Bilingual Frustrations, Still in 2013 (With Siri and Dragon Dictate) [en]

[fr] J'adore Siri, mais qu'est-ce que j'aimerais que les logiciels à "intelligence linguistique" puisse fonctionner en mode multilingue. En tant que bilingue, je trouve extrêmement frustrant de devoir (a) m'en tenir à une seule langue (b) me souvenir dans quelle langue j'ai "configuré" le logiciel en question!

Before leaving for India last year, my earbuds died, which I took as a sign to head out and upgrade my iPhone, something I was due for sooner or later (in Switzerland, your mobile phone is tied to your subscription, and you get a discounted phone every one or two years).

This means I got an iPhone 5, and was finally able to play about with Siri. I love Siri and voice commands/dictation in general. But as a bilingual person, I find it really sad that there is no voice command to switch languages. I do it many many times a day! Bilingual mode would be the best. Sure, it would double Siri’s vocabulary, but I’m sure with today’s technology and if Siri knows which two languages I’m speaking it’s doable.

Plus I read in a forum (link lost since then) that changing languages resets all the “learning” aspect of Siri? That really sucks and should qualify as a bug.

When will people making software that has language intelligence understand that there are bilingual people out there who juggle with two (ore more!) languages constantly throughout their day? I have exactly the same grief with Dragon Dictate.

Remember: most people are multilingual. And if you’re interested in bilingualism, you should be reading François Grosjean‘s “Life as a Bilingual” blog.

2nd Back to Blogging Challenge, day 3. Others: Nathalie Hamidi(@nathaliehamidi), Evren Kiefer (@evrenk), Claude Vedovini (@cvedovini), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Fleur Marty (@flaoua), Xavier Borderie (@xibe), Rémy Bigot (@remybigot),Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Marie-Aude Koiransky (@mezgarne), Anne Pastori Zumbach (@anna_zap), Martin Röll (@martinroell), Gabriela Avram (@gabig58), Manuel Schmalstieg (@16kbit), Jan Van Mol (@janvanmol). Hashtag:#back2blog.

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Where Are the International Bloggers and Podcasters? [en]

[fr] Nous cherchons encore des recommandations de blogueurs non-anglophones et non-francophones (sorry!) pour notre sélection "internationale" de blogueurs officiels pour LeWeb à Paris. Demandez à vos amis d'autres langues ou cultures d'envoyer leurs suggestions via ce formulaire, d'en parler sur leur blog ou Twitter -- et faites de même. Merci de votre aide!

OK, I’ll admit the question is stupid. “International” means “not from my country” and is very ethnocentric. Here’s the context: we’re building up a list of influential bloggers from different countries/cultures so that we can invite them to LeWeb in Paris as official bloggers this December.

So far, we’ve had quite a few suggestions for French bloggers (obviously), Portuguese, some Swedish, German and “international English” (Vietnam, Singapore). What about the others? The Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Belgian, Serbian, Austrian, Greek, Swiss (!), Finnish, Norwegian, Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Chinese, American, Canadian, Japanese, Australian bloggers? To say nothing of the various African nations and all the others I’m forgetting?

I need your help for this. We’re looking for bloggers who understand English but who blog mainly in other languages (except if they’re from an English-speaking country). Maybe you know them? Ask them to fill out this form with a recommendation or three and send out a call for suggestions in non-English languages, on their blogs or through Twitter. And do it on yours, too!

Thanks a lot to everybody who takes the time to spread the word and send in suggestions.

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WPML to Make Your WordPress Site Multilingual [en]

[fr] A tester absolument si vous devez mettre en place un site multilingue: le plugin WPML pour WordPress.

I’ve been wanting to play with the WPML WordPress plugin for a while now, and I finally took the plunge today and updated my professional site to the latest version of WordPress, as well as WPML. (Sadly, the content still needs a major overhaul.)

Until now, I had built it using two separate WordPress installations, one in English, one in French, linked together by my quick-and-dirty plugin Bunny’s Language Linker (which, in the light of today’s experiment, I will be retiring from rather inactive development — Basic Bilingual remains, though, and still very much makes sense).

