Bilbao, Spain

Found in Translation: Bilbao’s Online Multilingual Resource Guide

Ayuntamiento de Bilbao

January 30, 2013

A comprehensive multilingual online resource guides residents, municipal staff and community NGOs

Immigrating to a new city can be an exciting and bewildering experience. Do you have to register as a resident? What city services are available? How do I enroll my children into school? The challenge of accessing such information is further compounded when language and cultural barriers are present. To help a growing population of newcomers learn about practical information and essential services, the City of Bilbao created an easy-to-use online multilingual resource guide (Guía de Recursos Multilingüe).

Like other cities in Spain, Bilbao has had to adjust to changing demographics. Located in the Basque region of northern Spain, this city of 350,000 has had virtually no population growth over the past decade even though the percentage of migrants went from 1% to 8.2% between 2000 and 2010.

Seven Languages

Bilbao’s multilingual resource guide was developed by the Immigration Bureau of the Office of Equality, Cooperation and Citizenship (Área de Igualdad, Cooperación y Ciudadanía) in 2008 and is available on the city’s official website in seven languages: Euskera, Castilian Spanish, English, French, Romanian, Chinese and Arabic. Since the multilingual feature is fully integrated throughout the website, city staff can answer questions by referring to any part of the guide, then click on the appropriate language to share the required information in translation.

The guide offers practical information on a wide array of city services and programs, including health care, social benefits, education and employment services. Topics range from how to obtain a driver’s licence, what to do in the case of spousal abuse to how to legalize one’s status in Spain. It also informs newcomers of the role of the Citizen Advice Bureau for in-person advice and provides a directory to the many immigrant associations found within Bilbao. Maps and visual materials also help users navigate easily towards the information they need.

To spread the word about the online guide, the city fell back onto an older form of marketing. Posters were placed in a variety of neighbourhoods and districts, particularly ones with a higher immigrant population.


Keeping the guide reliable and relevant is key to its success. Staff make sure to keep the website  up-to-date on procedures, office locations, contact information, and new legislation or information about resources and services. Simple and effective, Bilbao’s popular online multilingual resource guide is used not only by residents but also by municipal staff, and the many community and cultural associations and NGOS in the city In 2011, the. guide received over 80,000 page views.

This use of modern communication technology was recognized as a good practice in 2009 by the European Network OPENCities which has also praised another program coming out of Bilbao’s Office of Equality, Cooperation and Citizenship – the Women, Health & Violence: Guide for Women. Both are examples of the city’s commitment to social cohesion in a diverse community.

Making it Work for You:

  • A multilingual guide is only as useful as its information. Make sure to update contents regularly and ensure all services used by newcomers are included and available in accessible, downloadable formats..
  • Access to services can be the no. 1 barrier to meeting community needs, so get the word out!
  • Publicize the website through all means possible, including posters and flyers.