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Our current website is a multilingual embarrassment.

Have you looked at our French home page lately? Or Spanish? Or Russian? Chinese? Arabic?

You probably haven't, according to our website statistics, and for a good reason: those home pages have not changed much in 2 years! 

They all still show an image that we used on our English-language home page two years ago. The events are outdated. The feature boxes are old. The "news" is old. The menus are no longer synchronized with the main English home page.

And if you follow links from those home pages, you will find that you soon run out of pages in those languages. What we have is more of a "facade" for each language.

In truth we should just take those pages down - and I may do that soon.

The original intent was an excellent one: make our website content available in all six United Nations languages.

But the result we have today shows a fundamental truth about multilingual websites:

  • One-time translation is simple - maintaining the translated content over time is the challenging part!

It's relatively "easy" to translate a page or a set of pages once. We can send them to a translation firm. We can ask staff to help. In our case we can ask our Chapters in a particular region to help.

And this can work for individual reports. Or tutorials. Or other static pages.

But it does NOT work for a dynamic website where we are publishing new content on a daily basis.

Stepping Back - and Doing It Right

As a global organization with 120+ chapters and tens of thousands of individual members scattered around the world, we know that our website content must be available in more than just English.

To deliver on the vision of our new website having global impact, we have had to step back and take a hard look at how we support multiple languages on our main site.

The critical point is that we must deliver more than a "facade." The versions of the site in other languages need to be strong and in sync with the English site as much as possible.

Early on in the website redesign process, we realized that to do this right we need at least one person dedicated to ensuring synchronization between the languages. Someone who makes sure the home pages and menus are updated. Someone who can ensure that when we publish news in English, we also publish information in other languages.

More than that, we need a person who is bringing in content from other languages. Our site cannot just be English content translated into, say, Spanish. It should also include Spanish content that is translated into English.

Starting Slowly

Adding a person (or multiple people) like this into our communications team and editorial workflow is something new. We need to prove to ourselves that this model will work.

And so we're starting slowly. As we bring the new website online over the next few months, we are going to start with French and Spanish. These two languages cover significant areas of the world where we have members and chapters. I also believe there is a high probability we can find someone who is fluent in BOTH French and Spanish, as well as English.

If you think you are a good fit for this role, or you know someone who might be, our Multilingual Editor job description is now posted online with more details. We're accepting applications now and will continue until we fill the role.

Please note - this is a 12-month contract position. We want to prove that this model of working on a multilingual site will work.

In the best case, we'll find that this model works and we'll look to continue it. And, if it works, we will probably want to add additional Multilingual Editors in 2018 and beyond to cover more languages.

However, we may find that the model doesn't work and that we need to try a different approach. This position may end at that time.

So we're looking for someone willing to join us on this adventure and help us find a good path forward.

Apply Now

To learn more about the responsibilites and qualifications, please read the listing for the 12-month Multilingual Editor position. Do note that we are building our new site on WordPress and using the WPML plugin. Experience with WPML would be a huge plus.

We are looking, too, for someone excited to work in a fast-paced environment. When we have news that needs to go out, we'll be looking for this person to help us get that news out in French and Spanish. Sometimes we will have plenty of lead time - other times we are publishing right in the moment. The ability to work quickly and with the rest of the team will be critical.

Instructions on how to apply can be found in the position description.  We're eager to get started - and we need someone on board soon to help with our website redesign over the next few months.

Please do me a favor, though. If you are not fluent in all three languages (English, French and Spanish), in both written and spoken communication, please do not bother applying. Someday we might be in a position to have editors for each language, but that is not today.

I'm excited to try this new model for a multilingual website. Please help us reach more people in more languages by either applying yourself - or sharing this information with others who might be a good fit. Thank you!

P.S. This article is part of our series on our website redesign in 2017. Please do follow along on our journey!

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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