Here’s a summary of what I did:

  • backed up my database
  • upgraded both WordPress blogs to the latest version and exported their content
  • removed the automatic language redirection based on browser language preferences to make sure it wouldn’t interfere (I want to find a way to insert it back in, help appreciated)
  • added and activated the WPML plugin on the English installation
  • went through the settings after activating advanced mode
  • translated widget text and site tagline
  • manually imported content from the French site (import failed due to PHP on my server not being compiled with ctype_digit()), but it was only a dozen pages — it’s easy to specify language and of which English page a new one is a translation of, if any)

Setting up WPML

I did encounter some grief:

  • when selecting the “different languages in directories” I kept getting an error message which didn’t make much sense to me; tip: if that happens, make sure that your site and pages all work fine (in my case, I had to reset permalink structure because it had got lost somewhere on the way — even though the settings didn’t change)
  • I’m using a theme with an existing .mo file for French, so I selected that option (to figure out what the textdomain is, look through a theme file to see what the second argument to the gettext calls is — they look like __("Text here", "text domain here")) but it seems that all the strings for my theme still appear in the “string translation” pane
  • initially the strings for my widgets and site tagline weren’t appearing in the “string translation” pane — you have to click the “Save options and rescan strings” button for that, even if you haven’t changed any settings (that was not exactly obvious to me)

Here’s what I still need to fix:

  • the rewrite rules are set to hide the “language directory” part of the URL when browsing the site in the default language — I want to change this as explained in this forum post
  • reimplement automatic language detection
  • set up a custom language switcher that looks more like “Français | English” somewhere at the top right of the page

And honestly, once that is settle, WPML is as close as it gets to my dream multilingual plugin for WordPress!

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Basic Bilingual 0.4 [en]

[fr] Mon plugin bilingue vient enfin d'être mis à jour: version 0.4 à disposition, par les bons soins de Luca!

Another long-overdue update of my Basic Bilingual plugin (which, as you can see by following the link, now has its own page here, in addition to the page in the WordPress plugin repository).

Luca Palli e-mailed me a few months ago saying he had upgraded the admin code to make it compatible with WordPress 2.8. I’m happy to let you know that you can now drag the language and other excerpt fields to more convenient places in your post and page editing screens.

Basic Bilingual with new editing screen, thanks Luca!

Luca also added an options screen, and I have hope that I (or somebody) will at some point manage to write the code to set the languages through the options screen rather than by editing the plugin, as we have to do now (it’s pretty simple editing, though).

So, thanks a lot, Luca.

Thanks too to the “how to use Subversion” page on the WordPress extend site, as it saved my life once again. I update my plugins so infrequently that I completely forget how to use svn in between.

As always, back up your data regularly, and if you bump into any problems, let me know. If you want to contribute code, as you can see, you’re more than welcome!

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Un Parti des Pirates Suisse multilingue? [fr]

[en] Will the community gathered around the creation of a Swiss Pirate Party manage to include the various linguistic groups of the country, or will the Roestigraben win, like it did in the 2006 Swiss Blog Awards? Interesting situation which I'm following closely.

Le projet pour aujourd’hui était de mettre en ligne mes photos de ce week-end et de vous parler un peu de mon premier Bol d’Or (historique: 64 à l’arrivée sur 550, tous les autres ont dû abandonner, faute de vent). La bonne nouvelle c’est que j’ai commencé à trier mes photos, et qu’il y en a des sympas. Et l’autre bonne nouvelle c’est que je suis allée faire un saut sur le canal IRC (#piraten-schweiz) des pirates suisses, et que j’y ai recommencé à parler de questions linguistiques.

piratench-90x90Car, oui, la question se pose: l’initiative est majoritairement suisse-allemande. Est-ce que le Roestigraben va gagner, comme lors des Swiss Blog Awards de 2006, ou bien parviendra-t-on à créer un groupe d’intérêt (et peut-être même un parti politique) multilingue? L’intention est là, en tous cas. Si vous êtes francophone et intéressé, n’hésitez pas à vous manifester — ils sont assez accueillants, ces satanés pirates.

