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Website Development – International Standards and Languages

While the majority of web pages are in English, moves by the UN and other international groups are working hard to change that. As more and more people speaking a variety of languages gain access to the Internet, foreign language and international issues will become more and more critical to the web page designer. There are a variety of ways to make your pages more “foreign language” friendly, through its coding and by providing translations of your pages, widening your audience.

And while we are on the subject of foriegn languages, did you know that all English is not always “English”? There is American English, British English, South African English, Australian English, and even more English out there, each with their own rules and regulations on how things should be spelled and arranged. Normally, you would just write in “your” version of English, but what if your browser doesn’t recognize your version of English? Most do, but there are ways you can help it know which version of English, as well as which version of Chinese and other multi-version languages your website is in.

Which spellings are you going to use? American English or British English? Or maybe Cockney English? Make sure your HTML codes reflect which form of English you are using to guarantee the right characters appear within the browser’s screen.

For example, setting the language to <html lang="en-us"> instructs the Internet browser that the following content is in US English. The language code for Cockney English is en-cockney. There are language codes for all the various versions of English and other non-English languages.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), valid documents require a document type ( doctype) code and language character settings at the beginning of each document in the <head>. These codes will not translate, but they can give instructions to the browser to help display the appropriate character codes for non-English characters.

International Standards for Dates, Money, and Symbols

Other international challenges include issues with dates and measurements. People living in the US take it for granted that everyone understands the difference between an inch and a yard, that the dollar sign is the symbol for the US dollar, and that dates are month-day-year. In the rest of the world, however, the metric system is standard, and Fahrenheit degrees are obsolete. The “$” sign may mean Mexican pesos or Australian dollars, and dates are more commonly seen as day-month-year.

There are standards for dates, monetary symbols and other things for use on web pages, too. According to the International Standards Organization that oversees internationalizing technical standards since 1947, ISO 8601, Data Elements And Interchange Formats states that the international standard for the calendar date is year-month-day shown in a 4-2-2 format such as ” 2005-09-05” to designate August 5, 2005. This standard is to be used in all technical programming, code, and technical data, but it is not universally accepted by non-technical users. Still, it is one of the standards that must be examined and chosen to create consistency within your web pages.

Our audience includes many international visitors, so we had to make a decision about the standard of dates within our own websites. To avoid confusion, we chose to use actual words such as ” August 5, 2005” instead of ” 09/05/05” or ” 05/09/05” or ” 05-09-05“, etc. You have to decide what the standard will be for your own site and stick to it.

Access to All: Multilingual Web Pages

Accessibility means access to all. All means everyone, and that includes people who don’t speak English. Have you given this any thought in developing your website? According to IBM’s WebFountain, 65% of all web pages are currently written and displayed in English. Projections are that by 2010, English will be in the minority as a world language. Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Arabic languages are growing in popularity on the Internet.

While translation software is greatly improved, it is still improving. There are many online services offering free translations of web pages, though your degree of accuracy improves with purchased translation software packages or programs. So you can choose to set up duplicate pages of your web pages in a foreign language or two on your own, or with an investment in software or translators. We are planning on translating many of our pages about nature photography techniques into Spanish in the near future. It’s worth considering to widen your audience, especially if you sell a product or service with international viability.

International WordPress

There are more than 40 different languages available for WordPress. In fact, WordPress and properly designed WordPress Themes are ready to go for different languages.

In addition to many WordPress language file, localization help, WordPress Themes, and WordPress support forums, chats, and helpful international support web pages, there are also several language oriented plugins that will help add bilingual content in your WordPress blog and other translation and international features. There is also a WordPress Plugin that offers WordPress Plugin Automatic Machine Translation for your blog in eight languages Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

International Resources for Web Pages

Date, Time, Money, International Standardization


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3 Comments

  1. Posted September 25, 2005 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Languages! Yes, I maintain my blog with two majoring languages, and once I’ve added spanish content, too.

    I was already searching within the Plugin-Sites offered by the WP admin interface, but haven’t found a really useful tool for my problem. I actually want to separate my content depending on the language, or prefix a “EN” or “DE” lable on the post. However, I’d like to display all posts within one website.

    Is there either a useful plugin for WordPress 1.5.2 or a trick to separate my entries between english and german? If so, do you know? ;)

    On the other hand, I could always add two new categories labelled “English Yadda” and “German Yadda” to differ between the languages, but that’d be a bully solution. :(

  2. Posted September 25, 2005 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    There must be something that will help you with genearl multilingual blogging from the list above, and one plugin from the WordPress Plugins list, Basic Bilingual Plugin, is supposed to allow the ability to have more than one language on your WordPress blog.

    I’m sure there are more out there. Let me know if you come up with a good solution.

  3. Posted September 27, 2005 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I chose not to use that plugin as looked quite messy in my WP 1.5.2 – I’d have to edit the admin style sheet to organize the functions, and the optional excerpt is rather useless. I might end up fighting my way through some peaceful moments and code a plugin on my own – there must be time to do that in the next month!


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  2. [...] In “International Standards and Languages”, I wrote: While the majority of web pages are in English, moves by the UN and other international groups are working hard to change that. As more and more people speaking a variety of languages gain access to the Internet, foreign language and international issues will become more and more critical to the web page designer. There are a variety of ways to make your pages more “foreign language” friendly, through its coding and by providing translations of your pages, widening your audience. [...]

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