Friday, April 20, 2012

Tips on How to Streamline the Software Localization Process

Software localization is one of the most complex projects in regards to translation. Most of the time, localization involves translating software strings to the target language without affecting the coding. Some clients prefer to simply translate a list of English words/phrases, so that they can later be inserted into the code manually. This may not be an option for everyone, especially for those less savvy in software strings, coding and foreign language characters.

Those who cannot, or choose not to, localize the file themselves may elect to send the strings to the translation agency and ask them to work on the translations within the code. This would allow the agency to deliver an in-tact code, with the foreign language replacing the original English text. If you choose to take this route, we have some tips to make the process easier:

1.       Try to maintain consistency through the strings. For example, if you have an error message in one place that says “File not found”, try not to change it in another place to say “Cannot find file”

2.       Provide context for your strings. If a line in your string simply says “End”, you must provide context. Does this mean that clicking “End” will take you to the end of the document? Does it mean that clicking will end the program you are running in the software? If you have the source software available for the agency to review, this is also very helpful. Without context, it is also difficult to know the gender (remember that other languages often have genders for nouns). Providing context will also help to identify whether a word is a noun or verb (e.g., “call”), etc.

a.       Wikipedia explains this as well: User interface strings that are available for translation in a separate file or web interface are out of context. Ideally, the translator ought to be able to press a button and somehow "see the context". Simply translating a string without knowing its precise location in the user interface will often lead to wrong translations, in particular if English is the source language.

3.       Keep in mind that translated text is often much longer and can take up more space than the English. If you have a dialog box that is only large enough for 3 characters but the translated word is 10 characters, you will have to adjust the size of the font or text frame. It is much simpler to make the text boxes too large before translation and shrink them later, than to go the other way around.

4.       Provide resource materials! This is important. If you have previous software translations that relate, glossaries compiled from other projects or the English software available, send it all. It may seem like a lot, but it is better for the agency to have too much information and not use it all, than to have too little and delay the turnaround time.

Software localization is a very complex and time-consuming process. If you can help to make the process as streamlined as possible, your project will yield a faster turnaround and an overall better experience.

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