Je me suis fendue d’un petit article sur la question des langues dans leur forum (il faut passer par l’interface allemande pour s’y inscrire, mais une fois là, on peut changer la langue et être un peu moins dépaysé) que j’ai aussi relayé dans le forum-ghetto francophone. (Mais oui, vous saviez déjà que j’avais un faible pour les questions linguistiques, non?)

J’y prône entre autres les bienfaits du mélange de langues sur un même forum ou dans un même blog plutôt que la ségrégation qui appauvrit inévitablement les langues minoritaires, puisque les bilingues filent tout naturellement là où il y a le plus d’animation, dans leur langue majoritaire.

La volonté de tout traduire est un piège: il faut accepter que le contenu sera imparfaitement dupliqué si l’on crée des instances d’un même document en plusieurs langues. Sinon, toute la publication est paralysée. Pour animer un blog, aussi, la traduction n’est pas la meilleure solution: primo parce que nous les Romands, on en a marre qu’on ne nous serve que du contenu suisse-allemand réchauffé à la sauce (mauvaise) traduction, et deuxio parce que produire du contenu original demande souvent moins d’effort que faire une traduction (à peu près) correcte — sauf si on a à disposition une armée de traducteurs professionnels ;-).

A suivre. C’est un dossier qui m’intéresse.

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Google: "Don't Mix Languages on the Same Page" [en]

[fr] Dommage, un article sur comment démarrer son site multilingue sur un des blogs officiels de Google donne des conseils que je trouve assez malheureux (genre: "ne mélangez pas plusieurs langues sur une même page").

I wanted to leave this as a comment on [How to Start a Multilingual Site]( over on the [Official Google Webmaster Central Blog](, but unfortunately Blogger is taking a break right now and I can’t post. So, here we go:

“Avoid mixing languages on each page, as this may confuse Googlebot as well as your users.” (Nico, thanks, I’d missed that one)

I’m really disappointed to see this kind of advice handed out. Yes, it confuses Googlebot, but only because it doesn’t (I guess?) take into account lang=”xx” attributes. (Yeah, nobody uses them, but that’s because nobody parses them.)

But users? Most people are not pure monolinguals. We need ways to make linguistic barriers online weaker, and not stronger.

I’ve been mixing languages on Climb to the Stars for eight years now, and it hasn’t prevented my readers or my Page Rank from being happy.

I vote for Google learning that the “page” is not the smallest item on the web that is allowed to have its own language attribute, rather than asking people to conform to some kind of artificial absolute monolingualism.

I’ll try an post tomorrow, but at least this is out there. I left a [previous comment]( on the same post earlier today, by the way. (Check out my other [multilingual stuff](/multilingual) while you’re on the topic.)

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Basic Bilingual 0.3 for Multilingual Blogging [en]

[fr] Une mise à jour de mon plugin "Basic Bilingual" qui permet de rendre WordPress bilingue. Modification majeure: il n'y a plus besoin de bidouiller son template pour faire apparaître l'extrait du billet dans "l'autre langue". Par contre, c'est toujours nécessaire pour rajouter les attributs lang.

Long overdue, an upgrade of my plugin Basic Bilingual. Grab the [tgz archive](/code/basic-bilingual.tgz) or [check out the code](/code/basic-bilingual.phps).

Some explanations. First, you all know of my [long-standing interest in all things multilingual](/focus/multilingual) and in [multilingual blogging]( in particular.

Years ago, I switched to [Movable Type]( and then to [Wordpress]( because I was blogging in two languages. Movable Type allowed me to assign more than one category to each post — so I used two huge categories, fr and en, to indicate what language I was blogging in. This soon made the rebuilds a real pain in the neck, and WordPress allowed me first of all to [happily hack it into being multilingual](, and then actually [write a plugin to do it in a cleaner way]( The plugin hasn’t changed much since, and this upgrade isn’t a major one, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Ideally, I’d like people to be able to use the plugin without having to modify their templates at all. I’d also like the plugin to allow filtering out one language if that is what the reader desires. I still hope that [Wordpress will one day “see the light” and let us define language at post-level]( “Please vote!”) (Matt [saw the light for tagging]( ;-), so I do have hope). By the way, I stumbled upon this [Ajax Language Switcher for Basic Bilingual]( earlier today, and it will probably greatly interest those courageous ones of you who tend to have translations of each post or page.

