Indicate a user's preferred language(s)

Since iNaturalist is an international project with a global user base, communication between users would be improved if it was more transparent which language users speak or prefer. Sometimes when leaving comments for misidentified organisms on other continents, it’s not clear what language I should be using to inform the uploader. Sometimes this can be inferred by the language in one’s profile page, but many users have no text on their profiles, and others may be fluent in multiple languages. Assuming one doesn’t understand English may lead to awkward communication attempts: while I have rudimentary Spanish skills for instance, much of my translingual communication is based on Google Translate, which is not always reliable, and knowing that a user speaks English would circumvent this. Somewhat similar to the Babel template on Wikipedia, I envision a series of coded icons that can be added to a profile page (and maybe even next to usernames and thumbnails on observations & comments) that display a user’s language proficiency (e.g. “Native/Fluent in Spanish”, “proficient in English and German”). and that is automatically translated into all languages on iNaturalist. Setting these languages could be a step in account registration (“Indicate your language skills and preferences to help users from around the world communicate with you”) and also be managed in Account Settings.

There’s nothing stopping folks from including this information in their profile right now if interested. The language infoboxes on WP user pages are also optional.

I’d personally be more interested in development time spent on a built-in translate feature for comments than standardizing a section for language preferences in user profiles (though not mutually exclusive ideas of course!).


A post was merged into an existing topic: Translation option for comments?

I didn’t mean to derail by semi-proposing another feature request, so I split off comment translation into its own topic: Translation option for comments?

Yes, but if someone wrote “I am fluent in Korean and Russian”, on their profile page in Korean or Russian, I (an English speaker lacking Korean and Russian comprehension) wouldn’t readily know that unless it was auto-translated to English.

A built-in translation feature might be nice, but if it relies on often-clunky machine translation, knowing a user’s language base in advance would obviate the need.


So, rather something like this on the right (or more stylized):

(“iNat user settings” being the person viewing the page.)
(also excuse any poor Italian translations ;)


@ bouteloua Exactly! And maybe a star or bold text indicating one’s most preferred language to communicate. And maybe a simplified version could be displayed next to a username in Observations, or appear when the mouse is hovered over their username.


Preferred language plus other fluency could be useful. I do a ton of IDs throughout Central and South America. I generally comment in Spanish unless there’s reason to believe that the observer (or an identifier) speaks English (even then I often manually type in both languages - normally not really exact translations of each segment as they may be partially addressed to different individuals). My Portuguese isn’t good enough for sentences, though, so if I’m doing anything in Brazil, I currently search profile pages and other observations beforehand. If I can be a bit lazy and just type in English and have good communication, I’d just as soon do that.

Probably a way this could be implemented is by an added section of account settings. New users could be prompted to make a selection upon account creation, and maybe existing users would receive some sort of notification asking to update their Preferred Languages section. That would probably make rendering it fairly easy as it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult to put some data to display text from Person A’s preferred language(s) into the language that Person B has already selected for viewing the site (even if it’s as simple as just the name of the language as opposed to “I speak Spanish”).


This feature seems really useful to implement, i’d also prefer to see it as something selected by a user during account creation then appearing on their profile (but can also be added or edited later).

As per above, i focus on the fauna of a geographic region (Central and South America) far outside of my own homeland of the UK. For that, communicating in spanish or sometimes portuguese is usually going to be the best option for the receiver. However, while i gladly switch between english and spanish, i know my ability in the latter (portugues) is limited, so if e.g. i knew the other person was a native brazilian-portuguese speaker who considered themselves fluent in english, that would alter how i’d approach communication with them - perhaps english is best as a compromise for both parties, and often i would aim to simplify my wording. But, usually, i’d expect their native language to be best for them - it would be great to be clear what language they firstly prefer and secondly are ok to deal with (even if by translation software etc)

I see part of key iNat goals about knowledge exchange and “empowering the disadvantaged” … so surely when the ‘receivers’ preferred language (often the local language) is stated - surely that’s often going to be the ideal starting point for a sender considering about how to make a communication? Especially, I’m concerned about how the site is perceived new users - who i suggest shouldn’t be faced at outset with foreign replies!

I work thru the Rest of Africa. Many languages. Some talk to me in French, and I reply in English. I am aware that many will be using English or French as their second language to communicate with iNat. We use translate for common / Western languages, but there are so many that are simply not offered. Not even a keyboard option for them!
Common names in local languages are also mostly not yet on iNat.


One hint might be to look at the place name of the observation. Depending on the uploaders language the city or country name is different


If you are communicating with some one, you may can ask this person what language he knows?
May like:

Hey your species is cool, can i ask you some thing in an other language, what languages do you know?

1 Like

Out of votes, but supporting.