Six Things I Learned for Software Localization

6This blog post is a compilation of six technology independent things  Michael Scharhag learned in the past months about software localization. As a German development team working for a German customer they used German as their base language within the application. Their customer was responsible for translating the German application messages into another 21 languages and providing other localized material (images, downloadable documents, etc.).

1. Use a tool

You need a way to share message files and translations between developers and translators. Luckily there are some nice tools available that can support you with the whole translation process, such as: the open source tool Pootle. If you prefer to save localized messages within a database you could easily create a CRUD UI with simple search functionality yourself, which then could be used by translators to update messages.

2. Teach Translators

You should make sure that translators fully understand the syntax of messages. For a developer it might be obvious how placeholders, escaping and date formats work. From a translator’s view (who might not have any experience with software development at all) things aren’t always that obvious.

3. Give translators context

Just translating messages from one language into another often isn’t enough. Translators need to know the context in which the message is displayed in order to provide an appropriate translation. The first step here is to give them access to a test system where they can see the application with a recent version of their translations.

4. Keep in mind word widths can vary

Depending on your base language you should be aware that the average character count per word can be much higher or lower in other languages. You should make sure that your application UI supports varying text sizes. This is especially important for buttons and navigation elements which typically expand if their labels get larger.

5. Test it                   

Extensively test the localized application: Validate translations, use non western characters as user input and check the functionality for all languages.

6. It takes time

The whole process of localization can take a lot of time. Especially if many people from different countries are involved. So make sure to plan it properly. Remember that every text message you add to the application needs to be translated. Read Full Article here…

Even in this globalization era, many still underestimate the work involved in getting a software application fully localized and released. But once resources are committed, they quickly come to realize that localizing an application is not a simple translation process from one language to another. For more info on the localization process, read the following highly recommended write-ups:

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