Monday, July 23, 2007

Multilinguality of tags and etiquetas

I'm currently looking into the multilingual use of tags in different applications that allow users to taguér les favoris (=signet sociaux), music, photos, etc. and that display these etiquetas in a Nube de etiquetas = Tag-Wolke = nuage de tags. E.g. I took at quick tour on 10 collaborative tagging services to see how European multi-linguality is reflected on these services.

Lots of collaborative tagging efforts on the Web take place in English. English being the lingua-franca of the Internet, it is probably not that surprising. However, we here in Europe live in a multi-cultural and lingual environment, so traces of that should be found from here and there.

Fair enough, I was able to find French and German services (,,,..) that harbor communities of users who tag in their native language - as well as in English, too. Some people do not seem to have any difficulties in adding tags in a few different languages, e.g. talking about blogging, they add tags like "blogue", "blog" for for e-commerce "shopping" and "achat".

I also looked at some "global" services such as Yahoo!,, Amazon and to see how do they deal, if at all, with the issue of tags being in different languages, and in the case of Amazon and Yahoo!, who offer localised sites, how are tags managed and provided in different languages. Below I give a few examples.

Yahoo!'s MyWeb

Yahoo!'s MyWeb, which is their social bookmarking and tagging service. The service does not exist in all their localised sub-sites, but with a quick look I found it at least in,,, On these respective MyWeb sites one can find popular bookmarks and tag clouds in the language of the sub-site.

In all the above mentioned sub-sites, regardless in which language I was looking at, 1116436 tags were registered. This first lead me to think that they actually have that many tags in German, Spanish and in French. Then I realised that it was a total of the tags in any languages, and they had much less tags in other languages than in English.
  • 1079 in German
  • 1052 in Spanish
  • 873 in French
What is remarkable in Yahoo!, though, is that they seem to have a way to recognise the language of the tag somehow, as they are able to display German tags in their .de service and French tags in their .fr service. This is transparent to the user, so I have only little idea (although a few guesses) how they do that. This focus on languages is rather unique on Yahoo!'s service, it is not the case with any of the other services that I looked. I'll be interested in knowing what they will come up with this! users, as well as developers, love tags! Users actually use them, after all, most of them are book freaks who probably hang out a lot in libraries, so tagging comes easy to these folks. But also, the developers have done a few really clever things with tags and objects to tag, like the concept of "work" (a work brings together all different copies of a book, regardless of edition, title variation, or language) and combining tags (see "concepts"). The difference here to delicious "bundled" tags is that it is done once for all users.

By combining tags, some multilinguality is also taken advantage of.

Like in this example, 19th century also includes 19. Jahrhundert and 19eme siecle.

Take Delicious as an example of a different approach. It is one of the most used social bookmaking services, but there is little indication to be found of hundreds of languages that exist in the world. Well, I dug a bit harder and found two different types of indications of multilinguality existing.

Either people added tags in a few languages (achat, shopping), or they added a tag like "lang:fi" to indicate the that source site was in Finnish. Also lang:fr, lang:es, lang:pt, .. were there with various amounts of bookmarks. If you know if this was a user initiated activity or whether delicious encourages it, let me know. I could not find anything on it.


I also looked at and, funnily enough, the Frencheis do not even get to tag! (not that tags have been taken up in Amazon in the first place...) Moreover, they only get the reviews that are done by the users of the fr-site, not by the users of the .com-site. That sounds a bit silly, but maybe preserves a way to keep the cultural taste intact.

Different strokes for different folks

It seems to me that not many sites have paid much attention to the issue of multilinguality, however, it might also well be that it is not an important issue to them. Take for example these two German bookmarking sites, Mister Wong and, and compare the Top-50 tag lists. (image on the left) has mostly English terms in their Top-50 and they are very Web2.0 and developer oriented. has many German terms (image on the right) and they seem to cover larger area than only Web2.0, there are terms about holidays, music, etc.

So, each user group seem to share the terms that are important for them. Most likely this is also the case in Delicious, by using English tags I, as a Finn, can easily share interesting bookmarks on, say, folksonomies with everyone else in the world who is interested in it.

This to say, I also think that multilinguality has a place in tagging and we in EUN are very interested in the issue. Currently, we are running a pilot where teachers can add tags in their own language(s) to learning resources. We try our best to be able to recognise the language of the tags, as we think cool things can be done with it. But more about that another time.

Sites that I looked at

  • social bookmarks =signet sociaux
  • tag, taguer

- most popular tags are in English
- people sometimes add tags both in French and English (e.g. blogue, blog; tag cloud nuage de tags)
- Tags in French also, but they don't seem to have that many users, tried some about 10 or so

- call bookmarks "favoris" and tags "tags"
- most popular tags in different languages, in 50 most popular tags: 14 in French and 1 in Russian
- maybe only about 2500 bookmarks (25x107 pages)
- some people had indicated the language of the source page in En

In German:
  • Tags as "Schlagworte", "tags"
  • "Tag-Wolke"
  • bookmarks " Lesezeichen" (Soziale Lesezeichen)


Mister Wong,
- very techy, lots of En tags

- Trendwolke
- more tags in German in general areas

Yahoo! MyWeb

Yahoo! Fr
- top tags
- 1 116 436 tags in the "nuage de tags", although 873 in French.
- in top 50 tags mostly in French, however, many terms are easily understandable like web2.0, internet, google, yahoo..

Yahoo! De
- top tags
- 1.116.436 tags in "Tag-Wolke", although only 1079 in German
- in top 50 most entirely in German, but many terms like computer, software

Yahoo! es
- toptags
- call tags "Etiquetas" and tagcloud
- 1.116.436 tags in "Nube de etiquetas", 1052 in Spanish
- the top 50 mostly in Spanish, only a few terms like web2.0, blog, yahoo


- interface offered in different languages, however,
- most popular tags are the same in all different interface languages, thus could think that there is no separation of languages.


- All top 50 tags in English
- no other interface languages
- some tags do exist in different languages e.g. achat, shopping; ..
- some tags indicate the language of the source; lang:fi,..


if I understand right, google does not even display the tags from their users? Please, correct me if you know anything about using their bookmarks.

- in LastFM all the tags are the same, although they offer different interface languages
- tags in many language exist, especially if you look for bands from different countries e.g. suomipoppia