I had a conversation with a partner who wanted to implement forms in SharePoint (actually, he was wondering about using SharePoint’s survey features but came to the conclusion that Forms Services was better suited to the task). The difficulty was that the SharePoint solution in question would be deployed in multiple countries in several different languages.
This led to a discussion about how exactly to go about doing this.
SharePoint as a product is designed so that it can work for a wide range of business sizes and situations, and this includes large companies spread across multiple countries. Therefore, it was built to allow for information to be presented to users in their own language. This is done using variations (variations can also be used in a similar way to have sites formatted to suit browsers, mobiles and so on, but we won’t go into that now).
When setting up variations, you create the source site. This is the site from which the others derive. In this case, it would be the site created in whatever language is the default for the SharePoint solution. Then you set up the variations. In this example, the variations would be the languages required. Then when material is created or changed in the source site, the variation sites would automatically adjust to show the same changes. So adding a subsite to the source site would automatically create the same subsites to the variation sites with the same content, each in their correct languages. This enables the same information to be displayed in the sites associated to each language with only one change (although an administrator for the variation sites is required to check the automated changes).
For most sites, this works very well. However there are things to bear in mind when embedding information or, in this case, forms in the site. If I were to embed an InfoPath form as a webpart in a SharePoint source site, exactly the same form would be displayed in the variation sites. I mean exactly the same form. There would be no translation and even the menus would be displayed in the default language. To overcome this, the form must be translated and its language set for each variation site.
So, if I wanted to have a SharePoint site display a form in English, French and German, I would have to create the source site for the English (assuming this is the default language for the hypothetical SharePoint deployment) and set up the variations for the French and German sites. I would deploy the InfoPath form in the English site. This would create identical, English forms in the French and German variations. I would then have to translate the form into French and set the language of the form to French (using InfoPath’s inbuilt language support) and redeploy it into the French variation site. I would then have to do exactly the same thing with German.
Yes, it is definitely possible to create and deploy InfoPath forms in multiple languages, but it’s important to remember that SharePoint doesn’t translate the forms. The form has to be translated and deployed for every language you wish to use.