The 5 ingredients you’ll need to translate software correctly

Software Localization

Translation of software (or software localization) has a few quirks that you need to take into account in order to achieve a software project that’s top quality in every language. This is vital to ensure that all users have the same experience, wherever they live and whatever language they speak.

1- Format of the files:

The first thing we need to do is convert the files that contain code and strings of text. You should use a format that can be processed with CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools. These tools protect the code, so that the translator can solely concentrate on the translation of the strings.

One of the formats that’s often used and works really well is xliff (XML Localization Interchange File Format). This a format based on XML and created to standardise localization. It contains a lot of the information necessary for the correct translation of the strings, which are normally translated out of context.

2- Information that developers have to add:

Xliff files have to include a series of tags with information that’s important for the correct translation of the strings. This information would have to include the following, as a minimum:

  • Maximum length of the string. This will avoid clipping once it’s translated. If the source language is English, translations normally take up about 30% more space, depending on the language.
  • Status of the string. The translator should know if it needs translating, revising, or modifying.
  • An explanatory note. Information about the string and where it will appear (whether it’s a button, a menu title…)

3- Screenshots of the original:

Strings are normally sent out for translation out of context. Although developers add information in labels, it’s important for the translator to have access to a screenshot in the source language. That avoids lots of mistakes further down the line and helps to improve the quality of the translation.

4- Validation of the final translated software:

Once you have the files translated and converted back into the original files, there’s one last step: the validation of the translated software. You can do that by using screenshots or the software itself and sending it to a professional translator. You will then avoid errors in length (strings that are clipped), errors in context (strings used in more than one place that should have been translated differently in each case), and errors in genre (when, for example, variables are used).

5- Documentation that accompanies the software:

If there’s any documentation that goes along with the software (help files, user manuals…), it’s important that you translate strings first. You should then create a translation memory (TM) or terminology database, and afterwards translate the documentation using this TM. You will then have  all references to the software itself translated correctly in the documentation.

Translating software isn’t an easy task, but if you take these points into account then the end result will be far better, and customers all over the world will have a better user experience.

Innovative approach to time and work-life balance in Barcelona

A company taking an innovative approach to time and work-life balance in Barcelona

LocalizationLab is a member of Xarxa Nust, a “New Social Uses of Time” network for companies and organisations who are committed to improving patterns of time management. The network works to encourage well-being, balance and the shared responsibility of workers. Moreover, it contributes to improving the quality of life of Barcelona’s citizens.

Since we founded the company in 2013, we have always worked towards growing as a socially responsible company. We want to make it easier for both us and our collaborators to achieve a good work-life balance.  What’s more, our company is 100% virtual. We believe that companies have to be flexible, everyone should be able to work from wherever suits them best. We are always goals-focused, and our professional relationship is based on trust and respect. Being able to work independently and responsibly is a requirement for being part of LocalizationLab.

For the last five years, we’ve been using our professional experience and putting our hearts and souls into this project, which we truly believe in. When we started, we knew that we wanted to create a socially responsible company. One that allowed us to live from what we love doing, and that would let us to do things properly. We wanted to do our bit to create a successful professional environment that would have a positive impact on society.

The importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility, as described in the Green paper ‘Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility’ (Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 2001) is “essentially a concept whereby companies decide voluntarily to contribute to a better society and a cleaner environment. At a time when the European Union endeavours to identify its common values by adopting a Charter of Fundamental Rights, an increasing number of European companies recognise their social responsibility more and more clearly and consider it as part of their identity. This responsibility is expressed towards employees and more generally towards all the stakeholders affected by the business and which in turn can influence its success.”

Whenever we can, we take part in projects that we find interesting and that have a positive impact on our environment, like the Ultra Clean Marathon or HP’s charity run.

Doing business responsibly doesn’t only benefit the company itself, but society as a whole. That’s how we founded our company, and how we want it to continue to grow.

When it comes to charity, we’re all winners

It’s rare that we get to do two of our favourite things at once. On may 23rd we were able to do just that, with the charity run that’s been organised by HP Sant Cugat for the last 22 years, GAS (Guanya amb Solidaritat).

A total of 700 walkers and runners took part in the 22nd edition of this day of sport, enjoying the paths around Sant Joan.

We signed up to run and took on the 7km route around the area where the company is based.

This was a great opportunity to do our bit for the projects HP has selected for its Charity Day 2019: Fundación Romper Barreras, Fallou Asociados and PID Foundation Barcelona.

Congratulations to the organisers. We’ll see you next year!


Translate, review, and then review again

For the very best translations, a good professional that has perfect command of both languages isn’t quite enough. Finding the right translator is also kind of like match-making. You’ve got the find the translator that’s best suited to the subject matter. You’re looking for the text’s perfect partner.

Technical, legal or medical documents. Texts related to marketing, mechanics, business, the world of food, finance, travel, photography, sport, tourism, etc… There’s no limit to the number of subjects that texts that need translating to another language can deal with. That’s why it’s important to be able to rely on professionals specialised in a wide variety of fields that are also linguists and write in their mother tongue. That way you can be sure that they’ll understand the text well and, then, ‘transform’ the text into their native language, the end result being true to the original.

