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Localization tips for Software developers: any idea?
Thread poster: Elena Bellucci

Elena Bellucci
Local time: 03:39
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Oct 22, 2005

Hi everybody!
I hope this question has not been asked before.
After hearing me complain that software and websites are usually written without considering that English is not the only language spoken on planet Earth ^_^;;; a friend programmer asked me for some tips on how he could make life easier for the translators right while writing the code. The particular case we discussed was a set of error messages where different phrases are retrieved and "mounted" according to the number/location/type of error and originating a series of problems with genders, plurals etc. Now this, of course, is just a limited and specific example, whereas we were trying to get to some general indications.
Is there any tip we could give to software developers? What should a software developer bear in mind to keep the code as "language neutral" as possible?
Any suggestion or reference is more than welcome!



[Edited at 2005-10-22 18:03]


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xxxBrandis
Local time: 03:39
English to German
+ ...
They should study all the avilable Oct 22, 2005

CAT tools first, to bring out a hybrid. This I think is the shortest way. Brandis

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Robert Zawadzki  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:39
English to Polish
+ ...
Microsoft posted some Oct 22, 2005

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/modcore/html/deconlocalizationconsiderationswithuserinterface.asp

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/modcore/html/deconlocalizationconsiderationsinwritingcode.asp

See also

http://www.amigaforever.com/classic/documents/19961222amiga_uilocalization.html


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:39
German to English
+ ...
Localization tips for Software developers: any idea? Oct 22, 2005

A Practical Guide to Localization
Bert Esselink
ISBN 1588110060


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Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:39
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
feedback Oct 22, 2005

-
I don't know how often I have seen the results of a flawless software translation butchered in the finished product due to truncated strings all over the place.
And not all companies employ a multilingual QA team that is able to notice when words are missing from a translation. (And even if they notice they probably don't know how to shorten the translation to make it fit.)

Particularly German translations tend to be considerably longer than English source strings. It would be great if programmers could keep this in mind when designing dialog boxes and buttons. Either make them not fixed size so they can adjust to the actual string length, or at least leave ample space for additional letters and also provide the maximal number of characters that a certain string allows.

- In cases where the translator is provided with a maximum string length, the length per line is often so ridiculously short that particularly these loooong German words have to be hyphenated with the result that every line ends in a hyphen and everything looks extremely fragmented. Just leave a bit extra space if you want the translated version look as good as the English one.

- As you mentioned: These "mix and match" strings usually create problems for the translator and the translation. First, since the strings are not always presented in the environment they will actully appear in the finished product, there is often not enough context to figure out what individual words mean. I translated a website once where one of the strings was "top". Aha, website, it must mean "go to the top of the page", right? Nope, they inserted it into another phrase: "The top five ... on the list" I have no idea why they chopped up that sentence like this, but you can imagine how ridiculous my translation looked like!
So, avoid "mix and match" situations as much as possible or be prepared to make allowances for different grammars.
E.g. if German is the target language and a set of nouns needs to be inserted in one otherwise static sentence, be prepared to have three or four variations of the string available that can be marked accourding to gender/plural, and also make it possible that the words that need to be inserted can be marked according to gender. Since this can get really complicated, work together with a native speaker of the target language when making this kind of decisions. It might be simpler in the end just to have one complete string for each noun.


- Usually, variables are used in the source strings and can easily implemented in the translation. However, if this variable occurs at the end of the source sentence, it is often left out of the string. If the target language needs to change the word order - as is so often the case in German - and, for instance, the verb needs to be at the very end, the translator has to force the translation into an grammatically incorrect or at least clumsy word order because there is no variable available to place in the correct position *inside* the sentence. So, please include all variables that will be used in a particular string.

That's all I can think of at the moment.


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Zoltán Medgyesi
Hungary
Local time: 03:39
English to Hungarian
Just a link Oct 23, 2005

Maybe the best summary about writing localizable software:

http://developer.gnome.org/doc/tutorials/gnome-i18n/developer.html

Keywords: i10n and i18n.


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:39
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
recommended language swell space Oct 24, 2005

Heike Behl, Ph.D. wrote:
.... Just leave a bit extra space if you want the translated version look as good as the English one.


About 10% language swell space for English to target language localization is usually recommended.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/localization.htm


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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:39
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
meaningful string ID's, plus continuous involvement Oct 24, 2005

What I find useful in the projects I've been involved in are "meaningful" string ID's, which should convey some idea of the context (menu name, dialog box name, button, etc.) that would otherwise be difficult to get from the string itself, especially when this is a single word.
This is also useful when sentences have to be split over several strings - a string ID with sequential numbering helps identifying all related strings.

Involving at sw testing stage a stranslator who has also been involved in the sw and doc translation would be great, as he/she would be in the best position to catch chopped strings or context mistranslations, but that is seldom possible (the translator is often in a different country and transfer costs are not usually budgeted for this...).

The doc is not usually available at sw translation stage, so the "glossary" (strings) often get translated without much context. At doc review some things suddenly become clear and it may still be possible to fix them, according to the workflow followed during the localization process. I have often kept track of sw glossary issues at doc review stage, and passed these on to the team involved in testing so that they could get fixed.

All stages need to be somewhat linked together, involving the same lead translators/reviewers.

[Edited at 2005-10-24 13:29]


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JennyC08
Local time: 21:39
German to French
+ ...
Another thing Oct 24, 2005

Jeff Allen wrote:

Heike Behl, Ph.D. wrote:
.... Just leave a bit extra space if you want the translated version look as good as the English one.


About 10% language swell space for English to target language localization is usually recommended.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/localization.htm


I would say 50%. If you have languages like Russian, you will need that extra space (I am not sure, but I think that's what MS recommends).
And I would also recommend to developpers to avoid concatenations in the strings, which can be sometimes impossible to translate in languages like French, Spanish or German...


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Elena Bellucci
Local time: 03:39
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Oct 26, 2005

Thanks to everybody for your advice and for pointing me to the reference material. It will be very useful.
^___^

Elena


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