Terry's TMG Tips

Working with Multiple Languages

This page created 5 May 2006

Version note: Applies to TMG 8 & 9

This article discusses issues related to use of multiple languages in TMG, for example maintaining data to be output in two different languages.

Other articles, found on the main Languages page, or linked in appropriate places below, provide more detail on related features.

There are at least three different circumstances in which one might want to maintain two or more languages in TMG:

  1. You have relatives or other interested persons who speak different languages, say some use English and others use German, and you wish to create reports for each group in their own language. This application involves all the issues discussed below.

  2. You want to be able to produce reports in two variations of the same language, say a formal version that uses terms like "circa" and an informal version that substitutes "about." This application generally involves only the issue below with Sentence Structures.

  3. You want to be able to create both a "normal" style of narrative and a special-purpose style with special formatting. This method is discussed in may article on Special Format Reports in this series. Because this application generally involves very few Tag Types, the issues discussed below generally do not apply.

In concept, creating output in two or more languages seems pretty simple. You set your user interface to whichever Language you prefer, enter your data, and then when you are ready for output you specify which Language is to be used for the report. You can even save separate report definitions, making it easy to save the Language and related options for use again later. However in practice there are some significant impediments to successful multi-language output. Some of them, and a few suggestions, are discussed below.

Customized Sentence Structures

One of TMG's strengths is the ability for users to create customized Sentence Structures to produce exactly the type output they want in Narrative reports. Users can customize Sentences "Globally," applying to all Tags of a given type, or "Locally," applying to only a specific Tag. The challenge when one intends to produce narratives in two or more Languages is to consistently apply parallel changes to each Language.

The actual creation of Sentences in each Language is easy enough. There are Language selectors on the screens in which Sentences are edited. The challenge is to maintain the discipline, after making a change in one Language, to remember to make the corresponding change in the "other" Language(s).

If you are intending to produce output in multiple Languages it is probably best to avoid creating Local Sentences, because of the difficulty of continually remembering to keep each Language current, and considerable difficulty in finding and correcting failures to do so. Maintaining only Global Sentence changes is more manageable.

Multi-lingual Data Entry

TMG does not provide translation of user-entered data, so the actual data entered can be an issue:


There is no provision for producing source notes – footnotes or endnotes – in more than one language. Sources can readily be made to accommodate any single language, as I describe in my article on Data Entry Issues. But data elements are output into source notes exactly as input, with no method to specify different elements for different languages. Phrases and punctuation appearing as specified in the Output Templates with no way to change those templates for a second language.

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