Multi-language content in Moodle

So, you are have a Moodle website that runs in multiple languages. To date, you've been doubling up all you text doing things like "This content is in English. / Ce contenu est en français." As a result, the site looks a mess no matter in what language you use Moodle. In addition, this results in an accessibility issue because users of screen readers get really confused when the alternate language comes through their speaker… and not even pronounced correctly. What can you do?

If you haven't come across it yet, take a look at the Multi-Language Content (v2) Moodle plugin available for free on It allows you to create multi-language content that only displays in the currently selected language of Moodle. Be sure to follow the installation instructions as you need to enable it in order for it to have any effect. Here is how you would use it in your content:

Inline example:

{mlang en}This content is in English.{mlang}{mlang fr}Ce contenu est en français.{mlang}

Block example:

{mlang en}
This content is in English. 
You can have multiple paragraphs.
{mlang}{mlang fr}
Ce contenu est en français.
Vous pouvez avoir plusieurs paragraphes.

The cool thing is that you do not need to know any HTML or programming in order to use this. Just type the {mlang} tags around your content just like you would any other content.

As a result, when your user chooses to view Moodle in English, you will only see the English text. When viewing Moodle in French, you will only see the French text. You can actually have as many languages as you want by repeating the series of {mlang} sections.

If you were working with Portuguese, you would use (the order of the languages is not important):

{mlang pt}Este conteúdo está em Português.{mlang}{mlang en}This content is in English.{mlang}

But what if you actually want text to appear in multiple languages on the same page? Take a look at the Moodle FilterCodes plugin. One of the many supported tags is the {langx xx}Your text{/langx}. For example:

{langx pt}Este conteúdo está em Português.{/langx} / {langx en}This content is in English.{/langx}

As a result, the text for both languages will appear on the page however the {langx} codes will be replaced by HTML that correctly tags the text in the appropriate language so that screen readers read it correctly.

Another important use would be if you needed to mention the name of a company. For example, if I had a Spanish Moodle website but wanted to mention the name "General Motors", you would wrap it in {langx} tags so that gets pronounced correctly by a screen reader regardless of Moodle's language:

{langx en}General motors{/langx}

Note that these special tags are not available on or You can only install this plugin on your Moodle site.  While most of Moodle supports this, support can vary depending on the theme and plugins you use. If your theme or plugin doesn't support this, contact the developer and ask them to fix this problem by making use of the Moodle "format_text()" or "format_string()" functions. You don't need to know the technical details. The developer will hopefully fix the problem and publish an updated version of their plugin or theme.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Michael Milette

Choosing a Moodle theme

While you may simply choose a theme based on the way it looks, smart people know that themes are more than skin deep. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a Moodle theme:

  • Make sure that the theme is compatible with the version of Moodle you want to implement. If it is not, contact the developer/vendor to find out if that was an oversight, or if they are imminently planning on releasing an update in the near future.
  • Choose a layout that you like. Changing the layout usually means changing the theme source code which makes it hard to upgrade down the road without always having to re-apply your customizations each time. For example, although Essential is a nice theme with lots of options, it is really a 3 column design (content + 2 columns of menus) which severely limits the space available for your course content.
  • Make sure that the theme is highly customizable (lots of options -- like Adaptable) -- unless the theme is perfect as is.
  • Make sure the theme has no HTML errors.
  • Keep in mind that colours can be customized through CSS. Be weary of nice looking themes like Enlightlite that have "Predefined color schemes" unless you absolutely love one of them.
  • Is RTL (right to left text direction) important? Keep it in mind.
  • Are Moodle custom menus supported? It is always surprising to me when one doesn't.
  • Make sure the theme is responsive -- works on Mobile and Desktop devices without having to zoom in.
  • Make sure the theme is as compliant with WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines as possible. Note that I have yet to find a free or commercial theme that meets accessibility guidelines.
  • Make sure the theme includes multilingual support -- important if you have a multilingual or non-English website.
  • Can make the theme look like your organizations main website -- branding is important and it will help students feel like Moodle is an extension of the corporate website instead of a completely different and potentially unrelated website.
  • Support -- If it is a commercial theme, is the developer responsive to your inquiries? If they don't respond to your pre-sales inquiries, don't assume it will get any better after you give them your money. For free themes, where do you go in order to get support? Don't get me wrong, there is a healthy Moodle community out there willing to help out. Some free themes. like Adaptable, do have a paid support options.
  • Is the theme currently actively being developed? If it hasn't been updated in a while, that could be a bad sign. Check with the developer though, he/she might be working on a new release.
  • Does the theme try to change how Moodle works? While a noble cause, this can also easily create compatibility issues in the future.
  • Does the theme slow down your Moodle site? Moodle is already pretty resource intensive and the last thing you need is something more slowing it down.
  • Is the theme student oriented? I've used some themes that were definitely created by developers for developers.
  • Is the theme within your budget? Keep in mind that, although it is nice to get things like Moodle, plugins and themes like Academi for free, considering the overall cost of setting up your website, the price commercial theme developers like RemUI and Lambda charge or the support fee some free theme developers charge, it is a relative minor cost… and the money you pay will go towards supporting and encouraging further development so that your theme doesn't end up deprecated. Don't let the price of a theme be a determining factor unless it absolutely needs to be.
  • Does it look professional and clean?

