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How to translate your school website into different languages

20 October 2021 Katie Sixsmith

According to the most recent statistics by the UK government*, there are 1.6 million pupils (or 19.2%) who have been recorded as having English as an Additional Language (EAL). This means that almost a fifth of UK state school pupils speak a language other than English as their ‘first’ or ‘home’ language.

Many schools and trusts are working on ways to ensure that home-school communications are provided in all of the languages required by their EAL community so that their parents and students can be informed, included and aware of all that is happening within the wider organisation.

One way in which schools and trusts can help their families to connect and communicate with the school, is via the school website and through the use of native browser functionality, to translate the webpage into a language of the parents’ choice.

This functionality will then allow them to read any on-page content in their first language, increasing engagement and understanding of the information provided.

What happened to Google Translate?

There used to be a functionality that could be added to websites which would automatically translate content to a variety of different languages. This was a very popular tool, especially for schools with a vast multi-cultural community.

Unfortunately, around 2 years ago, Google removed the ability to embed the ‘Google Translate’ widget onto new website builds. The reason they gave for retiring this widget was due to the advancement of native language selections in the browser. You can read their short statement on this here.

Some companies have since developed alternative translation widgets, but these may be unsecure, unreliable and could leave your website vulnerable to attacks. Therefore, the best option is to follow Google’s advice and modify the native language selection in the browser.

What is meant by native language selection in the browser?

A user’s web browser is usually set to the language where the device is located and the time zone which it is operating within. It will then use the regional language of that area – for example, setting up a new laptop in London or Manchester and logging into a web browser, will display the text in English.

Users can change the language that your school website is displayed in, by changing their browser, or even their device settings, to their native language as opposed to United Kingdom – English.

To help you communicate this to your EAL community, we’ve shared some useful guides to changing these settings below.

Please note these are third-party websites, and we cannot be held responsible for the content within them or if any browser updates change the instructions from those listed below:

Is this the only option?

For the majority of schools and parents, this option will be sufficient to allow users to access your school website’s content in their preferred language. Educating parents, staff and students on this functionality can also be beneficial as it will allow them to access other websites in their preferred language and also to feel a closer part of the school community.

If you would like your school website to be available in only one other languauge, such as Welsh (which often does not translate well into an automatic translation tool of any kind), then we can quote you for the addition of a language toggle into your school website if you wish.

Our in-line CMS toggle is bespoke functionality which will require custom development work to implement and will also require the native content for each page of English (for example the corresponding text in Welsh) to be supplied by the school or trust.You will also need to provide the translated words for various areas of the website, such as ‘sitemap’ and ‘high visibility’ so that these hard-coded areas could also be transformed with the toggle.

If you would like to know more about the bespoke language toggle option we offer, please speak to your Account Executive to find out more.


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