Tips For Successful Software Localisation
Localisation service providers help software developers expand their business globally. Software localisation makes software understandable and usable for customers in foreign markets so that they might be interested in purchasing it. However, software translation and localisation is difficult and in this blog we would like to provide a couple of tips that will help make the process easier. You will see that it is definitely a good idea to learn more about app and software localisation!
Consider localisation from the very beginning of software development
Many IT developers believe that any English software can be translated into other languages at a later stage. Strictly speaking they are not wrong, but when linguistic diversity is not taken into account from the very beginning, an incredible amount of extra effort will need to be invested later. A very common issue is the way in which many English speaking programmers define the beginning, content and end of text strings, as well as the way those strings will be re-combined with each other. We will discuss this issue in more detail later. For now, just keep in mind that in English it might make perfect sense to split a sentence into certain strings and to recombine those strings to build new sentences –in foreign languages, however, this is not going to work..So remember that if linguistic diversity is taken into account by programmers from early on, the problems will be reduced.
Allow enough time
It is understandable that every IT developer wants its software to be localised swiftly. However, the necessary timeframe for quality translation is generally often underestimated, as we have discussed in our blog “Common Misconceptions About Translation (Part I)” – and that is also true for software translation. Good news is that a quality localisation service company will have several ways at hand to save time without putting quality at risk, for example by streamlining processes internally and using CAT tools.
Provide a glossary and a style guide for the software localisation service agency
A glossary will be extremely helpful for linguists who work on software translation. It will help them understand key concepts of the software, use the right terms and also make them realise which terms should not be translated (such as designations of products, specific features of the software, etc.). Also a style guide can contribute significantly to ensure high quality software translation. Why is that? Every IT company wants to be perceived in a certain, unique way and a style guide can help linguists find the right tone to communicate that. One example: Languages have various levels of politeness, which can be reflected in the usage of certain greetings, phrases or words, and– in the case of some languages – even with different personal pronouns. This is the case in languages such as French or German, for example. Now let’s say that a software targets reputable financial service institutions or banks. In this context, addressing users in a very courteous manner and with respectful pronouns will certainly be adequate. On the other hand, imagine thata software comes from a developer who wants to create a sense of being a community of friends with users (which many young software startups do): In that case, if the linguists at the software localisation service company are briefed about that, they will be able to communicate such notions by choosing the right phrases and informal pronouns.
Provide sufficient extra information for linguists, consider linguistic diversity and stay available for questions
It will be incredibly helpful for linguists to have supplementary information at hand. Any translator, who has ever received source files for software translations with a few hundred unrelated strings without any context, will confirm that without explanations and context, translating the content correctly will be practically impossible. Ideally each and every string should have explanations or contain a link from which it is visible in which context the translations will appear. Also note that because every language has a different nature, and as already mentioned earlier, many strings simply cannot be translated properly. Very often it is simply not possible to translate an English string 1:1 into foreign languages. Let’s illustrate this with a few examples. Imagine that a booking softwareneeds to be translated from English into German. Typically problems will include:
Once you have entered your data and the system starts looking for flights, on the English user interface it might say “Searching cheap flights to Singapore” while you are waiting. In this case, one text string (let’s name it “A”) might have been defined as “Searching for cheap flights to”, the other string (“B”) might be “Singapore”. String B might be exchanged with strings that contain the names of other countries (for example, another possible combination would be “Searching for cheap flights to Turkey”). Now let’s say a German translator is confronted with those strings. The first problem will be that string A can only be translated in a pretty awkward way (“Es warden billige Flüge gesucht nach”). However, it would be much more natural in German to wrap string A around string B. So, while English uses the structure A + B, in German it would be absolutely preferrable to split string A into two parts and rearrangeit all as A1 + B + A2.
Now, let’s say you are looking for a flight to Turkey and need to see that in German translation. Whilst in English it makes perfect sense to say “Searching cheap flights to Turkey”, if you recombine the strings in German, it will become “… nach Türkei” – which is grammatically totally incorrect. A quality German translation would need to show the grammatically correct forms for each and every destination (for example “nach Singapur”, “in die Türkei”, “auf die Malediven”, “in den Iran”, etc.). However, when all translations are supposed to be based on the English “flights to XY”, creating a grammatically correct translationfor each context will simply not be possible. As you can see, it will be necessary to change the strings.
Adaptions based on context:
Now, let’s say the English software uses the verb “confirm” in various contexts, such as a) as a single word on a button (to confirm that you have read the conditions of carriage, or to confirm that you want a special meal or a certain seat, for example) and b) as a request/imperative form (for example: “Confirm your booking”, “Confirm your passport details”, “Confirm your seat selection”, etc.). Many programmers find it handy to use the translation from option a) also for the contexts as described in b) – however, this is bound to go wrong. German will use different forms here (“Bestätigen” vs. “Bestätigen Sie”). You see: While a word might remain unchanged in English in various contexts, when it is translated into other languages, there might be several different forms.
Is that a German thing? Absolutely not! Each and every language has grammar rules that make it impossible to achieve correct results when strings are translated 1:1. To name just a few examples: Many Asian languages use classifiers when nouns are counted (for example Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese), Italian and French assign genders to nouns, only some languages use plural forms for nouns, not every language has articles, etc. – challenges are pretty much endless. It is therefore essential to stay available for questions that linguists might have throughout the software translation process and also when the software goes into the testing phase!
Translate absolutely all documents that have to do with your software
Software does not come without legal disclaimers, license contracts, usage manuals, marketing collateral, etc. and it is crucial to translate all of them. One example: Users might be interested in using (and paying for) a software license, but will most probably not sign a license contract in a foreign language that they cannot understand. Remember that providing all sorts of relevant texts, such as FAQ’s, PR material, etc. in local languages is also a way to win your foreign clients’ trust and show them that you actually really care for them!
Arrange intensive testing and provide multilingual feedback forms
Intensive testing is an integral part of the software localisation process and a combination of automated and manual testing has become a standard procedure for most software products, including video games, e-learning software, company staff training programs, mobile apps, etc. In the testing phase, many issues can usually be discovered and resolved, of course. However, remember that it is likely that some issues will remain and that later real software users will detect them. As you will certainly want to take their feedback into account so that you can fix any remaining errors in updates, remember to provide survey/feedback forms in local languages!
Find a one-stop service provider
Experience shows that for IT developers by far the best solution is to entrust the complete software localisation process to one single localisation service company. One example: Imagine that you have translation and testing done by two different companies. If a tester discovers errors that need to be fixed, you will have to get back to the company who did the translation – and then pay for a second round of testing. Having everything (software translation, manual translation, transcreation for marketing collateral, license agreement translation, testing, multilingual DTP, etc.) done in one place will save you an incredible amount of work, time and money.
Note that this is also the best way to guarantee consistency and to make sure that terminology is used correctly in the software and all other texts that have to do with it. In case that texts are split among several providers, for example when software translation is done by one company, while the manuals are translated by a different provider, it is likely that consistency is not kept, which will cause confusion and misunderstandings among users. Important: When you select a quality translation service provider, do make sure that they can also handle complex multimedia software localisation.
elionetwork has completed countless app and software localisation projects over the past 20 years. We can proudly claim that we are a true one-stop service provider with a large in-house team as well as an external pool that includes highly skilled linguists, designers, IT engineers, testers, reviewers, etc. Clients from the IT sector who approach us with their software localisation service needs will receive turnkey solutions. As part of our business philosophy, customers will have one single point of contact throughout the localisation process, which minimises time, trouble and costs. If you are looking for software localisation solutions, please contact us nowto find out what we can do for you!