Software localization is one growth option for enterprise and consumer software companies that allows for a more global brand image, a stronger global presence, and smoother product releases in target markets overseas. However, one common problem among translators working on software localization projects is a lack of context provided to them about the software they are translating.Providing context to translators about the software greatly improves translation quality and consistency, and reduces back and forth communication during the translation phase (results in faster project turnarounds). The five pointers below explain methods of providing context to translators for software localization projects and why each method is uniquely important.
Pointer 1: Provide an executable version of the softwareThis is an ideal method – translators will gain a real understanding of the functionality of the software as a whole and its various features. By doing so, they gain insight on linguistic elements such as required style and tone for translation. However, this method is difficult to implement, as a lot of software is proprietary and cannot be easily distributed. Furthermore, if the software is for a mobile learning app, translators will need the actual mobile device the software is compatible with in order to gain context. Nonetheless, even a trial version of the software will help translators gain some context that could eliminate confusion about the software and improve translation quality of software strings.
There are various types of reference materials for software than can help translators gain the context they need. For example, software user manuals, screenshots of the software application, websites and other online resources, and visuals (images, charts, videos). We recommend sharing as many of these reference materials as possible to translators prior to software translation. In cases where multiple reference materials are provided, differentiating between these materials will help translators understand how they might apply to different parts of the content for translation.
Pointer 2: Share reference material about the software
Pointer 3: Insert annotations and comments in software strings
Annotations and comments in software strings are seen fairly regularly in software translation projects, regardless of the software file format (xml, yml, properties, etc.). Annotations can indicate glossary terms for specific strings, style and tone preferences, and product information on the software as a whole or on specific software features. All this information is extremely helpful when translating software, as they can pertain to specific strings. Your software translators will surely thank you for it.
Pointer 4: Encourage the use of “in-context editing” features in software translation tools
Certain software translation tools offer an “in-context editing” feature. In-context editing gives translators a realistic view of software translations in a dialog box. This helps translators create higher quality translations and adjust the length of translations to fit within the allotted text space for software strings.
File types that are compatible with in-context editing features in software translation tools include:
- Binary files (DLL, EXE, etc.)
- Mobile apps (iOS .strings and Android XML)
Pointer 5: Arrange product training for translators
Product training for translators is a fantastic way to provide context to software translators, as long as it can be arranged. Product training can be done over the phone, through conference calls with screen sharing, or by sharing user manuals, FAQ materials, and training videos.
Below are some basic points to touch on during product training sessions and the understanding that translators gain that will give context about the software:
- Product background – understanding the needs the software serves and how the software has been modified over time to meet changing needs
- Market performance – understanding why the software has performed well or poorly in certain markets, and how that performance is related to language
- Product development phase – understanding the ongoing software development
- Past product releases – understanding when and where the software has been released and the results of those releases
- Project expectations – understanding preferences about terminology, phrases, style/tone (distributing glossaries and style guides will help)
Implementing all five pointers above to software localization projects will optimize the context given to translators.
However, this may be challenging due to limited time and availability of personnel and resources. As a general rule, provide as much context as possible to software translators. Keep in mind that if translation memory is involved, the remarkable translations produced by providing context to software translators in an initial software translation project will resonate in subsequent projects as well.