Personally, I have had a lot of success with Adaptable. It is super configurable which is great because it doesn't look so hot out of the box (IMHO). However, tweak the settings and it can look amazing. And if you have multiple sites -- such as for development, staging, etc -- it has the option of exporting settings and importing them into another Moodle site.

Where can you find Moodle themes?

Hope this helps. Best regards,

Michael Milette

How to be Happy

I often talk about finding fulfilment through growth and contribution. Today, we will look at how to actually find happiness.

You can't buy happiness -- this isn't actually true. Scientific studies have shown that you can actually buy happiness. The truth is actually pretty close. You can't buy lasting happiness. The happiness you get from things you buy, whether it is a car, a house, jewellery, a new computer, or anything else will only last a relatively short period of time. Then there are the studies that show people in third world countries living in poverty who are happy all the time… much more than rich North Americans. What gives?

While having money can definitely help, how long could you really be happy if you could buy absolutely anything and as much as you wanted anytime you like. Things can't make you happy in the long run.

So how can you be happy? Give this a try -- it won't even cost you a dollar:

Step 1: Start by watching this video (about 2 minutes). For a more in-depth explanation, see How to solve for happy: Engineer a Path to Joy (just over an hour).

Step 2: Practice trying to see things in a way that allows you to feel grateful for what you have and your life experiences. It isn't always easy to find that perspective, even for the best of us. If you're been unhappy for a long time, it will take practice because you've got yourself into a bad habit. Think of happiness as a muscle that you need to work on each day to make it stronger.

Can't find anything to be grateful for? Be grateful for the journey and the trends in your life.

Step 3: See things as they are now. Are they better than they were a year ago? Notice trends in your life instead of specific situations. Are you heading in a positive direction? If not, it is time to change course and try something new or different.

See things as they really are, not worse than they actually are. When travelling from one place to another, it is always important to know from where you are starting. If you want to make positive changes in your life, it works pretty much the same way. Next get a clear picture of where you want to go and how you could improve specific things in your life. Finally, make a list of what you will need to do to get there. This is seeing things as they really are.

It may seem overwhelming at first. Be patient and consistent.Things rarely change overnight. Even the smallest positive change each day will accumulate over time.

Step 4: Focus on what is good in your world and build on it. If it means being grateful for your next breath, the water that comes out of the faucet when you turn it on, or the light that is at the command of a switch, then focus on that. Once you have found something to be grateful for, don't just acknowledge it -- celebrate it! Have a gratitude party with your friends. Celebrate sunshine, rain, drinking water, friendships, a bed, food, healthy parts of your body, memories, challenges, being able to help someone and opportunities to learn and grow… just to get you started. Reward yourself for making progress. See setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow.

Unhappiness and stress occur when your view of your world is different from your internal blueprint of what you think or wish life should be. This brings me to the next final step:

Step 5: Accept the things you can't change. Keep in mind that, just because you can't change something today doesn't mean that you won't be able to tomorrow. All you really need to acknowledge is that you will not let something in your life bother you anymore for 5 minutes, today… maybe not even tomorrow. It need not be a life long commitment to abandoning your dreams or desires.

Allow yourself time for unhappiness but agree to put a maximum time limit on dis-empowering self-pity parties. Of course you always have the option of opting back into a state of happiness early.

Words of Wisdom: Take Control of Your Life

With every breath you take in life, you have the power to make new choices, see things in a different way and adopt new beliefs -- regardless of anything that has happened in your past. Your future does not have to controlled by your past.

Dealing with a mean bad boss

It depends on what you mean by a really bad boss. I've had some bosses that kept having me do things that were not really my job. I may not have liked it at the time but I learned so much from being pushed through the experience. Eventually it became a positive step in my career, something that I would have never done otherwise.

Being mean is often a method of protecting oneself by pushing other people away. What happened in your bosses life that was so terrible that he/she had to decide not to let anyone in? It's been my experience that, when everyone thinks something bad of someone, they are often all not taking the time to understand that person. They may not even really feel that way, but they say it so that they are not judged the others as weak.

When dealing with a boss that you feel is being mean to you, just be sure not to have a double standard. Consider how you would react to actions you are considering taking. Would it be viewed as something positive? For example, how would you feel if people talked poorly about you behind your back? Is there any chance at all that there might be some truth to what your boss has been saying? You may not like what you are hearing but are you 1000% absolutely certain that it is not true at all, even perhaps just a little? There is usually at least some small amount of truth when you try to see things through their eyes, just as you are probably justified to be feeling resentful from your own perspective.

When dealing with a mean boss, you might want your boss to see things your way but have you considered trying to see the situation from their perspective? If you were the boss, what would you hope to get from your employee? Perhaps some understanding of the situation… just like you.

