Blog post dated May 27, 2019

The Localization of Display Texts

In this age of globalization and networking, a wide range of texts including business correspondence, contracts, brochures, and display texts often need to be localized. Often, more than a mere translation is needed. Marketing information must be culturally adapted, and contracts must be aligned with local law.

In our last article, we focused on the localization of keywords to optimize websites internationally for search engines and thus reach the right target group. In this article, the topic "localization" is treated in a more technical way.

An Article by

Flurina Schwendimann
Freelance Translator

What are the challenges of localizing display texts and how can they be overcome?

The translation of display texts is a complex subarea of software localization. In this area, some additional technological aspects must be taken into consideration. Therefore, special attention is given to technological aspects. Moreover, a typical localization process is analyzed, and its weaknesses are identified. The article also explains how a translation management system (TMS) can facilitate the localization of display texts.

Challenges of Localizing Display Texts

The five greatest challenges faced when localizing display texts are the field length restriction, the width, the use of proprietary fonts, the lack of context information, and the lack of standardization of file formats. Due to the interdependencies between the first three challenges, they should be examined as a whole.

The translator must be aware of any character count limit and may need to look for alternatives.

  • Field length restriction: Simply stated, small displays only have room for short texts. For translations into German, it must also be taken into consideration that due to compounding, German words can be much longer than their source-language equivalents. For example, the German word for "restore" is "wiederherstellen". The translator must be aware of any character count limit and may need to look for alternatives. This does not apply to displays with scrolling text, though long words impair the legibility here as well.
  • Width: The problem of the field length restriction cannot be solved without taking the width of the display into consideration. If the number of characters is limited, it must also be taken into consideration that some words may have a greater width than others. For example, the word "illiterate" has a smaller width than "myocardium", though both words consist of 10 letters.
  • Proprietary fonts: If a company uses a proprietary font for its display texts, the translator will normally not have access to the respective font. The same applies if a company has purchased a certain font, but this font has not been licensed for use by translation service providers or freelance translators. In such cases, the translation editor will replace the respective font with a generic font, which may result in a distorted width.
  • Lack of context information: In the editor, the translator can only see the individual software strings. If not provided with additional information, the translator might make translation errors.
  • Lack of standardization of file formats: Companies often develop custom file formats for their display texts. Some companies even use several different file formats. Furthermore, the market is increasingly being flooded with a variety of display technologies.

Analysis of a Localization Process

A common approach pursued by companies is to separate the units to be translated from the source code. This prevents translators from accidentally deleting elements of the source code, which would increase a company's workload. For this reason, the strings are often extracted and pasted into a Word or Excel file. These files are submitted to the responsible language service provider, who then forwards them to the respective translators. Upon completion, the files travel up the supply chain in the opposite direction. The last step is the insertion of the texts in the software.

In many cases, problems are encountered at this stage: The translation might be too long and may not fit into the display, or it might not suit a particular context. This information is shared with the language service provider, who forwards it to the responsible translator. Several cycles might be necessary until all text blocks fit perfectly.

In addition to protracting the time to market, this method is also very costly. Naturally, the language service provider will bill the costs generated by this lengthy process. If the display texts are required in additional formats, the invoice total will be even higher.

Alternatively, the complex display localization process could be duly coordinated and rolled out with a translation management system (TMS).

The display localization process can be duly coordinated and rolled out with a TMS.

Solutions for Localizing Display Texts

Modern translation management systems, like the Across Language Server, have an additional component that facilitates and standardizes the localization of display texts. Various functions help to minimize further inquiries and errors. In this way, multiple cycles can be avoided, resulting in lower translation costs. Some of the functions of the display component in a translation management system are explained below:

  • Standardized formats: In the TMS, the various file formats are displayed in the XML format. Thus, the company can fearlessly give the language service provider the source file for translation. The translator cannot modify the source code, but only the actual text to be translated.
  • Display rendering: A text field the size of the display is rendered from the source code. The translator can thus see in real time whether the field length restriction and width have been duly complied with.
  • Online client: If the translation task is performed in an online client, the translator will be working directly on the customer's server. The advantage of this approach is that proprietary fonts can be made available securely. Due to the online processing, language service providers and translators do not need to purchase any additional software.

Various functions help to minimize further inquiries and errors, resulting in lower translation costs.

  • Comments: To minimize further inquiries and errors, source code comments can be entered in the various strings in order to provide the translator with sufficient context.
  • Screenshots: In addition to the comments, a screenshot can be inserted for every string in order to show the translator what the text actually looks like.
  • Documents: Any PDFs or other reference documents that are required for the translation can easily be attached to the task. However, it must be remembered that unlike the source code file, these documents can be stored locally by the language translator and/or translator.
  • Terminology: The terminology used in the display texts should match the terminology used in the technical documentation. To ensure this, a terminology database can be created with the translation management system. If duly maintained, this terminology database can show both the translators and the technical writers which terms are to be used and which ones not.

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Intending to prevent additional workload, some companies hand over their projects to a language service provider without examining the subject matter in detail. Unfortunately, however, this often leads to errors and multiple revision cycles, ultimately resulting in a loss for the companies. Instead, the complex process of display localization can be optimized and simplified by duly examining the subject matter and gaining an understanding of the challenges and available solutions. A solution for enterprises is the use of a translation management system. This allows them to save time and money, resulting in a shorter time to market and higher customer satisfaction.

Download our free white paper to learn more about how a translation management system works and the benefits it offers.

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