• Proposal for a “translate” attribute in HTML5

    July 27, 2011

    In April the W3C received a proposal to add a “translate” attribute to HTML. In essence, the proposal is to add an attribute to certain HTML elements (like <p>,  <span>) so that translation processes—human or machine—would know whether text should be translated or not. The proposal would produce code like this:

    <p>Please return any containers marked with <span translate=”no”>“Produced in the United States”</span> for a full refund.</p>.

    In this case the translate=”no” attribute would ensure that the quoted text is not translated (since users would need to identify the containers based on the actual text in the quotes). Currently there are a number of ways to indicate this requirement, but these are not standardized.

    There was some discussion of this proposal after it was submitted and the decision was made to reject the proposal. It was later reopened, however, when some individuals pointed out that the proposed alternative solution (using language tags) did not address the actual requirement.

    We believe that a standard attribute in HTML5 for translatability would be very beneficial for content creators, translators, LSPs, and tools developers by providing a way to ensure that translation requirements are honored in the content lifecycle without the need to support a variety of custom attributes, CSS hacks, or other approaches that may not be universally understood or honored. A standard approach would help improve the quality of translated text on the web, and improve integration between CMS tools and translation processes. In addition, the inclusion of translatability as an attribute in a core standard for the web would help raise awareness of best practices for content internationalization.

    For this proposal to succeed, the W3C needs to see a demonstration that this new attribute meets a widespread need and that it is the appropriate way to handle this need. To read more about this proposal, please visit http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=12417. If you feel that you can add to the discussion there—by showing use cases or demonstrating the requirement—you can sign up for a free account to comment on W3C issues at http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/createaccount.cgi. Since this is an issue that has the potential to impact almost anyone involved with localization, we believe that it deserves serious consideration by the industry at large and we encourage you to add your constructive comments to the discussion.

    Posted By:
    Arle Lommel

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