In the past, we’ve written about the importance of selling in your client’s language. A linguistic error on a website, for example, can make a bad impression on clients and even lead to the loss of credibility and sales.

Clients in certain countries, like Japan, tend to read the instructions in manuals that they receive from cover to cover. If they find a translation error, they tend to be more critical than clients in other countries would be, meaning that the introduction of the product might be delayed until all the texts in the manuals are entirely accurate.

In any case, in such a globalised world, it’s absolutely vital to take great care over everything that clients will see. Any complaint made anywhere in the world could reach the opposite corner of the map in a matter of hours. If you want to see some examples of epic mistranslations, you’ll find them here.

The reviewer

Even if you work with competent professionals that translate and proofread, it’s vital that a second person is part of the equation: a reviewer or editor.  The reviewer also has to be an expert in the subject matter that the text deals with, as well as being a good linguist. They have to check that the translated text is faithful to the original and flows in the target language. It should sound natural.

Review is also vital in cases in which the final format of the translation isn’t what the public will see, as a graphic designer or web designer will work their magic on it first. In these cases, it’s important to make sure that no word is cut off, no accents are missing and, if there are accents, that they’re in the correct format and facing the right way, etc. These are small details that can make a bad impression on the people that see them.

Both jobs, translation and revision, have to be done with the utmost care and in good time. That’s why it’s so important to work as a team. We all know that four eyes are better than two.

95% of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind

How to connect with your ideal client through words

According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, “95% of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind”. Emotions are what really drive purchasing behaviour, and decision making in general.

According to Douglas Van Praet, author of the book “Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing”, “We don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Our emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundations on which they’re made!”.

But, how can we connect with our reader’s emotions? To make someone truly feel something, you’ve got to be speaking their mother tongue. The language of their family. Their friends. Their childhood. That’s the language that has the power to touch their heart, and the language they connect with. For example:

1- What language would you speak to a new-born baby in? Anyone who’s a father or mother knows that when you sing lullabies or whisper loving words, you do it in your mother tongue.
2- What do you say when you get angry? When you get worked up and can’t contain your emotions you probably let out a swear word or two, and they’re sure to be in your native language.
3- If you’ve travelled the world, you’ll know that when you meet someone who speaks your language you quickly form a bond with them even though you don’t know them from Adam, just because they speak your language.

In an article by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, of the University of Boston, Dr Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris confirms the discovery of the emotional differences between a native language and a foreign one. For example, she says that “bilinguals state that if they swear, pray, lie or say I love you in their mother tongue, it makes them feel different emotions”. She also says that in a European study in which various linguistic combinations were analysed, advertising was considered more emotional when it was written in the recipient’s native language.
It’s clear, then, that emotions govern our decision making, and for words to really touch our hearts they need to be said in our mother tongue.


Do you remember when you got your last smartphone? Or your last PC?

After unpacking/unwrapping it, you probably started to configure it, and as part of this process you maybe changed its language.

Worldwide, we are used to electronic appliances that speak our own language: Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Czech — you can change it as easily as pressing a button.

But how are these translations done?

Translating the user interfaces of electronic appliances is not an easy task if you want to get it right. It’s not just a matter of translating, but of taking into account the available space in case you need to abbreviate or look for shorter synonyms, the context (in which menu will this string appear?), and the real meaning of the string. Developers tend to use a rather particular language when defining the messages for your phone or printer, for example, which are always easy to understand when they appear in a simple text file.

When you take all this into account and come up with a translation that makes sense, that’s localization.

Localization is translation-plus: it takes into account various different variables (context, length, culture) to find the right words.

All these parameters have to be borne in mind when translating user interface menus; however, they are also important when translating web pages, newsletters, emails for customers — the more context and information the translator gets from the client, the better will the localization reflect the real aim of the original message.

Machine Translation

Once upon a time we all thought it would be impossible for humans to fly, or to talk with someone miles away, or to travel to the moon. All this has changed thanks to technology.

We also thought machines wouldn’t be able to translate text usefully, and it’s now long ago that we used to see those funny examples of literal translation, such as “Made in Turkey” translated as “Hecho en Pavo”.

Nowadays, there are still plenty of funny examples; however, most of the automatic translation engines have evolved, and the results have improved a lot.

In cases such as documentation, with short sentences consisting of unambiguous instructions, automatic translation can be useful, as long as the translation is edited afterwards. It can certainly help to save time and money.

However, there are cases in which automatic translation doesn’t yet make sense. Marketing texts with double meanings, texts that show some kind of feelings or sarcasm, where it is difficult to grasp the real intention of the writer, are still a challenge for automatic translation. In these cases, the editor would probably have to spend too much time trying to figure out the meaning of the translation, going back to the original text and changing the final result.

Technology should keep on helping us to get coherent and good translations; however, to make sure the final result is correct, a final check from a human translator will always be needed.

Photo by from Pexels