Multilingual Intranet with SharePoint & Powell Intranet

June 17th, 2019 by Esther Daga

Marketing & Comms Powell Intranet

Today’s information worker is more mobile and remote than any other time in history. Technology has changed how users consume content and organizations have not only adapted to all the different forms of consumption but also are catering to users that speak multiple languages. Organizations have a global presence and in doing so have to communicate in many different languages. Providing a native language content communicates information effectively but also improves the culture of organizations as it states its importance in the diversity and value of multilanguage users.  

In this article, we will discuss what multilingual options are available in SharePoint natively, and how these features can be enhanced using Powell Intranet. 

Multilingual Intranet Using SharePoint Features 

By default, SharePoint has two options for creating a multilingual intranet. Both options can be used exclusively or in combination to provide the best multilingual intranet experience. 

  1. The SharePoint Multilingual User Interface (MUI), which works in both the Classic and Modern experience. 
  2. SharePoint Variations which currently only available in the Classic experience. 

If you are using SharePoint on-premises, you are most likely using the classic experience, while if you are in SharePoint Online, you may be using the Classic or Modern experience. Check with your SharePoint administrator to be sure. Both options are technically possible to use in SharePoint 2013, 2016, 2019, and SharePoint Online. 

Multilingual Intranet Option 1: The SharePoint Multilingual User Interface (MUI) 

The SharePoint MUI changes the language of a user’s personal view of site componentsFor example, both an English-speaking user and a French-speaking user would visit the same site under one URL, but the French-speaking user would see the site’s components in French since that is what they have set as their default language. Site components include elements like the navigation, settings pages, help content, menus, and controls. 

user interface

French vs English

User Interface

The benefits of the SharePoint MIU are that it is simple to manage. There are no complex translation workflows. It is also easy for end-users to use. They simply need to select their default language in SharePoint to display default SharePoint components in that language. Additionally, the SharePoint MIU is available in both Modern and Classic SharePoint experiences, so it is a futureproofed solution. 

The limitation to the SharePoint MUI is that it only translates the default SharePoint components. It will not translate content created by users. For example, it will not automatically translate text added to a page, items in a SharePoint list, or metadata. Additionally, users will only be able to search using the default language of the SharePoint installation. MUI can also take involve strategic planning to enable. Planning and coordination will be required to ensure the best possible user experience. To learn more about these steps, please view this article. 

However, in collaboration scenarios working in only one language is often okay. Typically, a team will agree on a default common language in which to work and won’t take the time to translate each piece of content.  

To learn more about SharePoint MUI, please visit this page. 

Multilingual Intranet Option #2: SharePoint Variations 

The SharePoint Variations feature will create a duplicate of the SharePoint site for each targeted language. All the content, including user-generated content, can then be independently translated into each language. The end-user would visit a unique site URL targeted to their chosen language. In this case, there is one master source of content, and then each language is translated, duplicated, and moved to each site. 

SharePoint Variations

The benefit of SharePoint Variations is that each translated content is independent and can be uniquely translated for the target desired languages. It also allows you to target content to suit different cultures, different markets, and different geographic regions. For example, you could change the address of an office in each variation of the content. Variations work well for more formal content, such as human resources sites, company news, and executive messages. 

 SharePoint Variations does require co-ordination, planning, and management to perform the work required to translate content. First, you will need to write the content and then manually translated into each language, which can be time-consuming. It can be difficult to deliver each version of content at the right time, especially when you have a high number of languages, and project management of this process can be complex. 

To learn more about SharePoint Variations, please visit this site. 

Content Translation is Easy with Powell Intranet

Want the benefit of both the SharePoint MIU and SharePoint Variations without the hassle of manual translation? Powell Intranet works seamlessly with both these features and provides automatic translation of content using Bing Translate and soon Cognitive ServicesPowell Intranet helps simplify the setup of Variations, Management of Content, the automatic translation, and the ability to switch variation context. 

Switch Variation Context 

Once users log on to a Powell Intranet their native language settings configured on their browser will automatically redirect users to their preferred Language variation. Once on the site, users can switch back and forth to different language sites or other location sites exposed through variations.  

Manage Content 

Managing content from one location is extremely important because it is efficient. Powell Intranet allows content authors and contributors to access all content and manage all translated content centrally. Changes can be made from one place and pushed to all target language variations.

Manage SharePoint Content

Translate Content 

Translating the content can be performed manually but there is a more efficient option. Using an initial automatic translation service, an initial starting point of content can be translated to the target language. Translation services are not perfect and it is why it should be used as a starting point. Users usually edit the auto-generated translation and take over the content to perfectly dial in the language.

Translate SharePoint Content

Setup Variations 

The Powell Manager design tool allows Administrators to quickly and effectively set up the scenarios for Multi-Language variations. Selecting a new Site and all the target language variations can be performed in a matter of minutes and managed from one place as new languages are implemented.


 Powell Intranet strives to leverage the best of Office365 and SharePoint Online to give the most value and end-user experience. Using both MUI and Variations, Powell Intranet adds management and translation features that further enhance the fundamental multi-language features of SharePoint Online. Any intranet can take advantage of the Powell Intranet features!  Contact us today to learn more. 


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