Software,Localization,What,amp DIY Software Localization, What is it?


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Software localization is, in essence, making versions of software productsavailable,which can operate in multiple languages. In this article weexamine what’s involved in developing such software. And it’s not asdifficult as you might imagine.If you develop software to sell, then perhaps there might be market beyondthe shores of the USA. Have you considered making multiple language versionsof your software available? Perhaps you’ve given it a fleeting thought butdismissed the idea as too expensive or too difficult. Take away the jargonand buzzwords, not to mention the expectation that it is difficult; andmany software products can relatively simply be produced for differentlanguage speakers. Especially so if the developers have followed reasonabledevelopment standards.And lets face it, the extra revenue and customer base can be very verylucrative.Nor should you under estimate the number of people in the USAwho don’t have English as their first language. Another benefit of providingyour software product in multiple languages is that it also gives animpression that your company is far larger than it is. When I see a website or software product available in multiple languages I tend to assumethat the company must be large. So let’s take a look at the process and examine what’s involved. Weconcentrate in this article on taking an existing software product andmaking it available in multiple languages. The ideas presented here aregeneral and assume a relatively simple product, but the concepts andapproach are the same for even a sophisticated application.First rule: to keep things simple. There are many different languagesbeing used around the world and you have a wide choice. In Englishwe read sentences written left-to-right and from the top, down thepage or screen. This isn’t the case for all languages. We also use analphabet (script) referred to as Latin, and in technical speak it usessingle byte characters. So it’s a good idea to restrict your first multiplelanguage projects to languages that also share these characteristicswith English. The list is extensive and includes; Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Dutch among others. Even restricting your projectto these languages widens your market by about 1 billion people. EasternEurope uses a script called Cyrillic (Russian) which is very similar toLatin and prices for translation into Eastern European languages tend tobe very competitive. Asian and Middle Eastern languages offer someunique challenges but they are manageable. But early in the process,you need to decide exactly what languages you want your softwareto be available in.There are a variety of methods to developing multiple language versions ofsoftware. One approach favoured is to separate out all of the text presentedto the user into a file or database table. This text must include everythingthat a user will see when using the software. It includes screen displaytext, printed report text, constants, prompt, error and warningmessages, and help displays. Your product will likely include a user guide,version notes and licence agreement, and of course these also need tobe included in the localization project. The file or database table where all the text will exist has to beaccessible by the programs and so some sort of simple key processand update function must be developed. Again, keep it simple. We’vefound that having a simple key system based on screen or report nameand then a unique text item number works fine for most applications.For large a application you may need several text files, perhaps based ontext type. You’re probably thinking that the application’s performance willbe reduced due to the extra input/output needed to access all the text.There will be some reduction but in practice it is minimal. And there aresome benefits to compensate. For instance if screen text needs to bealtered then no program change needs be made to effect the change.Our file containing all of the text is then used as the basis of ourlanguage translation. There are all manner of options to organisethe translation including translation agencies, freelance translators,computer based translation, even co-workers, friends and familymight be able to help. At the end of the day most computerapplications actually have quite simple text. But before you dohave the translations performed review all the text for grammar,spelling and ambiguities. The clearer the language used in theapplication then the more likely the translation will be accurate.A word of warning. Professional translators tend to be highlyeducated, and sometimes their resulting work will require thereader/user to hold at least a Masters degree to understand it.Always specify that you need the translation to have an equal reader level as the original English. Some translators and agencies might be positive to providing their servicefor free. There are numerous examples of shareware and freewaresoftware where professional translators have been generous. Mozilla is a good example of such a co-operative effort. The object of the project is to develop multi-lingual software in whichthe end result will consist of our executable files linked to our table(s)of text. The specific text file shipped with the product will be in thelanguage of the user’s choice. An alternative option is to store eachtranslation in a specific language file and when the user installs thesoftware they specify their language preference. Thus the routinethat reads the text records needs to identify the language neededand isolate itself to that language. And of course you need to test the resulting language versions. This isbest performed by speakers of the specific languages you’ve decidedto implement. Testing under language versions of the operating systemmight also be worthwhile. Character constants are a special case. For example, the software mightneed to determine that a particular key has been pressed from a selection.Assume the menu selection includes Open, Save, Find, Copy and Paste.The routine in the program might look something like: switch (myInputString[0]) { case ‘Open’; DoOpen (); break; case ‘Save’; DoSave (); break; case ‘Find’; DoSearch (); break; case ‘Copy’; DoCopy (); break; case ‘Paste’; DoPaste (); break; }The code above is efficient and concise, but it is difficult to translate.The various constants (Open, Save, Find, Close, and Paste) have tobe replaced with data items that have been loaded with the equivalentconstants from the specific language file being used by the user.What are the potential pitfalls? A common problem is that the space requiredby text on screens or reports differs between languages. For example thephrase ‘enter name and address’ is 22 characters. In German the equivalentphrase would be ‘Geben Sie ihr Name und Adresse ein’ which is 34characters. We’re often faced with the problem that the translated languagerequires more screen and report space than the equivalent English. So testcarefully that truncation doesn’t occur. And consider the cosmetic appealof the resulting screen or report.There are some legal aspects that you need to research. Obviously everycountry makes its own laws. In Germany, for example, there are quiterestrictive laws that disallow anyone to make claims that a product isbetter than another company’s product. Not to forget that the UnitedStates also has export laws. Encryption algorithms are an obvious example.So do a little research, and if you are using a translation agency then askfor advice.Copy protection, upgrades, error reporting are all issues that willbroaden if you want to sell software offshore. You also need to takeaccount that date format, paper sizes, currency symbols, sort orderand addresses might differ, and lets not forget that the majority of theworld uses the metric system for weights and measurement.The translations don’t have to perfect. In saying this I am not suggestingyou lower your standards. But most people appreciate that you have takenthe trouble to translate the text, and will overlook the odd mistake. Andlet’s be realistic, the English used in your software will likely have theodd typo anyway. Organising a marketing agreement with a local distributor can also providea useful resource not only for the product’s language development, but inongoing product promotion and support. Microsoft provides an extensive resource available on their web site.There are several very helpful news groups that you can subscribe toand a number of books are devoted to the topic of software localization.I hope this has given you something to think about.

Software,Localization,What,amp

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