How to Create Multi-language Digital Learning Books and Resources

9 June 2016

Publishers, multi-language ebooks, multi-language online content,  education publishers, developing countries

Creating multiple-language textbooks is easy with IGP:Digital Publisher.

Creating multi-language education content is amazingly easy with the new IGP:Digital Publisher language + ID generation tools. The production methods and outputs are targeted primarily for developing countries with education content delivery challenges to multiple language groups. Digital content does what print has never been able to do.

The following points were essential for the multi-language solution to work:

  • Straight-forward production. Creating digital education content is challenging in any one language. Adding multiple languages should not add irrational complexities.
  • Learning content interactivity. Rather than bury the content in proprietary products like Flash use SVG, CSS Animation and the AZARDI:Interactive Engine. This means the content is freely available for reuse, extension and ...
  • The ability to add languages at any time. In many environments there are dialects or languages that have never had print text books. Reasonably a digital multi-language strategy is going to start with major languages, but the ability to add other local languages at any time to expand the user base is straight-forward.
  • Aural content. Usually spoken language comprehension is strong, but reading and writing skills may not be well developed. Hearing the text accelerates the learning process and reading skills.
  • The ability to localize when required. Localization is as important as language in developing world contexts. For example a standard issue in Science education is disease and the prevention of disease. These change from region to region and must be relevant. Another is agriculture. Learning to plough around the hill instead of up and down the hill is hardly relevant in rice growing areas.
  • More exercises. Print textbooks have the page count limitation with answers at the back or upside-down on the page. Digital textbooks have unlimited potential for exercises and tests. Exercises can be crafted for all learning speeds and have interactive explanations and not just answers. 
  • Translator and Reviewer access. It is important that multiple translators and reviewers can access content as required to update and make required changes. Those changes need to be fully recorded and version controlled.
  • Generation of any and all output formats in any combination of languages for distribution. That incudes print PDF, Online PDF, ePub3, HTML Packages and digital libraries. 

The Language Production Method

The content may be available in one or multiple languages at the start of production. Whatever happens it must be able to have languages added (or deleted) at any time. We have found it is also practical to be able to have a new language in production while completed language versions are published.

Essential to the production process and final format presentation is the identification of every text string (para, list item, heading, table-cell, etc.) with a language attribute.

For interactivity the IDs really matter. Also every ID in a digital book must be unique for epub3 packaging. The IGP lang ID processor uses a root section ID and adds a sequential ID and a lang tag suffix. It looks like this: 


That is section Ae, text string 024 with en making it a paragraph in English.

Next the processor is used to insert another language stub text. This goes through and creates a language partner for every text string. So if the language was Hindi the matching string ID is:


The appropriate Hindi text can then be inserted. This process can be repeated for any number of languages.

There are many who say that IDs should be random and giving them context is wrong. But that was before the days where interactive, multi-language education content became a real thing.

The processor works for title and alt text in images as well to ensure core accessibility issues are address. In addition it works on the <text /> element in SVG and content element in CSS where CSS is included with the SVG. Currently it doesn't work on external CSS.

Here is an example as can be seen in the IGP:Writer interface in English, Hindi and Marathi with an Urdu placeholder ready to have translated text inserted. The Urdu appears on the right as it also has dir="rtl" (direction: right to left) inserted in each structural element in accordance with the HTML5 specification (No CSS reference allowed).

In ∆ ABC, X, Y and Z are the midpoints of the sides AB, BC, AC respectively.

सोबतच्या आकृतीतील Δ ABC पाहा. बाजू AB चा मध्यबिंदू X, बाजू BC चा मध्यबिंदू Y, बाजू AC चा मध्यबिंदू Z आहे.

संलग्न आकृति में दिए गए ABC को ध्यान से देखो । बिंदु X, भुजा AB का, बिंदु Y, भुजा BC का तथा बिंदु Z, भुजा AC का मध्यबिंदु है ।

Urdu placeholder

The perpendicular l has been drawn through the midpoint X of side AB.

बाजू AB च्या X या मध्यबिंदूतून लंबरेषा L काढली आहे.

भुजा AB के मध्यबिंदु X से लंबरेखा L खींची गई है ।

Urdu placeholder

The languages are coloured for easy visual separation and CSS content-after shows the language and ID patterns of each paragraph.

Multi-language Interactivity

One powerful aspect of this ID approach is that AZARDI Interactive Engine understands the ID pattern. So when creating interactivity referenced by ID (Eg: a para is clicked on), it uses the ID minus the language suffix so the interactive script can be written once for all languages.

If a specific timing script is required for a language then just use the full ID with that required language suffix and all is well.

An ePub3 interface shown in Hindi with the language selector in the top right corner.

Generating Formats

IGP:Digital Publisher Formats On Demand makes it easy to generate any formation with any language combination. If it is left blank all languages will be processed into the output package.

Just enter a comma delimited list of languages from one to as many in the book, and that is what will be included in the package. Digital Library and ePub3 outputs will automatically include the AZARDI Interactive Engine Language Selection option.

Get "Languaging"

While our multi-language focus has been on education content for the developing world there is no restriction on what content can be addressed with the tools.

In our approach we are assuming parallel language text strings (paragraphs, list items, table-cells, headers, etc.). We choose that as the best option for education content in mixed language teaching environments. Let the student (or teacher if there is one).

We have now produced multi-language books in multiple Indic languages, Mandarin (Beijing dialect) and European languages. We are now looking at Africa.

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like more information on multi-language production, format generation and distribution of content to target audiences.

Posted by Richard Pipe

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