Back to the plugin. It installs normally (unzip everything in the /plugins directory). If you’re using other languages than French and English, you’ll have to manually change the language codes in the plugin file (not very difficult, you don’t have to know PHP to do it; just look for “en” and “fr” and put the language codes for your languages instead).

I’ve fixed an annoying problem with slashes that popped up at some point (somebody else gave me the fix, but I can’t remember who — let me know!).

But most of all, I’ve made the “other language excerpt” appear automatically in the post content. Yes, you hear me: no need to add <php bb_the_other_excerpt(); ?> in your templates anymore. Yay! Added bonus: it will show up in the feeds, too — for that reason, I’ve added a text separator between the excerpt and the post so that there is a separation between the languages.

Basic Bilingual in Google Reader

Obviously, you’ll want to hide these separators and style your posts a little. Here is roughly what I’m using right now:

.other-excerpt {
font-style: italic;
background: #fff;
padding-left: 1em;
padding-right: 1em;
border: 1px solid #ccc;

.other-excerpt:lang(fr) p.oe-first-child:before {
content: “[fr] “;
font-weight: bold;

.other-excerpt:lang(en) p.oe-first-child:before {
content: “[en] “;
font-weight: bold;

.bb-post-separator {
display: none;

div.hentry:lang(fr) .entry-title:after {
content: ” [fr] “;
vertical-align: middle;
font-size: 80%;
color: #bbb;

div.hentry:lang(en) .entry-title:after {
content: ” [en] “;
vertical-align: middle;
font-size: 80%;
color: #bbb;

Now, notice there is fancy stuff in there which relies on the lang attribute. If you’re mixing languages on a page, you should [use the lang attribute]( to indicate which language is where. This means (unfortunately, until I become buddies with PHP’s ob_start() function) that you need to touch your template. It’s not that hard, though.

Find the outermost <div> for each post in the template (it [should have the CSS class hentry, by now]( Add this inside the tag: lang="<?php bb_the_language(); ?>". Do so on every theme template which produces posts. With [the Sandbox theme](, it would look like this:

<div id="post-” class=”” lang=””>

That’s it!

If you’re using this plugin, please leave a link to your blog. I’m also always interested in hearing of other examples of multilingual blogging or multilingualism online.

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Lars Trieloff: i18n for Web 2.0 (Web 2.0 Expo, Berlin) [en]

*steph-note: incomplete notes. I was very disappointed by this session, mainly because I’m exhausted and I was expecting something else, I suppose. I should have read the description of the talk, it’s quite true to what was delivered. Please see [my work on multilingualism](/focus/multilingual) to get an idea where I come from.*

Why internationalize? You have to speak in the language of your user.

e.g. DE rip-offs of popular EN apps like Facebook. CN version of Facebook, and RU, and turkish.

What is different in Web 2.0 internationalization? Much more complicated than normal software i18n, but some things are easier.

More difficult:

– sites -> apps
– web as platform
– JS, Flash, etc…

The i18n challenge is multiplied by the different technologies.

Solution: consolidate i18n technology. Need a common framework for all.

*steph-note: OK, this looks like more of a developer track. A little less disappointed.*

Keep the i18n data in one place, extract the strings, etc. then pull them back into the application once localized.

Example of how things were done in Mindquarry.

*steph-note: oh, this is in the Fundamentals track :-/ — this is way too tech-oriented for a Fundamentals track in my opinion.*

*steph-note: insert a whole bunch of technical stuff I’m skipping, because I can’t presently wrap my brain around it and it is not what interests me the most, to be honest.*

Web 2.0 Expo Berlin 21

Web 2.0 Expo Berlin 22

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Two Panel Submissions for SXSW Interactive (Language Issues) [en]

[fr] Il y a deux propositions portant mon nom pour SXSW -- merci de voter pour elles! Sinon, dates et description de mes prochaines conférences.

