Monday, September 18, 2006

Myth #2 - Just when you thought it was safe...

And so on to Myth #2 (for some background see my previous blog, "Republishing the Myths")
"Translators choose the best phrase in the target language."
Uh-huh. I can hear the translators rolling on the floor laughing (or ROTFL, for those who just love initialisms). Note, I am not disparaging the work of translators - they are professionals and most do a great job considering the limited context they are given. But bear in mind that:
1. They only have the context that you give them.
2. They get paid by the word, or sometimes by the project.
Therefore, given a word to translate, they don't sit there and ponder the literary nuances ... "Hmm, break, what could the programmer mean by this? Is it a break in the text? A break in the execution of the program? Something to cause the program to crash? Or could it refer to the programmer's innermost desire to break free from the shackles of structured code, moving on to more creative and fluid expressions of the starving software engineering soul?" ... No, this doesn't happen, translators would starve if they did this. Why should you care? Well, if you write any text that may possibly be seen by an external user, that is, error messages, help messages, and the like, then think carefully about the text you use. If your product has a glossary (hey, it could happen), use it. Make a comment in the resource file to give the translator some context. Keep like messages together. Use standard English (or German or Japanese or whatever language you're writing in) and stay away from jargon, slang, and local terms and phrases. The translators want to do a good job; give them that opportunity.

Next blog, Myth #3!

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