There’s more than one way to post your message

There’s more than one way to post your message

Speakers at yesterday’s FedWeb fall conference offered a number of tips for delivering online content to audiences who speak little or no English.

Among the suggestions:
  • Get a search engine that accepts diacritical marks

  • Watch out for formatting problems

  • Review document translations carefully

  • Be aware of regional dialects

  • Present metadata in the same language as the Web site’s.


  • At the Arlington, Va., gathering, the Social Security Administration and Small Business Administration showed off new Spanish-language portals, at www.ssa.gov/espanol and www.sba.gov/espanol.

    SBA launched its Spanish site in September, said Patricia Chavez-Villanueva, a special assistant in SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. It garnered more than 50,000 hits during the week of Sept. 22, she added.

    About 10 percent of SSA’s clients speak Spanish, but only 1 percent speaks other non-English languages, said Lonnie Albright, a webmaster and public affairs specialist in SSA’s Office of Communications. About 80 percent of SSA’s Web content is now presented in Spanish, but many of the 14 other languages on the site are represented only with basic forms and explanatory fact sheets.

    The agency presents many forms in Adobe Portable Document Format because HTML posed too many font problems with non-Latin alphabets, Albright said. A contractor handles most of the non-Spanish translations.

    When making a Spanish version of the MedlinePlus service, at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/spanish/medlineplus.html, officials at the National Library of Medicine chose to put a toggle link on the header of each page, NLM systems librarian Paula Kitendaugh said. Readers can search for a medical term and then toggle back and forth between English and Spanish to the same content in either language.

    MedlinePlus in Spanish went online Sept. 9, Kitendaugh said.

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