Tips and suggestions needed for translating comments in source code
Thread poster: Kojima

Kojima
Local time: 10:40
Jun 4, 2009

Hi,

I'm in talks for translating comments in source code from Japanese to English. The source apparently has about a million lines. I was not told whether each line has a comment or not (hopefully not, for the sake of the program!), so I'm not sure exactly how much volume to expect.
As you guessed right, I'm pretty new to this. If anyone has experience with this kind of job, can you please share some information? I would appreciate if some light can be shed on the following in particular:

How much time, effort would be required?
What should the charges be?
Are there any tools etc which can be used to make the task more efficient?

Thanks!
Kojima

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-06-04 23:36 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Formats? Jun 4, 2009

Kojima wrote:
I'm in talks for translating comments in source code from Japanese to English.


In what format are the source files? MS Word? ODT? Or is it perhaps HTML or some programming language?


 

Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:40
English to French
surprising request Jun 5, 2009

I would say that the most important, for this kind of job, would be to understand the specific language(s) in which this program is written, because comments are about the program architecture.
Thus, if the comments in a program written by a Japanese or whatever have to be translated into English (which is not that unusual), the programmer will do that. All programmers understand English. The comments may be broken English, because the developer is not a native speaker, but that's OK.
So why on earth would they want a translator to do that?
If it is for contractual reasons and they don't care at all about the contents, go for it.
If other developers have to use the comments later, advise them to use a developer for that.

Concerning the volume to translate : there is not a rule of thumb about proportion of comments in source code. A lot of (bad) developers that I now can write thousands of lines of code without a SINGLE comment. On the other hand, one line of comment for 10 lines of code is rather good. 1 for 1 would be ridiculous.
However, a programmer should be able to write a script to extract comments ,and count lines, words, characters. Don't do anything before you get this (a file containing all commented text - although you will have to translate them in place, and the line/word count).


 

Kojima
Local time: 10:40
TOPIC STARTER
Probably Notepad (text file) Jun 5, 2009

Hi Samuel,
I assume it will be in Notepad (text file). This information has not been shared by my client.I'll confirm and get back.
Would the format make a very big difference?


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
All programmers speak English? Jun 5, 2009

bohy wrote:
All programmers understand English. The comments may be broken English, because the developer is not a native speaker, but that's OK. So why on earth would they want a translator to do that?


The fact that many programming languages are English-based doesn't mean the programmers actually understand any English. And even if they do understand a little bit of English, it doesn't mean they can write in English. And even if they can write in English, their English may be so broken (though not in their eyes) that is makes no sense to a person who is truly English.

The purpose of comments in programming source text is to explain to future programmers what the specific function does. A comment may be cryptic or it may be well-written. A comment may be intended for advanced programmers, or it may be written in a way that allows the company to employ newbies in future and still update their software comfortably.

A poorly translated comment will be worth very little. I can see why they wanted a translator for the job. Also remember that a translator can typically work much faster than a non-translator -- we translators are used to organising our thoughts in multiple languages and we don't spend too much time thinking about it.

Besides, if the programmer can read English fairly well, as you say, then the programmer can do the reviewing of the translation to ensure that it says what he wanted it to say in the original.

A lot of (bad) developers that I now can write thousands of lines of code without a SINGLE comment. On the other hand, one line of comment for 10 lines of code is rather good. 1 for 1 would be ridiculous.


Agreed, although ten lines of code may be followed by ten lines of comment. We should be thankful for companies that make it a requirement (on pain of sacking) to write good comments in the code. It has long-term benefits for everyone.

Don't forget that GUI code needs a lot more commenting (although in practice this is often neglected, and programmers hope that localisers will instinctively know what a widget is for or how it behaves).

However, a programmer should be able to write a script to extract comments ,and count lines, words, characters.


If it were me, I'd prefer to translate the comments within the code, and not extracted from it. Some file formats are suitable for this, for example tagged RTF with tw4winExternal applied to the code and translatable style applied to the comments. So, a Wordfast job. After translating 1000 lines of comment, a translator may even begin to understand the code that was gobbledigook to him initially.

But we're assuming this is programming code. The comments in a word processing file are also called "comments" and some clients tend to put a lot of content in comments (don't you just hate that).


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:40
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
don't know about Japan... Jun 5, 2009

...but programmers are generally lazy and very bad linguists,
They do not like to make comments in code. And if they do it's usually for their own use, and totally incomprehensible to others...
Unless the programming language requires clear and detailed remarks about type conversions, parameters etc and purpose of routines etc there is usually no point in adding any comments.

Be that as it may, who knows maybe this company has stickt rules on in-code documentation.
I would probably have it translated by a developer / programmer rather than a "just a" translator (like myself), and would prefer somebody who can also read the code / programming language, as they are almost sure to use very specific language...

I would really ask the client for few examples first...
General guess 5- 10 lines of comments per indivual routine/ program / include file

Invoicing by the hour would be my solution...

Ed


 

Uwe Schwenk (X)
Local time: 20:40
English to German
Translating Comments Jun 5, 2009

The issue of translating comments will depend on what the client wants. In my company we have a standard rule that comments remain in English, since we have a distributed development around the World and English is the language that was decided on for comments.

In a nutshell, check with the client.

Uwe


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Well, answer the original question Jun 5, 2009

Kojima wrote:
Would the format make a very big difference?


Format of what? The question is, what do you mean (or what does the client mean) by "comments" and "source"? Is the client referring to programming code or is the client referring to wordprocessing files?


 


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