Je cherche aussi un "speaking agent" -- faites-moi signe si vous en connaissez un qui travaille avec des personnes basées en Europe. Merci d'avance!

Oh. My. God.

I just realised, [reading Brian’s post](, that I haven’t blogged about the two panel proposals I’m on for [SXSW Interactive next March in Austin, Texas](

* [Opening the Web to Linguistic Realities]( (co-presenting with [Stephanie Troeth](
** A basic assumption on the Internet is that everybody speaks and understands one language at a time. Globalism and immigration has created an even more prominent trend of multilingualism amongst the world’s inhabitants. How can the WWW and its core technologies keep up? How can we shift our biased perspectives?
* [Lost in Translation? Top Website Internationalization Lessons]( (panel I’m moderating)
** How do you publish software or content for a global audience? Our expert panel discusses lessons learned translating and localizing. Leaders from Flickr, Google, iStockphoto and the Worldwide Lexicon will tackle various marketing issues; how to translate the ‘feel’ of a Web site, and; best practices for software and content translation.

As you can see, both proposals revolve around the use of languages on the internet — and as you know, it’s one of the topics [I care about]( nowadays. I’ve spoken on this topic a few times now ([BlogCamp ZH](, [Reboot9](, [Google Tech Talks]( and I’m looking forward to taking things further with these new chances to toss these problems around in public.

80 or so of the [700+ panel submissions to SXSW Interactive]( will be selected by public voting and actually take place. That’s not a lot (roughly 10%). So **please** go and vote for these two panels (“Amazing” will do) so that they make it into the selection. I really want to go to Austin! (Can you hear me begging? OK, over. But please vote.)

Other than that, I have a few more talks planned in the coming months:

– a [talk on corporate blogging]( in Zürich ([MScom alumni Jour Fixe](, private event) [Sept. 24]
– future jobs of the web (evolution of the “webmaster”) at [BlogCamp Lausanne](, and probably a second session either on languages or [teenagers online]( [Sept. 29]
– a talk on being a blogging/social media consultant in Europe for [BlogOpen]( in Novi Sad, Serbia [Oct. Nov. 10]
– [Multilinguisme web et problèmes associés]( in Paris for Paris Web [Nov. 16]

My [proposal for Web 2.0 Expo]( didn’t make it, it seems, but I’ll probably submit something for [Web2Open](

And, as [you might have heard](, **I’m looking for a speaking agent**. If you can recommend any good speaking agents who work with European-based speakers, please drop me a line or a comment.

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Most People Are Multilingual [en]

[fr] Une clarification de ce que j'entends par "la plupart des gens sont multilingues". Multilingues au sens large.

In [a comment to my last post](, [Marie-Aude]( says I’m being a bit optimistic by stating that “most people are multilingual”. I’d like to clarify what I mean by that.

The “most people are multilingual” thing is not from me. I’ve seen it mentioned in varied settings, though I still need to find systematic studies to back it up (let me know if you have any handy).

It all depends how you define “multilingual”. If you define it in a broad sense (ie, school-level passive understanding of a language counts), then a little thinking shows it’s not that “optimistic”. Here is what would make somebody multilingual:

– immigration, of course
– learning a foreign language at school
– living in a country with different linguistic groups.

Some examples:

– in India, many people are fluent in their mother tongue, and to some extent in one of the countries official languages: Hindi or English
– in the US, think about the huge immigrant population; the whole country was built upon immigration, come to think of it; in the bus in San Francisco, I often heard more foreign languages than English
– again in the US (because the English-speaking world is seen as a big “monolingual” block), think of the increasingly important hispanic/latino population (people who will often have knowledge of both English and Spanish)
– in most European countries, people learn at least one foreign language in school — even if it’s not used, most people retain at least some passive knowledge of it; I’m not sure about Asia, Africa, Southern America, Australia: does anybody know?

So, I don’t think it’s that optimistic to say most people are multilingual. To say that most people are “perfectly multilingual”, of course, is way off the mark. But most people understand more than one language, at least to some extent.

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