Websites, mobile applications, social networks and video channels
What does the law say?
In general terms, there is not any rule or law that forces companies to have their web site or applications in the Catalan language or in any other. Products sold on the internet, though, are regulated by consumer protection laws and linguistic rights must be respected.
This way, websites, as well as smartphone and tablet apps of companies offering their services in Catalonia, or addressed to potential Catalan consumers, should use at least the Catalan language in any public information or documents regulated by article 128-1 of the Law 22/2010 of the Catalan Consumer Code (customer service, contracts and other documents involving contracts, offers or quotes).
What would a good practice be in this regard?
- Depending on whom their websites target, companies selling their products or offering their services in the Catalan-speaking territory have several options:
- Monolingual website: If the website targets primarily the Catalan-speaking area (Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic Islands, Andorra) or if different versions are prepared for each target country or area, it is only natural that there should be a specific version in Catalan. In such cases, the use of the .cat domain is especially appropriate (see Fundacio.cat).
- Multilingual website: This is a very commonly used form of website since it enables companies to target customers outside the Catalan-speaking area via a single portal. It is important to adapt the use of Catalan according to the target of multilingual websites:
- Corporate or international websites: Not all the information is always available in the languages of the territories where the product is distributed. The information is usually provided in one or more of the most-spoken languages, and more often in the company's own national language. For example, a German multinational company may have its main website in German and English, with links to other specific websites for particular languages or for particular countries in their respective languages, with different information. Similarly, a Catalan multinational may have its main website in Catalan and English, for example, with links to other specific websites for particular countries or languages.
- Specific websites for particular countries or for particular linguistic groups the linguistic approach should take local factors into consideration. If the website is for a particular country, for example with the .es domain for Spain or another specific website linked from the international website, the .es site or the other site in question should have a Catalan language option, since the company would also be addressing the Catalan-speaking area of the country.
- Specific websites with the .cat domain websites with the .cat domain are a good way to directly redirect visitors to the Catalan-language version without them having to choose. Accordingly, the same website in Catalan may be reached in various ways: from an international website, forwarding the visitor to a list of languages or countries to choose from; from the website for Spain (with the .es domain, for example), allowing the visitor to select a Catalan option; or from a website with the .cat domain, which takes them directly to the Catalan-language version (while also allowing visitors to choose other language options, if so desired, from this website).
- Special care should be taken with the handling of languages and linguistic consistency in relation to customers, avoiding jumbled-up languages on the same website. It should be remembered that not only should there be the option of a website in Catalan, but also that such a website should be easy to access and provide all the respective functions and comprehensive information in the language. There are various possibilities in this regard: an initial choice of language may be made; the language may be offered according to the visitor's territory; the language offered may be based on the visitor's browser language, etc., with the option of choosing another language subsequently provided.
- In the case of the social media (especially Twitter, Facebook and Google+), the use of Catalan language will depend on its importance in the respective market. In some cases, many multinational companies provide these services in English alone. Even so, it is preferable for there to be specific versions for the respective markets, in this case the Catalan market. This is easier to manage in the case of Twitter. For Facebook and Google+, if there are no specific versions for the Catalan market, but rather versions for Spain overall, multilingual messages should be used, with a fair distribution between languages or depending on the specific share of the linguistic communities in the company's market in Spain. This also applies to additional information for published videos (for example, on YouTube channels).
- The use of Catalan should not be neglected in mobile applications. If the main sphere of action is the Catalan-speaking area, a single version of the app in Catalan is advisable.
Softcatalà is a non-profit organization offering numerous resources for setting up computers in Catalan. The Catalanitzador (Catalanizer) tool is also very interesting, as is the Guia d’estil (Style Guide), which helps to ensure proper use of the language on the Internet. Information on how to obtain a .cat domain is available at http://www.fundacio.cat/en.