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How to Handle UI Terminology Translation in Help

How to handle ui terminology translation in help

One of the most important ways to make Help user-friendly is to correctly translate the user interface (UI) elements. Without careful attention to UI translation, your users may be confused with a textual requirement to press a non-existent button. When preparing your UI text for translation, you should ask your translation partner to…

Option 1: Compare UI terminology in Help with what you use in your software 

With a copy of your original software, a translator will be able to make an accurate translation of the terms needed. Additionally, having a version of the software in front of them can help the translator discern contextual meaning, if that’s necessary. There are a few things to keep in mind if you choose this route:

Is your software available for free?

If not, you should be ready to provide a license key for the translator. Software trials are also useful if your software isn’t free; however, the translator cannot request them repeatedly.

Is your software supported by most devices?

For example, software only for Apple devices may not be the best option for such an approach, since Apple software is not the market leader in every country. For example, Apple has only about 20% of the market share in Russia. If your translation vendor is a language service provider (LSP) they will be able to find a copy of your software. And remember, a single/freelance translator’s possibilities are limited by the system they personally own, so if you want to involve a range of devices in the translation process, consider a larger translation partner.

Does your software require installation?

If the software requires installation, shifting the language and re-installing the new version can eat up a lot of the translator’s time. This increases the chance of human error. Web apps enable UI comparisons more easily — a translator can simply open different language versions in different web browsers.

How many UI terms do you have?

If you have a significant number of terms to translate in your UI, your translator may end up doing linguistic testing. Since they’ll be changing a large chunk of UI text, they may need to re-test the interface, and in some cases that service will cost you extra. You’ll want to be upfront about the size of your glossary with your translation partner, since translators may charge more for a large number of software checks.

Option 2: Send software screenshots 

You can also take screenshots for every step described in your manual in every language, including the source one. They also provide the translator with context, almost like using the software itself. If it’s not possible or prohibitive to give your translator a copy of the software, detailed screenshots can greatly facilitate the translator’s work. Here are a couple questions to ask yourself if this path is right for you:

Do you plan to use screenshots for illustrative purposes in the software?

If not, you will do too much work for the software checking process. Another method could be less time-consuming and more effective.

How many UI terms are there in the text?

If there are many terms, it may take a long time to translate the whole text. Your translator may end up spending more time trying to find the right pictures than translating! You can speed the translation process along by providing supplemental information such as screenshot numbering or some meaningful key terms.

Option 3: Upload all UI resources to separate file

It is a good idea to create an Excel file with source UI terms, their translations and string IDs. However, it is also not universally necessary. Here’s how to decide:

Are you translating Help entirely or in parts?

If you’re creating a little description for a new feature, uploading all your resources is not necessary. A screenshot added to your UI file should be enough.

Are all string IDs clear?

Each UI has descriptive identification name.  It helps when your software has elements that are identical in a source language and translated differently in a target language. The translator should check the ID and understand which one is the case. If IDs are not clear enough, be ready to answer a bunch of questions. One way to avoid this confusion early on is by developing and sticking to a naming system for your string IDs, so they contain the same information no matter which language they’re in.

Do you use Computer Assisted Translations (CATs)?

Then consider converting an Excel file to CAT-supported termbase. In addition, you should enable the termbase name display: it should be absolutely clear which terms are from your general glossary (if any) and which ones are UI translations. Ask your translation partner for help if you are not sure how to do this.

Option 4: Replace all UI terms with tags 

This is a quite high level of terminology management. Engineers can replace all UI terms with tags so that further tags will be automatically replaced by future translations. Such an approach makes it impossible to use the wrong term — if you put in the wrong term, CAT will notify you about an error, and an update of your UI translation will result in an automatic update of your Help translation. The questions below can help you see if tagging is a good fit for your project

Are you translating Help into many languages?

Replacing UI with tags requires a lot of up-front manual engineer work. But once it’s done, it’s done for good. Only the source text needs to be tagged, and this tagged version can be used as a template for any number of languages. Tagging your UI terms is a convenient and cost-effective option if you plan to translate Help into several languages.

Have you planned an LSO stage?

Linguistic sign-off (LSO) is a final quality check stage that occurs once the UI has been laid out and approved for desktop publishing (DTP). It is necessary, as terms matter for surrounding text in some languages. For example, in Russian, some terms may require a descriptor. In Hungarian different articles – ‘a’ or ‘az’ – should be used before vowels and consonants.

The table below shows you the different possibilities of your selected option for UI terminology translation. 

* For large volumes 

Before sending your content off to be translated, take some time to think about your content type, your workflow, and the products you desire. This knowledge will help you find a translation vendor that fits you the best.

This post was contributed by Palex Ltd. To read more on this topic visit their site here.


Milena Milyayeva

Author: Milena Milyayeva

Started working at Palex 4 years ago, Milena moved through a variety of functions from quality control and translation to editing and translation quality management. Now she is a Linguist Lead.
She holds an MA in History and additional qualification of a Translator in the field of Professional Communication.