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Showing Youtube Captions by Default in Another Language

by Tom Johnson on Jul 8, 2010 •
categories: technical-writing

I've been researching how to translate screencasts. Here's one problem to overcome: Even if you use youtube's caption system, if you embed the translated videos on a web page, will users have to select both their language and captions? Normally, we want the video to display these automatically if we're embedding the video a page that we have translated.

It turns out that by adding some parameters from the Youtube Embedded Player Parameters Reference, you can set the language for the video as well as force-display the captions.

Here's an example. (I just chose this video because it happens to be translated into about a dozen languages, not because of the content.)

Deutsch

French

Italian

English

Here's how you enable captions to display by default in another language:

1. Go to youtube and find the video you want to embed. Make sure the video has captions translated into the language you want.

2. In the site footer, select the language you want youtube to display in. This will change all the site language to the one you select.

3. Click the embed button and grab the embed code. The embed code will contain a parameter specifying the site language you selected. For example, in the following embed code for the Italian video, it includes hl=it_IT. That means the language for the video is Italian. For the Deutsch video, it's hl=de_DE.

Here's that code in context. It's on line 2.

4. To force the captions to display by default, add cc_load_policy=1 in the embed code, as shown in the code above on line 2.

That's all you have to do. Now the video will display captions by default in the language you specified.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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