Localization Begins at Design Stage
What developers can do to facilitate localization.
Localization can be factored into the design stage. While creating an application, website or e-learning module, developers can keep certain localization points in mind to make the localization process simpler , more efficient, and cost effective.
Use Unicode-compliant Fonts
Many languages have fonts that are not compatible with Unicode platforms. In the past, several developers have had to re-do their work because of this issue. The right font has to be identified AHEAD of the translation process and this must be specified and communicated to the translators at the start of the project. This issue is being resolved rapidly by making most fonts Unicode-compliant, but this should be verified to avoid rework and wastage.
Provide for Text Expansion
Developers must bear in mind that text size varies from language to language. For example, something said in English will require more space in German and lesser space in Mandarin. If the developers are aware of this and are sensitised to the need at the next stage of work, they can design the on-screen display area in a manner that can accommodate this variation.
Adequate White Space for Integration
Especially in e-learning modules, developers know the importance of the white space. Providing adequate white space ensures that the display of graphs, figures and text related to the content can be accommodated easily. When the same is adapted in different languages, there is then adequate space to accommodate the variations in text size and positioning of localised text and graphics.
Separation of Translatable and Non-translatable Text
Translatable content should not be hard coded in the app. All translatable text should be distinguished from coded texts. Many operating systems ask developers to provide their translatable strings in a separate .xml file. This should be made a standard practice. This reduces the task of the localizers and also eliminates the chance for error.
Separation of Narration Script for Voice-over
Content writers must distinguish between the content which will displayed and that which will be narrated. This, not for the end-user, but for the localising team. Written and spoken language assume different styles. Translators must know what style to adopt for which part of the text. Translators must write voice-over scripts in spoken and sometimes colloquial style.
Localisers must have a separate document to assign to the voice-over artistes. The text should be easily separable from the master document. It can be confusing for a voice-over artiste to receive text interspersed with content that is not relevant for narration. This can lead to mistakes in recording. Hence a clear distinction between on-screen and narration script is necessary.
Rearranging of Visuals based on Syntax
Phrases and part-sentences need to be rearranged after translation. All languages have different syntaxes and word orders. A phrase in English may not make sense in the translation unless the word order is changed. Sometimes additional words may be needed to explain the context of the part-statements. Sometimes, the sequence in which the phrases appear and transition will also need to be changed.
A well-known example for this is the word order of English and many Anglo-Saxon languages is SvO (subject – verb – object) whereas many Indian languages have the word order SOv (subject – object – verb). If an animated slideshow requires each of the above words to appear in separate slides, the sequence of the slides will need to be changed.
Moreover, the visuals on the slides will need to be adapted, because the sequence of slides may impact the design, and at the same time be linked to the syntax. These complex issues that inter-weave language and design need to be taken into account in localization. And if this aspect can be borne in mind at the time of developing the source tutorial, the process of integration becomes easier and streamlined.
Minimise On-screen Animation
Every bit of animation or transition on screen requires the localizer to synchronise linguistic elements with visuals. It is advisable that developers keep this in mind while assessing the need for animation. Artistic elements may be traded for functionality and reduction of work. Consider the fact that each slide created by the development team requires multiple elements of work in every language that the module is translated into.
Cue-points for Localizers
If developers understand the work involved in localization, then they will understand where to communicate special instructions pertaining to animations. They can insert cue points for localizers, explaining what action is required at what point in the text. Further, they can explain via these cue-points, which elements relate to which part of the text. This makes it easy for the localization team.
Labelling and Meta-labelling
Sections labels should be provided in the text both for the target audience as well as for the integrators. The absence of descriptive labels makes the job difficult and adds to the turnaround time and cost of a project.
Avoid Embedding Text in Images
When embedding text in images, it is advisable to keep them editable. If text is converted to images in the overall design, then there are several steps that need to be added to the localization process.
Firstly, the localizers will have to locate all images that contain text in graphic form. Then, they must transcribe them and prepare a list of translatable captions. Next, the images need to be redesigned to remove the source text image and insert the corresponding target text.
This can be avoided if the images do not contain images of text, and the text remains editable.
Maintain Translation Memory
Maintaining a translation memory and glossary helps in two ways. Firstly it helps reduce re-work and wastage wherever there is repetition in the text. Secondly, it helps in standardising translation across modules and over time. This improves quality and reduces overall cost of the project. This exercise also helps developing a standardised glossary for reference and to apply to various aspects of the translation, say for example, in the text, in strings or in section headers, captions, titles of tables and figures and so on.
Internationalization of Code and Design
All steps taken at the design and development stage that facilitate localization are collectively termed internationalization. It involves foreseeing and supporting features that may not be used in the initial version, but only during the translation and localization stage. Such planning and provision are valuable.
Developers who are not linguists should orient themselves to the process of translation, localization and integration so that they understand such supporting provisions in addition to their regular course of work. Training by and interaction with the language teams are worthwhile from an organisational perspective.