length issues in software localization
Thread poster: Aline Pereira

Aline Pereira  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Oct 5, 2013

How do you handle length issues when translating software/apps from English into Portuguese?

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Preset limits Oct 5, 2013

The developer should have set a char limit for each string, assuming translation into several languages. So it's normal that they provide this number.

Last time I did it, the client (agency) had me use free Passolo. On the "Comments" column there was the maximum chars count for each string, and I was advised to stick to that.

When the assignment is not so organized, like I did a volunteer translation for Subtitle Workshop v6 - to be released soon in Portuguese - the only way is by testing on the software.

So, for SW I did a tral translation of all the GUI strings. While I was translating the manual, I checked each string - as it came up on the manual - on the program itself, and shortened as necessary.

So I had three files open while translating the manual:
  • The manual itself on Word with WordFast Classic
  • Subtitle Workshop with my first-attempt translated GUI
  • Another GUI strings *.lng file (which would become the final one) on the Windows Notepad
... and worked on all three at once; of course, one at a time.


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Aline Pereira  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you Oct 7, 2013

Thank you for sharing your experience, José Henrique. My client didn't set a character limit, but I'll see if they can still provide that, since I haven't started the project yet. I believe this would save them time and money in the long run.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Otherwise... Oct 7, 2013

... get them prepared for some additional expense down the line, if they want you to check how your translation looks after it has been implemented on their software's GUI.

I had some strings running off windows, breaking into two lines and kinda disheveling menus, etc.


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Nicole Rodrigues  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 20:23
Portuguese
+ ...
Localization Oct 9, 2013

Hi there,

When offering localization services, it is very important that the translator knows and that client understand that testing is PART OF THE LOCALIZATION PROCESS. It is not something you do if you feel like doing it, or if the translator wants to make sure his or her job is good. It simply is something that HAS to be done. Otherwise, you are offering translation services and not localization. No matter how good your client´s material is, there are some strings that you will only be sure about the context, if you actually navigate the software/game/app you are localizing. In addition to the context issue, there are space and layout issues that have to be taken in consideration at all times.

So if you are not provided with a max. number of cc per string, a hint is to always stay as close to the original number of cc as possible. With the EN > PT pair the translation is always a bit longer, but it is nothing that some creativity won´t fix. If there is absolutely no way to make your translation shorter, you should definitely mark these strings and let your client know that there is nothing you can do about them, in terms of size. So that they can contact their engineers to redesign the buttons or space where the localized strings will appear and make sure they fit in properly.

All the sites and apps I have translated so far had their English version already available for navigation when I was hired to localize them into Portuguese, so one thing that is pretty much part of the process and that helps a lot is: navigate the whole thing yourself in English. Open every menu, click on every tab and button you find, get familiar to the strings you will translate. Have your source text open at the same time and make notes. If this info is not there (and sometimes it is not) make notes in your source text: this string is a button, this one is a window title, this one is a menu option, etc...

And the most important thing: don´t be afraid to ask your client when you have doubts. This is a huge taboo in the industry, specially reinforced by agencies who act as if we can never "bother" the client with questions and make us believe that we have to sort all out ourselves. Well, we don´t. And the thing is: if they don´t provide us with all the info we need to do our job well, how can we be able to do it well, without very needed information? So make sure you read the whole file first, that you navigate their whole product next, and if, after this, you still have doubts, do not hesitate to make a list of your doubts (that will include the number of the strings) and send to your PM or end client.

And, after delivering your translation, make sure you will test and be paid for the testing phase by your client.

Good luck with your project!


[Edited at 2013-10-09 09:54 GMT]


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Aline Pereira  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is very helpful Oct 9, 2013

Thank you for your very helpful and thorough input, Nicole. I particularly like your point about testing being a necessity and not an option. Sadly, as obvious as this seems to us, it is sometimes a challenge to convince clients of it.

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