I’d like to extend a special greeting to those of you who read the MSDN and TechNet Libraries in a non‑English language. You represent 25% of our overall site traffic – about 60 million page views per month.
The Library is huge and teams across Microsoft publish new content into it regularly. In order to make that information available worldwide and in a timely manner, we use a combination of human translation and automated translation (translation memory + machine translation). For a variety of reasons it is often useful to view translated content alongside its original English version.
Introducing the bilingual display feature
The February 2011 release of the MSDN and TechNet Libraries delivered a bilingual display feature. This feature enables you to easily switch back and forth between the translated version of a topic and the original English version. There are two main design elements: 1) a control banner and 2) translation hover text.
The control banner only appears when the current topic is authored as bilingual content. It appears and disappears on a topic-by-topic basis. The banner informs the reader whether the topic has been translated by a human or by machine and offers brief usage instructions. For example: “This is machine translated content. Move your pointer over text in the content pane to see the original text. Help improve the translation.”
Using the bilingual display is straightforward. When the banner is displayed at the top of the topic:
- Use the control banner to select whether you wish to read the topic in the translated language or in the original English. Your selection persists across topics and browser sessions. This choice does not override your preferred locale for reading the library. It affects only the behavior of the bilingual display.
- Position the mouse pointer over any sentence. If you’re reading the topic in a translated language, the original sentence will display in hover text. If you’re reading the topic in English, the translated sentence will display in hover text.
Here are some examples to play with:
- MSDN: System.Xml Namespace – German (Germany)
- MSDN: XmlDocument Class – Portuguese (Brazil)
- TechNet: Overview (Database Engine) – Polish (Poland)
- MSDN: System.Xml Namespace – Japanese (Japan)
- MSDN: System.Xml Namespace – Russian (Russia)
Like a tooltip, the translation hover text only provides help when you need it. The entire content pane is devoted to displaying the topic in your preferred reading language. Our goal is to ensure that it’s easy to consume the content either reading the translation (augmented by the source) or reading the source (augmented by the translation). An added benefit of this approach is that it supports the numerous page layouts used throughout the Library.
How many topics offer a bilingual display?
The MSDN Library provides over 13 million translated topics – roughly 80% of the total Library content. Of those, about 4 million are published in a bilingual format distributed across 14 supported locales:
As you can see, bilingual content currently makes up the majority of content in our Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Czech (Czech Republic), Portuguese (Brazil) and Turkish (Turkey) libraries. Most of this content is in the Visual Studio / .NET Framework product documentation at this point. I expect more and more of the Library content to be authored for bilingual consumption in the future.
Note: At this time, right-to-left (RTL) languages are not supported in Lightweight. Bilingual content in those languages will display in the older, Classic view.
What if I want to suggest a better translation?
The Lightweight Library view does not yet support the ability to suggest a better translation. To do this, you’ll need to use the Translation Wiki capability of the Classic MSDN Library where available. Currently you can edit Visual Studio and .NET Framework content for Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, and Turkish. We expect to deliver community translation capabilities in a future release of the MSDN/TechNet Library and I will blog about it when we do.