Developing an understanding on how multi-lingual content needs to work on

Over the last few weeks I have been contemplating how multi-lingual content could work on (I have had several helpful conversations to direct my thinking.)

As I understand the situation there is basically three ways which multi-lingual content could work.

First let me say that there is a difference between, multi-lingual content, multi-lingual taxonomies, and multi-lingual menu structures. We are talking about content here, not menu and navigation structures or taxonimies. Facebook has probably presented the best framework to date for utilizing on the power crowds to translate navigation structures.[ref 1] In just under two years they added over 70 languages to Facebook. However, Facebook has had some bumps along the way as DropBox points out in their post talking about their experience in translating their products and services.[ref 2]

  • Use a mechanism which shows all the available languages for content and highlights which ones are available to the user. Zotero has an implementation of this on their support forums.
    Zotero language options

    Zotero language options

  • Basically create a subsite for each language and then only show which pages have content in that language. Wikipedia does this. Wikipedia has a menu on the left side with links to articles with this same title in other languages. Only languages which have an article started in them on that title are shown in the menu.
    SIL International in English

    SIL International in English

    Other Pages in other languages may not show the same content.

    Other Pages in other languages may not show the same content.

  • Finally, create a cascading structure for each page or content area. So there is a primary language and a secondary language or a tertiary, or a quaternary language etc. based on the browser language of choice with country IP playing a secondary role. If there is no page for the primary language then the next in preference will show. This last option has been preferred by some because if an organization wants to present content to a user, then obviously, it would be in the users’ primary language. But if the content is not available in the primary language then the organization would want to still let the user know that the content exists in another language.

It would also be good to understand the concepts used in Drupal 7 (and Drupal 8) for multi-lingual content. There are several resources which I have found helpful:

  1. Localized and Multi-Lingual Content in Drupal 7[ref 3]
  2. Drupal 7’s new multilingual systems (part 4) – Node translation[ref 4]
  3. Drupal 7’s new multilingual systems compilation[ref 5]
  4. Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative[ref 6]

It would appear that from this list of resources that Drupal’s default behavior is more in line with part two of the three examples given above.


  1. Nico Vera. 11 February 2008. ¡Bienvenidos a Facebook en Español!. The Facebook Blog. [Accessed: 5 March 2012]
  2. Dan Wheeler. 18 April 2011. Translating Dropbox. [Accessed: 5 March 2011]
  3. Karen Stevenson. 17 November 2011. Localized and Multi-Lingual Content in Drupal 7. Lullabot Ideas. [Accessed: 5 March 2011]
  4. Gábor Hojtsy. 31 January 2011. Drupal 7’s new multilingual systems (part 4) – Node translation. [Accessed: 5 March 2011]
  5. Gábor Hojtsy. 5 May 2011. Drupal 7’s new multilingual systems compilation. [Accessed: 5 March 2011]
  6. Gábor Hojtsy. 26 January 2012. Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative. [Accessed: 5 March 2011]

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