How Should You Refer to the Russian Language on Your Website?

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Having a website in several languages may be a good idea for many reasons from regulatory compliance to increased customer loyalty to higher sales. If Russian is one the languages on your website, here are some tips on how to make sure the language name is displayed correctly.

In English, we can just plug the name of the language into many different structures, for example “speak English,” “the English language,” or “written in English.” When localizing our website, we may be tempted to have the name of the other language(s) translated and then use the translation on buttons, dropdown lists, and sometimes even in the middle of a sentence! However, if you tried to do that with Russian, you might run into trouble. Compare the following forms.

If you speak RussianЕсли вы говорите по-русски
[Esli vy govorite po-russki]
User language: RussianЯзык пользователя: русский
[Vyberite yazyk: russkiy]
We have information in RussianУ нас есть информация на русском языке
[U nas est’ informatsiya na russkom yazyke]

You’ll notice that the word “Russian” is the same in all the English examples, but the translation of that word depends on the rest of the sentence. Here is how you can have the name of the language display properly.

Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

Dos

  • Send your translation team a screenshot or, better still, a link to your website so they know where each string appears.
  • For the dropdown list of languages, use the word “русский” (russkiy, Russian). That is the name of the language, which should not be capitalized unless it is the first word in the sentence or unless all other language names are capitalized, too. Do not use “по-русски” (po-russky), the adverb used in “speak Russian.”
  • If the word “Russian” appears in a sentence somewhere else on your website, have the entire sentence translated as a whole rather than insert the translation for “Russian” into a pre-translated sentence (see my post on concatenation).

Don’ts

  • Avoid using flags to identify languages. Russian is used in several countries and regions other than Russia, such as Kazakhstan, Belarus, or Moldova.
  • Do not use a language variable in the middle of a sentence. As we saw above, the form of the word “Russian” will depend on how it’s used, so populating all instances with the same translation will result in grammatical errors.

Published by Maria

Russian health and human services translator based in Rochester, New York

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