XML of the content and the dictionary for use by the translation agency
Imported translated content and integration tested the site
Our biggest challenge was in providing an editor interface to the Umbraco Dictionary which is normally only accessible via the Settings section of Umbraco – not a safe place for Editors to be working normally.
To resolve this we used the Dictionary Dashboard package by Dennis Milandt, which as it’s name suggests places a dashboard on the Content section of Umbraco that editors can work with. Unfortunately that package doesn’t work in Umbraco 7, however translations are set for a big overhall in future versions of Umbraco, but we’ll write more about that when we know more.
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As if by magic just a couple of days after we posted this, Matt Brailsford blogged about Moving the Dictionary Tree to a different section of Umbraco 7.