Four new language sites share BBC style guide with the world

Chinese site The Chinese sites cover grammar and impartiality

How should journalists 'tweet' in Chinese, describe 'rape' in Urdu when the word's taboo in Pakistan and stay impartial in Hausa?

These are among the questions addressed by four new language sites, launched this week by the College of Journalism and designed to share the BBC's in-house style guide with the world's journalists.

The websites, in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hausa and Urdu, cover everything from cultural sensitivities to common abbreviations and draw on the experience of World Service presenters, producers and reporters broadcasting in these languages.

'The sites are a unique depository for the entire knowledge of departments supporting BBC journalists both in London and abroad,' says Najiba Kasraee, commissioning editor for the College of Journalism's international websites. 'They focus on both the impartiality and accuracy of the broadcast language as well as the BBC's journalistic values.'

Impartial language

The two interconnected Chinese language websites - covering both the written Chinese used in mainland China and the traditional form used mainly outside China - include sections on grammar, new terminology and impartial language. They also feature the BBC's first editorial guidelines on how journalists should use Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, which has more than 250m users.

The Urdu site advocates the use of the word 'rape', despite the fact that most of the Pakistani media avoid it. 'The BBC Urdu service strongly argues that the act of rape should be called rape and nothing else,' says Kasraee.

There is advice too on how to write for television as well as articles and videos on multimedia skills and BBC values.

Hau Hausa's hook letters proved a challenge
Hooked letters

The Hausa site, meanwhile, had to find a typeface that included three hooked letters that form part of the Hausa alphabet - something the Hausa service had been seeking for some time.

'We could not create a website where we had articles about spelling but not the correct typeface,' reasons Kasraee. 'We started looking for the letters and when we found them we of course shared out knowledge with the Hausa service.'

The latest launches bring the total number of language websites to seven. There are plans to launch new sites for Burmese, Pashto, Swahili and Vietnamese next summer.

Kasraee hopes the sites will fill in the gaps for BBC newcomers. 'Every new producer/presenter gets quite a lot of training in terms of journalism,' she says, 'how to ask the question or how to hold the camera. Now there is somewhere for them to go for language skills and style guide.'

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