All inclusive forum – breaking down the language barrier


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  • SuSanA secretariat currently allocates 2 full time person equivalents of time from members of GIZ Sustainable Sanitation Team: Arne Panesar, Alexandra Dubois, Maren Heuvels, Teresa Häberlein, Daphne Manolakos and one intern.
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All inclusive forum – breaking down the language barrier

Goal: Everyone should feel welcome to post on the Forum in the language they are most comfortable in.
The challenge is to minimize the loss of meaning through translation, while keeping communication coherent. The following are some options that we have considered to keep the Forum as inclusive as possible to many languages.

*Please feel free to add your ideas.*

1. Google Translate a Post:

We have used this often in the past – we have provided a google translation into English when an article is posted in another language, to ensure that there is always the English version available for readers.
Pros: English version is always available to read; keeps forum always available in English
Cons: Makes the posts very long (double the length); time does not permit human translations, so google translate may not be accurate, and properly represent what the person is posting; time consuming.

2. Flagging

Provide a small note (such as an F for French, S for Spanish etc.) that will show up beside a post title if it is in another language, as well as also writing the post title in English. This would be done by the user themselves, or the moderator.
Pros: Alerts the reader of which language the translation needs to be made in, using google translate
Cons: The user must themselves go to google translate, as the translation is not immediately viewable for the whole text.

3. Translate Page Button:

We currently already have this in place (see top right corner), where the full page is translated – posts, buttons, functionality.
Pros: Translates the entire page (including buttons and functionality) and translation is immediately visible on the page.
Cons: This is a helpful tool for readers of other languages, but for English readers, this would not be as helpful, as it is not necessary to have the whole page translated, but rather just sections; inaccuracy of translation; although quite fast, it still takes a bit of time for each page to load

These are some of the ideas that we have come up with, and we hope to hear FEEDBACK from other forum users of suggestions, and experiences from other forums.

We greatly appreciate your feedback on this topic towards getting the information and knowledge which is available in the Forum accessible.

(Posted by Roslyn)
Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ Sector Program Water Policy – Innovations for Resilience
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Bonn, Germany
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  • Elisabeth
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  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
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Re: All inclusive forum – breaking down the language barrier

I recently recieved this question by Samira Salifu and thought now is a good time to re-active the discussion about languages. She wrote:

Hello again Elisabeth,
Is there a French forum available for SuSanA? Just wondering how our francophone engineers can benefit from the sea of information on the platform.

We had previous discussions about this topic on the forum here:
and here:

The current status is this:
  • We invite everyone to post in whichever language they like, provided they add below their message also the translation provided by Google Translate (this translation tool is of course not perfect but it is getting better and better). - If they forget to add it, the secretariat or moderators (like myself) can add the translation to their post.
  • There is a button at the top of the page which allows you to have the entire page translated into a language of your choice (only those language provided by Google Translate are available). Please see screenshot to show you where the button is (red ellipse):

Edited on 28 June, 2017

So this is the current status. However, I feel this is perhaps not good enough as not enough non-English speakers seem to feel comfortable with using this Forum.

What else could be do to improve the situation with regards to reducing the language barriers?

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Ulm, Germany
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