Viriyalila writes from New Hampshire with the latest news from Free Buddhist Audio - Triratna’s popular Dharma talks website, currently averaging 5,000 visitors a months - a figure which looks set to increase with the new German version of the site. She says - “This summer the Free Buddhist Audio team joined forces with Jnanacandra, chairwoman of Triratna’s centre in Essen, Germany, to create a fully functional, fully German version of Free Buddhist Audio.
Our coder, Samudradaka worked carefully with Jnanacandra going through all the nooks and crannies of the site to translate every last bit into German. Jnanacandra was excited to work with us on this project and was surprised at the sheer quantity of text hidden in all sorts of corners of the website. “It took far longer than anticipated, as usual…. both for him and for my side of the work too.”
Jnanacandra writes to say “If you want a website to be truly international, there’s a lot to think about. It’s not just a question of simply translating the site. For instance you want people to easily find talks in their own language. If you don’t speak any English and you go to a website nicely translated into German, but then you only see loads of English material everywhere, you’re really confused.”
So we wanted to make it easy for those who don’t speak English to find those 100+ German talks that have been recorded and added to our Dharma audio archive. At the same time, we didn’t want to have a German-only version of the website, as many German friends would like access talks in other languages too. So we had to think quite hard on how to make the German version of the website work for everybody.
Technically the work for the new German translation for the Free Buddhist Audio website was quite a challenge. Samudradaka, our Web Coder shares, “When I made the site I built in the option for translations but in a fairly simple way. When we came to do the work for the full German translation though it soon became apparent that a more comprehensive system was needed. So we opted for the commonly used ‘gettext’ system along with the ‘Poedit’ software to help manage and synchronize the translation files.
The Free Buddhist Audio website is half built with bespoke code and half with WordPress so the translation system had to cover both these parts of the site. There are also many, many pages, all of which had to be carefully worked through to convert each piece of text that is displayed to the visitor (be that on a page, as an error message or via an email sent from the website) to work with the translation files. Finally there were considerations around usability that we had to work out - how to best let visitors know they can change language, how to allow pages to filter Dharma talks by language and what categories of talks to display on the home page for a non English visitor.”
Between Jnanacandra and Samudradaka, with Candradasa, Free Buddhist Audio’s Director, reviewing as they went, they got to a solution that seems to be working well. Already there has been a 200% increase of visitors from Germany using the site and this looks set to continue to increase. It was a satisfying project to take on and it is apparent that all involved appreciated the hard work that accompanied the exchange of helpful ideas and useful feedback over the time it took to complete.
Our hope is that the multi-language version of Free Buddhist Audio will encourage more of our Sangha in Germany to use FBA. Jnanacandra shares, “Already it has quite an impact on some people and many are very enthusiastic about it. But quite a significant number still don’t know about it or at least don’t quite dare to use it (my impression is that generally people here tend to be more wary about internet things). Having a well thought through and easy to use version in German will hopefully help.”
The Free Buddhist Audio platform is flexible enough so that any number of languages can be accommodated. We are already working with the Paris Sangha to produce a French translation and we hope soon to find someone to help with a Spanish one too. Watch this space!
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