Multilingual Bookmarking

In the age of global economy and Internet-based media multilingualism plays an increasingly important role. Corporations, workgroups and communities are becoming multinational and transnational. The need to share knowledge between multilingual speakers is becoming a necessity. However, multilingual bookmarking is no simple matter.
The following are requirements that every enterprise bookmarking application should satisfy.

User Interface Localization

Users should expect to share and manage bookmarks through an interface with the full native language support.
Although localization of user interface is the simplest aspect of the multilingual bookmarking, in practice it is more complex than what it may seem at the first glance. Translation of labels and messages, for example, can easily run into the problem that the translated text is too long to fit into the application layout. Even worse, localization to the right-to-left languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, requires inversion of the entire user interface (including subtle graphic details, such as on which side of a combo box the arrow that extends the list is).
Even the Latin alphabet varies between languages. There are actually multiple Latin alphabets – each with a specific sorting order. In addition, these differences also necessitate separate alphabetic indexes (for alphabetic browsing).
To make things worse, localization is never simply translation. For example, the English computer desktop is actually a lectern in Polish (“pulpit”). Often, terminology that makes perfect sense in one language simply cannot be translated into another.

Multilingual Bookmarks

Users should expect to bookmark multilingual content and data. The application should provide means to clearly identify the languages of the bookmarked content by merely inspecting the bookmark (i.e. without retrieving the actual content).
This early language identification is actually only one aspect of a broader problem. A significant deficiency of the browser bookmarks is that besides the title they do not provide any further description of the content. Tags and categories are useful for finding bookmarks, but they contribute little to understanding the content. Search engines, like Google and Bing, feature a short excerpt from the document text, in order to enable users to decide if the link is worth clicking or not. Bookmarks should allow the same: a short free text description of the content, which could then include a specification of the languages used in the text.

Multilingual Tagging

Users should expect to use multilingual tags. The application must provide means to indicate that one tag is a translation of another. In such case, even if a bookmark was tagged in only one language, users should be able to retrieve this bookmark by specifying the translation.
The simplest approach is to allow tagging in different languages. For example, the same web page could be tagged with “decathlon” (English) and “Zehnkampf” (German). Accordingly, the page could be retrieved in both languages. However, the problem arises when such page is tagged only in one language, for example using the English tag “decathlon”. – A German speaking user seeking pages tagged with the German tag “Zehnkampf” would simply miss that page.
A better approach would be, therefore, to provide tag translations. Accordingly, “decathlon” and “Zehnkampf” would be actually one and the same tag, only their display labels would be localized to specific languages. This solution is more problematic than what it may seem at first.
The English term “education” is broader than the French term “éducation”, and includes also certain aspects of the French terms “enseignement” and “formation”. On the other hand, the French term “enseignement” is broader than the English term “education”, and includes also certain aspects of the English terms “teaching” and “instruction” (for which the French also have the term” instruction”).
These difficulties involved in using multilingual keywords are studied and well understood in the library science and knowledge engineering. Serious efforts are made to build multilingual thesauri used for annotation in corporate and academic libraries. However, this experience was never applied to the social tagging.
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