5 Common Software Localisation Challenges

5 Common Software Localisation Challenges
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These days, if the software you’re selling is in English only, your business is missing out, big-time. Software localisation is more challenging than it appears at first glance, but the potential rewards have never been bigger. Here are five common software localisation challenges and some strategies for solving them.

Software Localisation Challenge #1: Context and Accuracy

You already know accurate translation is essential to any successful software localisation project. Still, even the best translators can make mistakes, especially if they don’t have all of the information they need. One aspect of software localisation projects that often causes difficulty is lack of context.

Do you remember how, as a child, you learned to use context clues to decipher unfamiliar words?  Translators rely heavily on context to understand the meanings of the text they’re supposed to translate. However, in software localisation projects, translators often receive software strings in spreadsheet form.

They have the text to be translated, but not the context to make the meanings clear. Make sure you’re providing translators with the context they need. Additionally, this is one reason our translation management system, Tracklingua, has features like forums, commenting and online messaging to enhance communication.

Software Localisation Challenge #2: Inconsistency

Emerson may have called consistency “the hobgoblin of small minds,”  but he wasn’t talking about software localisation when he did so.  For localisation projects, consistency is important. Is it “Login” or “Log in?” “Next” or “Forward”?

Inconsistent translations are confusing. They undermine the user experience and they make your product look unprofessional. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: by creating a terminology glossary and making use of translation memories, you’ll get more consistent translations and you won’t have to pay to have the same phrases translated twice.

Software Localisation Challenge #3: Display and Design Issues

One of the biggest headaches in software localisation is making sure translated content displays properly. When compared to English, some languages use more words or longer words for the same concepts.  On the other hand, some languages user fewer words or shorter words.

As a result, text can expand or contract during the translation process, sometimes quite drastically. Your carefully designed user interface elements may need to become wider or taller than you originally intended to accommodate the changes.

For example, here’s how text length typically changes when translated from English into some of the most common target languages:

  • English to Arabic: expands 25%.
  • English to Korean: text shrinks by 10-15%.
  • English to Spanish: text expands by  20-25%.
  • English to German: text expands by 10-35%.
  • English to French: text expands by 15-20%

Of course, languages that use non-Western scripts can be even trickier. They may also require more vertical space to display clearly, for example, or they may read left-to-right instead of right-to-left.

Internationalisation- An ounce of prevention

Fortunately, many of these problems can be prevented well before any material is sent off to the translators.  Internationalisation is the process of making your software easier to localise. Ideally, your team would incorporate the principles of internationalisation from the start.

For example, many problems can be avoided if menus and other UI elements are designed to easily accommodate text expansion and contraction, and programmed to expand or contract as needed along with the text.

Software Localisation Challenge #4: Formatting Issues

To make your software usable for customers in different regions, it’s not enough to simply translate the text. You must also account for differences in formatting, and conventions for writing dates, times, numbers, addresses and currency.

For example, let’s say the software in question was originally written for English speakers in America, and now you want to localise it for various European markets. All well and good, but do you think your European users will want to convert measurements from US standard to the metric system? Or will they want to fiddle with inputting dates with the month first, rather than the day?

Probably not. So, you’ll need to change your software accordingly, so that dates and measurements are shown in the expected format for your target market.

Software Localisation Challenge #5: Translation Speed and Continuous Localisation

Whether to fix bugs or to add new features, most software releases receive regular updates. Often, these updates involve elements that will need to be localised. This leads to a process of “continuous localisation,” with a myriad of small localisation changes required on an almost-constant basis.

To effectively manage these needs, look for a language services provider with the following characteristics:

  • The capacity to handle your requests with a fast turnaround.
  • The project management capability to keep everything on track without important details getting lost in the shuffle.
  • Translation technology that makes it simple to request updates as needed.

Most of these challenges are easily met with a bit of forethought on your part and some help from an experienced language services provider. Looking for help? Take a look at our software localisation services and contact us for more information.