Multilingualism in Citizen Science Projects

Wednesday, 03 April 2019 16:41

When developing Citizen Science Apps, the usability has a big impact on how well and frequent people use them in the end. The goal for Citizen Science Apps is to become an important part in the everyday lives of their users in the long term, so that users can gain experience and can contribute important data  to scientific projects.

There are many different ways to improve the usability of an App for the users: one is for sure to offer the App in different languages. Even though nowadays a large part of society understands basic English, multilingualism is beneficial for Citizen Science apps. First of all, the inhibitory threshold to download an app gets lowern and the frequence of use get higher if there is a version in the user’s mother tongue.

Another important point is that often Citizen Science projects are about very accurate data collection. Most of us may be fluent in English, but who is familiar with scientific terms in a foreign language, for example, different phenological phases of individual common plant names? Of course, occasionally words can be translated very easily and quickly with the help of online-dictionaries, but this can be extremely annoying and interrupting, especially while doing observations out in the field with the smartphone in hand. We live in a time of globalisation, in which the Erasmus-programme, internships abroad and changes of residency due to working conditions and migration are part of the our life. By the fact that more and more people are living in places where they are not that fluent in the local language to use apps in that tongue smoothly, it is important to avoid leaving out potential participants. Even if the apps are targeting certain countries or territories, it is very important to offer more languages than the native one

If an App is initially designed for the use in one country only, but is not limited to it, a multilingual offer might be of great benefit especially when implementing English as a fallback. Users who download and use an app at the time of a stay abroad from home, will still have it installed on their mobile phone after their stay and carry the app back to their own living area. Multilingualism in Citizen Science apps can help a lot to get the best results possible for science. In the perfect case, an international, scientifically interested community will grow within the app of the Citizen Science project, for example by using SPOTTERON’s Community Pack with many options for interactivity and direct exchange between the citizens and the scientists.

Of course, it depends on the target reach of an app. If it is a regional app, a translation into English will be more than sufficient, in addition to the original language version. For most projects however, multilingualism can significantly contribute to a better long-term motivation, higher impact and more quality data in in Citizen Science apps!

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