You might be starting to realize that you actually have something in common with your boss. You are the two faces of the same coin. So now dig out the best version of yourself and, with congruence in mind and in your heart, start to figure out how you would hope to resolve the issue. It time to be completely honest with yourself

Is it time to talk with your boss like a mature adult? Some people are natural born leaders. Some leaders need to learn how to step up without crushing others. Then again, maybe they aren't even aware about how you feel or that there is even a problem.

People only have power over you as long as you let them. There over thirty million people in Canada and over three hundred million people in the U.S.A. There are over 7 billion people in the world. If you feel that you have done everything that you could possibly do to resolve the situation and your boss simply doesn't care, there's no reason to work for one person who has no respect for you.

You could get rid of the problem by seeking a promotion within the current company or moving to a completely new company. This isn't running away, it's working towards and enabling you to be the best version of yourself. Regardless of how you feel, always try to leave your current employer on good terms. You never know when you might need them again. They could end up being your next client in your new job.

That said, do make sure you have another job before you quit your current one if possible.

Words of Wisdom: What do you live for?

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what does inside us while we live.
--Norman Cousins.

If you are reading this, it is probably because you still have something to live for -- even if you have yet to discover it.

If you pay attention, try new things and meet new people regularly, you'll find your reason for living. Learn from your experiences, notice things for which to be grateful in your life and find meaning by contribute your knowledge, experience and efforts to helping others.

Patience, you will soon discover many things in life to live for.

Building a Sustainable Future

Want to make the world a better place? It's our children who are going to shape our future and, next to parenting, providing these children with the best possible education will create a sustainable future for our economy and our country.

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Increase teacher salaries significantly across the board and provide them with the resources and support they need. This will also provide motivation to attract the best people to the education industry.
  2. Make continuing education mandatory for teachers. If a teacher isn't ready to keep up with a changing world, actively embrace new innovative techniques for teaching and have the power to implement what they learn, should they really be teaching our adults of tomorrow?
  3. Find qualified high performing school principles who know how to motivate teachers and kids, give them the respect they deserve and who have the power to get rid of under performing teachers who really aren't interested in anything but collecting their paycheck. Turn this into a competitive industry where only the best, the brightest and most effective leaders are considered for this critical role. A good principal can make a world of a the difference for the teachers, the students and relationships with parents. A good strong leader with a clear vision can bring out the best in people, whether it is in business or in schools.
  4. Help students become good people first. Help them embrace who they are, foster their curiosity and build up their self-confidence and self-esteem. Teach them basic learning skill that will carry them forward throughout their education and into their professional years. The days of learning a skill in school and expecting it to carry you through to your retirement are over. In many families today, at least one whole generation has gone without learning basic life skills. We need to bring these back into the schools and teach students how to become more responsible parents in the future.
  5. Make higher education available to the best and brightest, regardless of their financial status. It is not a sustainable plan for students to graduate with a huge debt in order to get a good education. Every day there are Einsteins, da Vincis who will never get an opportunity to contribute in this world to their full potential because they simply can't afford it. Sickness, disease, poverty and even war could potentially wiped out in a generation but adults first need to see the value in contributing to a sustainable future through education.

Countries around the world are embracing new approaches to education and are not only starting to prosper in a global competitive economy but also seeing responsible citizenship and significant reduction in crime. The education system that produced factory workers is obsolete.

We MUST embrace innovation and creativity, and it all starts with educating our future.

Words of Wisdom: We shouldn’t all be millionaires

Think about this for a moment. If you make everyone millionaires, all you end up doing is devaluating your currency. In fact, the same can be said of raising minimum wage. Everything ends up being more expensive because employers then need to pay everyone higher salaries.

So when should you get a raise? When you provide added value to their employers… not just because they've sat in a chair pushing the same button for a long time.

If you can help, contribute and help your employer build their business and make more money, why wouldn't they be delighted to pay you more? If not, it might be time to go help someone else build their business and make more money.

Words of Wisdom: Solving a Problem

If you have a problem with an individual, talk to the individual. Nobody needs more general rules, regulations and laws to solve individual problems. When you take global action to solve an individual problem, you are setting yourself up for failure because nobody is going to remember all your rules. Those who do remember all your rules will likely do so just for the sake of finding loopholes.

Words of Wisdom: How to drop the bad attitude

Having trouble giving up that bad attitude? Want to change it? I can help you with that. First, go find it again and get ready to say goodbye to it. I'll give you and your bad attitude a few more moments. You've probably been together for a while. I understand how it is.

Ready? Ok, here we go.


Hold on!

Not too much longer.

Wait for it…

Almost there…

Just a few more seconds…

There you go! You may now give up your attitude.

Thank you for your patience. You may now be happy in life without the attitude. 🙂

It's as simple as that. If you find it harder to do than this, the problem isn't with people around you but within yourself. Ask yourself why you are holding onto it so dearly? What basic need of yours does it serve in your life? Nobody is watching. It's alright to be completely honest with yourself. Once you have the answer, find another more positive way to fulfil that need and say goodbye to the bad attitude.