7 tips to help create and manage multilingual SharePoint communication sites

Microsoft 365 now lets you create intranet sites in multiple languages. You can create pages and news in a user’s preferred language, and show site navigation, site title, and the site description in the preferred language, too. The process is relatively easy – but there are a few things to know before launching.

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Microsoft 365 now supports the ability to create intranet sites in multiple languages. You can create pages and news in a user’s preferred language, and you can show site navigation, the site title, and the site description in the preferred language. The process is relatively easy – but there are a few things you will want to make sure site owners and content authors know about prior to launching this great capability in your environment.

How to create a multilingual site

Please review Microsoft’s documentation and short video on how to create multilingual sites to learn how this feature works and how to enable it for your site. The documentation is very thorough and walks you through the basic "how to" information for site owners and content editors.

Tips and best practices

Even though the documentation is helpful, there are a few things you will want your owners and authors to know about that are not documented or need to be emphasized. You will most certainly want to follow the steps in Tip 4, which recommends a simple view to help manage your multilingual pages.

1. Choose the site language when you create the site

Every communication site has a default language. The default language is selected when you create the site and cannot be changed. You will get the opportunity to select the site language after you have entered the Site name. (Figure 1 below).

select site language Microsoft

Figure 1. Select a default language when you create the site.

Think carefully about the audience for the site as well as the primary language of the content authors. If your site is for a global audience, choose English as the default language. If your site is primarily for a local audience, you may want to choose an alternate default language if your governance policies allow for this. Learn how to create a communication site and select the default language.

2. All pages must be created in the default or primary language

The default language is especially important for multilingual sites because every page must be created in the default language. In other words, if your site language is English and you want the pages to also be available in French, you must create each page in English first and then make a French translation. You cannot have a French page that does not have a corresponding page in English.

3. Don't go too fast when you create pages

When you are creating pages in your site, wait to make sure that the title for the page as been added as the URL prior to clicking the Translation button. When you first create a page, it will get a temporary name created by SharePoint. Check to see that the URL for your page matches the title on the page prior to moving on to create translations of the page.

4. Create a custom view to make it easy to manage your multilingual pages

This view is critical to helping you monitor the possible “gotchas” listed below in your multilingual site. Here is what you need to understand: your primary or default language pages are stored at the “root” of the Site Pages library. Your alternate language pages are stored in a folder in the Site Pages library with a 2-letter name for the language. The folders are automatically created for you by the multilingual feature. Do not rename them. For example, French pages are in the “fr” folder and Japanese pages are in the “ja” folder (Figure 2).

language folders Microsoft

Figure 2. Language folders in the Site Pages library.

The language folders are helpful for translators because they make it easy to find and work on language-specific pages. However, the folders make it challenging to view related pages in a single view – and to identify which pages are published in each language and which pages are still in draft mode and whether or not pages have been created with consistent Promoted States (see the next tip). Follow these steps to create the view to manage your multilingual pages:

  • Make sure you have enabled your site for multilingual pages.
  • Navigate to the All Pages view in the Site Pages library.
  • Create a copy by selecting Save view as from the view dropdown menu. Create a name for the view such as Page Management or All Pages-No Folders
  • Click + Add column the view header and select Show/hide columns. Check the boxes next to:
    • Promoted State – this will tell you whether a page is News (2) or a Site Page (0) or a News page that has never been published (1).
    • Title - you will want this column to appear after Name so you can drag it to that position.
    • Translation Languages – this will be filled in only on the primary page and will show you the alternate language pages created for this page.
    • Item Language – this will show you the language for each page. It will be blank for pages in the default or primary language.
  • Optionally, un-check Created By and Created.
  • Move Modified By and Modified after Item Language.
  • Click Apply.
  • Select Edit current view from the view dropdown menu.
    • Check the box in front of Version. You will want to add this to the position before Modified By.
    • You may also want to add any custom metadata columns you are using in your site to this view.
    • Change the Sort to be Created, descending. This sort is recommended because the most recently created pages will show up on top and the primary page for each page “family” will always be listed first, since it has to be created before any of the alternate pages.
    • Expand the Folders group and change the Folders of Flat selection to Show all items without folders.
    • Optionally, change the item limit to a number larger than the default of 30.
    • Click OK to save your changes.

This view will show you the primary page followed by the translated pages. All of the related pages will have the same Name – but the Title for the pages will be in the local language once they have been translated. This view helps with the following:

  • Find unpublished pages. If a page version does not end in .0, you can easily tell that it is not published. You will be able to tell whether some members of a page “family” are published and others are not.
  • Find pages where the Promoted State is not consistent within the “group.” (See tip below for advice on how to fix Promoted State issues.
  • See who has last updated a page.
  • Simultaneously publish pages. If you have a requirement that all pages must be published at the same time, you can set up a workflow, assign similar page publishing dates and times, or manually publish all related pages together by selecting the pages and clicking Publish in the command bar (Figure 3). Note that you could also create page approval workflow using Power Automate to do this as well but this approach is relatively simple and would work well if you have translations ready to go when you create content.
publish multiple ml pages Microsoft

Figure 3. You can select multiple pages to publish at the same time.

5. Make sure that all connected pages are the same type - News or Site Page

Be careful when you are publishing pages to ensure that your entire “family” of pages is published with the same type or Promoted State. There is currently no warning if you publish the French page and select “Promote as news” (Promoted State = 2) and publish the English page as a Site Page (Promoted State = 0). This could create a confusing user experience in your News web parts because the same page could appear as News in one language and as a “regular” page in another. One way to minimize the risk of this happening is to create News pages from within the News web part. This will ensure that your primary language page is created as a News page and therefore, your translated pages will also be treated as news pages.

If you create your pages from the new page experience and then decide to promote them as News, you could end up with a “Franken-page” experience where members of the same page “family” are of different types.

  • If you accidentally created a page (primary page or alternate page) as a Site Page and want to promote it as News, navigate to the page and select Promote in the command bar. The “Help others find your page” pop up will appear and if you select Promote as news, your page will automatically be promoted as news. Be sure to do this for all pages in the same “family.”
  • If you accidentally created a page as News and want it to be a Site Page, there is no easy way to fix this in the user interface without re-creating the pages. You may be able to use PowerShell to change the promoted state or try one of the “hacks” towards the end of this thread in the Microsoft TechCommunity.

6. Be careful about deleting the primary language page

If you delete the primary language page, you will break the connection to the translated pages. Currently, there is no warning provided when you do this. If you delete the primary language page, you will also need to manually delete the alternate language pages. Deleting the primary page will break all links to the translated pages. Deleting an alternate language page requires a few extra steps. Learn how to delete a translation page.

7. Only add Primary page URLs to navigation

The URL for the primary page will always re-direct users with an alternate language setting to the corresponding page in their language. Therefore, you should always use only primary language page URLs in the navigation for your site. However, you can edit the navigation Display names to be in any language. Learn how to set up a multilingual site name, navigation, and footer.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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