I would love to be able to sit here and write this to everyone in their own language, but unfortunately I just do not have the linguistic skills or the time to translate the work that I do. The same thing goes for our partners when they are writing about their projects. It is nigh on impossible to translate ongoing work, unless of course you budget the translation effort into the plans of the projects. That increases costs and reduces efficiency – not something we are so keen on promoting in the development sector. Here in the Akvo Dev team though, we’ve just finished working on an implementation that has solved this problem for all Akvo RSR users. Included within the 2.1.3 release of RSR, along with a range of improvements related to donations, caching and project administration, is Google’s translation widget. This gives our partners the option of allowing visitors to the RSR-powered project pages of their websites (known as ‘partner sites’) to display project content in any of the 65 supported languages.
Polyglotism is the ability to speak several languages with a high degree of proficiency. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyglotism Photo: Gerd Altmann
We’ve also made a slight change to the existing translation function, allowing the owner of the partner site to customise what options they would like to display to their users. So, how does this work exactly? A partner site administrator logs into the admin area of RSR and goes to the settings page for their partner site. At the bottom of the form are three new options:
  The Site UI default language setting refers to the language that your content is written in. So if most of your projects and updates are in Spanish, then you can identify this here. The system will then present the partner site user interface in Spanish by default.
  The Translate user interface option allows you to show or hide the dropdown for changing the user interface language. These are all manually translated items which have been implemented. This option does not touch the original project content, but ensures that the frames, buttons and navigation of your partner site can be viewed in any of the available languages. We already have the Akvo RSR user interface available in English, Dutch, French, Spanish and German and we’ll be releasing it in Russian shortly.
  The Google translation widget item allows you to show or hide the new translation option. This dropdown is provided by Google and will allow a user to select one of the Google supported languages and have the entire page, including the interface, translated automatically. We cannot guarantee the quality of the translation, as this is done automatically, but if your users are trying to read content in a language that they’re really unfamiliar with, then this should at least give a general idea of what your project is about.
  In addition to providing these translations to your site visitors, there’s also the option for them to submit improvements to the translations they see. So, the more visitors you get, and the more they view your projects, the better the translations will get. To me this seems like a win-win situation. Give the feature a try, tweaking the settings yourself. Good places to start are UNDP’s Akvo RSR implementation or Connect4Change, which has been posting projects in different languages longer than most other partners. Here’s a typical Spanish-language project in Peru that you can play with. Adrian Collier is Akvo RSR product manager
Updated 11 March by Mark Charmer: Added links to examples and tweaked how we differentiate user interface languages versus content translation. Updated 19 March by Mark Charmer: Changed the headline so the subject is more obvious.