Software localization and translation is essential for any company that is going global. If you need to board the translation train, make sure to include this type of service as a priority. Note that it is quite specific and you need to select the right translator for the job. Software is typically written by IT experts. So, you need a translator who understands the process in order to be able to do a high quality job. It is a good idea to select a service language provider who has experience in the field of software localization and software translation services in addition to offering the right language combinations for your business.

There are two main approaches when it comes to software translation and localization. One is automated and is achieved by using the respective language packs. The other relies on a more traditional approach where software strings are “manually” translated. Each process has its advantages and disadvantages and in most cases the combination of both is the best solution. 

Software translation basics

Software translation services are offered by the best translation agencies and by some freelance translators as well. It is hard to compare them to other translation projects but still they have some elements in common:

  • Providing a glossary with the most common terms used by the industry or the specific company is a must 
  • Providing reference materials speeds up the process
  • Open communication channels and availability to the translator’s questions, is beneficial for both the client and the provider 

The most important characteristic of software translation and localization services is that the translator is not given a exact text, but is faced with HMI (Human-Machine Interface) strings. There can be many repetitions over these strings, so the translator needs to analyze word count and determine translation needs. Some CAT tools can help cope with this issue faster.

One of the most important aspects is consistency across elements and ensure the target language produces strings that are compatible and easily integrated. 

What are language packs?

In many cases, software localization can be done by installing the relative language packs. Webopedia defines language pack as a “set of files, commonly downloaded over the Internet, that when installed enables the user to interact with an application in a language other than the one in which the application was initially created, including other font characters if they are necessary”.

Language packs can be very useful in translating standard menu items, action buttons, quick search and certain search components, standard labels for profile components, text editor toolbars, or standard error messages, but may not cover all the items of your software code that need translation. Microsoft, for example, explicitly warns their users that, “If a language accessory pack is described as having partial localization, some parts of Office may still display in the language of your copy of Microsoft Office.”

Hence, you may need to turn to professional software translation services to get your project fully completed. It is not a problem to combine them both – install the relevant language pack and then ask a translator to proofread and complete the translation. 

Choosing the best software localization and software translation services

Quite often a company that opts for website localization also needs software localization or translation services. The best way to guarantee coherency and consistency of the process is to work with one and the same provider for both services. It is not necessary to look for a big translation agency as you can avail of the benefits a small LSP offers: working with the same translation manager and with the same team of translators and software experts who are aware of your specific needs and can easily meet them.

Using language packs relieves some of the burden of translation costs but cannot always cover all the requirements of a given software translation. Therefore, it is essential to consider what type of software content you need to be translated and if any software updates will be automatically covered by the installed language pack. In many cases the answer will be “yes” and you can proceed smoothly with your business. In other cases, however, you will need professional assistance from a translator who can complete the job “manually.” 

In order to choose the best software localization and software translation services you need to be aware of its’ challenges. The main ones to tackle are:

  • Distinguishing between the text to be translated and the code. i.e. extracting the text from the code  
  • Specifying the context – often HMI strings may contain only one word that is actually bound to be translated. Without knowing context, it may be difficult to identify its meaning 
  • Target text expansion – using abbreviations in the target text may be necessary in order for it to fit

On the case, where your target language requires space expansion you may need to work closer with both a translator and a software expert. It will allow you to see how the changes will be incorporated rather than simply rely on language packs.

As a whole, software translation and localization is quite a challenging task and you need a reliable LSP to implement. Make sure to select the right approach to this project as the results may affect the rest of your translations and also the overall representation of your company.

Here, at ICD Translation, we have extensive experience in software localization and translation. Our team of translators is supported by a software engineer to guarantee the accuracy of any translation made. We are ready to meet your demands and overcome any challenges that software translation may impose on you. 

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