A summary of important tips and tricks for software localization
Translated texts are everywhere around us. From movies to legal documents, and from advertisements to manuals; translation and localization play a role in every facet of our daily lives. Most of us know this. However, despite our awareness of the existence of translations, there’s one category of translations we often fail to notice: software localization. Technology and software are omnipresent in our society, yet most of the work done to make it accessible is invisible to us.
Software localization is a greatly underestimated undertaking that requires a great amount of planning. For developers tasked with this challenge, it may seem overwhelming at first. How do you approach a software translation? What makes a software translation successful? Why do you need to translate the software in the first place? In this blog, we will provide an overview of these key aspects of software localization.
Why software localization is important
Localization, at its core, is about customer service. It’s about making a service or product accessible to as many people as possible. Whereas translation is focused on the language alone, localization alters the text with the end user’s (cultural) expectations in mind. A good localization should improve the customer experience, and make the service enjoyable to use. Software localization is necessary to ensure that the user has the best possible user journey.
The first step in this journey is that they can understand the content displayed on the User Interface. If you provide the user with an interface in their native language, you will reach a far larger target audience. Just imagine being able to reach Chinese, Arabic, or Spanish audiences on top of your own local audience. You will also come across as more credible and professional. Even if a Swiss or Austrian person can easily understand standard German, they may be relieved to have an alternative to fall back on. It shows you are not cutting any corners in user experience. This, in turn, will boost the trust users have in your product and your organization.
Of course, there is another reason why software localization is crucial. Dates and times need to be in the correct format to avoid misunderstandings. Most Europeans will be highly confused if the date is suddenly formatted in the mm/dd/yyyy format (as is custom in the US). Similarly, they won’t know whether 12pm means noon or midnight without looking out the window. The same goes for images and documentation. You will save your users a lot of time and frustration by customizing your software to the customs and expectations of your audience.
Challenges of software localization
Every industry demands specialized translators to effectively localize content. But this is rarely as apparent as it is with software localization. Excellent language skills and knowledge of the cultural differences between the source and target country do not suffice here. The linguist also needs to know how programs work, what part of a string can be translated, and what – for heaven’s sake – cannot be touched under any circumstances.
Although application and system software are translated more often, even programming software and programming languages require translation. In these cases, it is especially important to collaborate with a professional translation agency. It can make use of its wide network of translators and will have access to the right expert with thorough knowledge of software. These linguists will know that most software languages work with the English language and that some components of a string, such as certain characters or commands, cannot be changed. However, they also know to transfer your English Python Code into Chinese Python if required, or maybe even to the Hindawi Programming System. In short, this process requires skilled linguists who can think along with the client.
The two main stages of software localization
The software localization process can be divided into two stages: software internationalization, and software localization. Software internationalization is the preparation stage for the localization process. It is important to ask yourself if you want to localize your product before you start developing the software. Thinking ahead like this can save you a lot of time, work, and money.
- Software internationalization:
Software internationalization entails designing and developing software with localization in mind. It is highly technical and consists of tasks such as adding support for bidirectional texts to your CSS if you want to target Arabic countries. A language identifier can also be included, meaning that you cannot hardcode the original language, but rather that you have to enable the program to draw the correct language from a range of files. There are more aspects to consider, such as the correct display of accents and punctuations, and the expansion or shortening of texts through translation. In short: you cannot simply localize your software with no prior internationalization.
- Software localization
Software localization starts with the extraction of strings that need to be translated. A professional translator knows exactly what to do, and can adhere to – or create – a terminology list for the target language. This ensures the consistency of translations over time. Once the translation is complete and a quality check has been conducted, the strings can be reintegrated into your program. Here’s where software internationalization pays off. Your preparations now ensure that the desired language is displayed correctly. A technology-savvy translation agency such as Nimus translations can support you throughout this entire process.
We hope this breakdown helped you feel less overwhelmed. Should you still want more information, or if you require an experienced translation agency to tackle software localization for you, please contact us! We are always happy to help.
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