English (UEB) - Foreign Language Material

The Unified English Braille templates all support multiple methods of translation to accommodate the shades of difference that occur in the preferred handling of foreign languages, depending on the context. This topic describes how you use DBT codes - which may be captured in specific styles - to switch among these alternatives.

The two major English braille authorities that provide guidance on the options for handling foreign languages each refer to the alternative methods of foreign language translation the same way. The UKAAF/UK rules Transcribing Foreign Language Material in UEB lists three methods. The BANA/North American rules Guidelines for Braille Transcription of Languages Other Than English lists three categories. These distinctions are essentially the same. We will use the term Methods to refer to both.


In the following simple example, the word "Café" is translated three different ways using the three methods. First, it is translated as an isolated French word in the midst of UEB English, i.e., as a French term that has been borrowed into English. Second, it is translated by applying DBT's French style to the word, and third, by switching to the French Unified braille rules, as it would appear in a native French document.

Image shows exampole of the word "Cafe" using English, French Style and Frech Language braille tables.

In the first method, dot 6 indicates an upper case letter c, while the e with acute accent is shown by the UEB accent sign (dots 45, 34), followed by the letter e (dots 15).

In the second method, the e acute is represented all in a single cell (dots 123456).

In the third method, instead of the UEB upper case sign (dot 6), the French upper case sign is used (dots 46), while the e acute is again translated as one cell, all six dots.

The choice depends on your local rules, the nature of the document, and who the document is for.

Method 1: For incidental non-English or anglicized words embedded within English text

In this method, the UEB accent signs are used on accented letters (instead of the foreign language's own standard indicators), and UEB punctuation is used. Normal UEB contractions may be used, or not, as is dictated by the needs of clarity.

Assuming you want to continue using UEB contractions, this is the default treatment in DBT. No special markup is required in any UEB template when this is the desired result.

However, if you want the foreign text to be uncontracted, you need to enclose the foreign-language text in grade switching codes:

[g1] ... (foreign language text in grade 1) ... [g2]

Method 2: For longer foreign language passages.

BANA says [This] includes the non-English text in non-English language textbooks and assessments, grammar books and phrase books, and bilingual dictionaries. "Non-English" means that the text has been identified as non-English within the document either through formatting or context.

In this method no contractions are used on the foreign language text. UEB punctuation continues to be used. The accented letter signs are those used the respective non-English braille system.

This is the normal treatment in passages marked by specific DBT Styles:

Language DBT Style Name
French French
German German
Spanish Spanish
Italian Italian
Latin Latin
Portuguese Portuguese
Welsh Welsh

The Welsh style is only available for the UK. Hawaii and Māori styles are also available. Other languages, such as Finnish, Dutch, and Swedish can be marked with the French style.

Look at DBT's Global - Word Importer options. There is an option to Ignore Language tags. When unchecked, DBT will apply the Spanish style or code for a Spanish Word language tag during file import. This is wonderful if Word guesses the language correctly, and is bad if Word is incorrect. How this all works in practice depends on your version of Word, what supplements you have installed, and what options you have selected. Run some tests turning on Importing language tags. Word might auto detect language transitions for you correctly. Many users have complained that Word does a poor job of tagging languages. That is why that default in DBT is to ignore language tags. But you may have satisfactory results.

For Spanish, it is desired to use non-UEB punctuation within the secondary language. This is done using a vrn ("variation") code. You enter the code [vrn~spp] at the top of the document to get correct Spanish punctuation, i.e., to get both the inverted and the upright form for the question mark and the exclamation point. An alternative way to enter this code is to place [[*vrn~spp*]] at the top of your MS-Word document.

Method 3: For foreign language literature

Method 3 uses the native foreign language context, accent signs, and punctuation. You separately control whether contractions are used, if any contractions are defined in that language. You control the use of contractions with the g1 / g2 codes as previously described.

The key is Table Switching. The code [lnb~X] switches the translation table from the UEB table to the one corresponding to the designator X. A plain [lnb] code causes a switch back to the UEB translation table. Use fra-xqu for French and Spa for Spanish

Click here for the full list of languages in alphabetical order, complete with table switching designators.

Click here for more details on table switching.