5 tips for stress-free localisation of your software
Localisation of software products (translating or adapting a software product for an international audience) is essential for any company engaged in producing software and looking to expand into global markets. Careful planning in advance will make the process smoother and ensure that you end up with a quality product, whatever the language.
In our experience, we have found the points below very useful when planning software localisation projects:
1: Test your software
Produce a detailed plan for testing of your software in English. This can then be used as a template for testing the foreign-language version. Testing of the foreign language versions of the software will involve checking the layout, making sure that characters are displayed correctly, links work and that all local settings for numbers, dates, currencies etc. are correct (see below).
2: Internationalise your software
Internationalisation is the process of designing a software application so that it can be more easily localised into other languages.
For example, many languages take up to 30 percent more space than English so allow for additional space when designing the English version of your software. If you don’t, you may find that text overlaps, is truncated or abbreviations have to be used to allow the text to fit, which can make the interface less easy to follow.
Use Unicode/UTF-8 encoding to allow easy localisation of your software strings unless you are working with Asian languages (double-byte languages). These will require UTF-16. If you don’t, you may find that certain characters are not displayed properly.
Ensure that your software can display region-specific information such as dates, numbers, currency etc. in a way that is familiar to local users. For example, many countries use decimal commas instead of full stops and separate out large numbers with full stops and in the United States, the month precedes the day in their date format. Displaying numbers and dates in the wrong format could cause great confusion.
3: Avoid concatenation
Concatenation is the combining of objects of two data types together to form a single string. For example, an application may ask for the user’s name, store it and use it in another part of the program. To use that name to write a more personal welcome message that said “Welcome, David!”, the “Welcome“ part of the message would be combined with the user’s name, which would change depending on who was using the software. To create the string, the first part of the message would be concatenated to combine it with the user’s name that has been stored:
“Welcome, “ + user_name
This would combine two separate objects into a single string and would display the full welcome message to the end user.
However, Word order can change greatly when translating into foreign languages and the gender and grammar of parts of sentences can alter according to context. It is best, therefore to avoid concatenation of software strings.
4: Provide comments
Providing explanatory comments within the software can help the translator with meaning and context and ensure a more accurate translation. You may also consider submitting a demo of the application and running a webinar with a company expert and the translator/s to allow the translator to see how the software actually works and what certain strings mean in context.
5: Ensure your language service provider can handle your complex software formats
Your language service provider should have the tools to handle your software files, translating only text that should be translated and leaving the coding intact to return workable foreign-language versions of your software. Part of this process will involve pseudo localisation of your software. A dummy localisation of your software will be performed by replacing the translatable text with a single repeated character. This ensures that all the text that should be localised will be and conversely, any strings that should remain in English, does remain in English. This will prevent unnecessary translation costs and delays.
They should also have the expertise to carry out testing of your software, once it has been translated.
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