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I am working on designing a bilingual email. I need to locate some best practices and patterns, particularly for layouts.

I am not sure if it is possible to know what the native language of the user is before they receive the email, so I may have to go with a design that accommodates both languages.

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For an intranet project in KSA the emails sent were previously bilingual so we had to resort to such a layout:

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But later on when we had to add styling, it was a nightmare to style the emails so we allowed users to choose their language preference and sent them styled emails in one language only.

Hope this helps a bit!

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If your emails are related to a website you could use the users Accept-Language header as an idea of which language they would prefer.

Otherwise at the top of the email where there is often a View this in your web browser link you could add similar links like View this in English.

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Know your target. I think one solution is to send the email in the language of most user you have and at top of email you can put web link for web page in which there are translation for others.

In this way you can accommodate most part of your public.

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If both languages are supported equally, then put them both in the body of the email.

If most of your readers are going to be reading it on desktop, you can try putting both languages side-by-side. This can be especially good if one language is read left-to-right (ex: English, Spanish) and the other is read right-to-left (ex: Hebrew, Arabic); readers of both languages can start reading their email in the correct way and see their language first. However, putting the two languages side-by-side requires that you make a lot of assumptions about window size, and is very likely to cause problems if read on a mobile device.

If you are going to support easy reading on mobile devices, you will have to choose an ordering. If the home office is known to primarily use one of those languages, you can put that language first and the other language second. If your readers are predominately reading one language, put that one first. If you're unsure, or if nothing seems quite right, you can alternate which language you put first. You can put a link to jump to each language at the top of the email to reduce the scrolling necessary.

There are very few circumstances where you would not want to put all languages in the email. If you only put one language in the body of the email, and require the reader to click a link to read the contents in the other language, you are sending another message in your email: that readers of the other language are second-class citizens. Further, requiring them to click a link to read the message drastically decreases the chances that they will actually read it.

You can consider adding some tracking to your emails to see which language is read the most. You could also conduct some user research to see if your selected method is effective, such as a simple survey or perhaps lightweight interviews.

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