Collaborative Translation: Future of Web App Translation?

Before I wrote my last post on collaborative translation, TechCrunch had covered Facebook translation.

As described in these articles, Facebook and MySpace have taken different ways to tackle localization of theirs social networking sites. Facebook are having the users translate the whole site using online tool. They have only three languages available besides English now, but that can quickly change after they open up invitation-only translation tool to more users. MySpace has been placing local offices in several countries – 23 of them so far.

I’m not just counting numbers here. It’s still early to decide which one of these method proves to be more effective since Facebook just got stared on their effort to add more languages to their site.

I want to point out though, you can’t compare these two services simply by the number of languages available. Because there’s more to localizing an application besides simply adding languages. Some of those additional tweaks include:

  • The site/service needs to integrate with more popular services in that language group (for example, more Japanese users use Hatena bookmark than del.icio.us or digg).
  • Support needs to be provided in each language.
  • FAQ and instruction pages may need rewriting or reorganization (different cultures = different way of thinking & doing things).
  • Some icons and colors have different meanings.
  • UI may need to be updated, for the same reason for #3 + the length of word or phrase can vary.
  • Best text treatment (this means CSS styles in many cases) for each language’s default font are different.

So, is collaborative translation the best possible way for all projects? Maybe not. It has advantages (cost, speed, having actual users’ input, etc.) but there’s a good chance users are not aware of these fine points. I believe this situation can be improved by bringing in a few experts to manage & control the localization process. I also think web application developers should start thinking about standardizing UI labels and messages for easier translation. For example, if one app says “post” where another says “send” meaning the same thing and so on, translators can’t make the best use of available translation memory (TM).

Using a set of UI language convention as a base for translation project will cut down required effort by volunteer/paid translators. Do you want more flexibility in labels and messages so it can be “fun” and “targeted toward XX or YY”? Well, you can easily have that as a “translated version” of the original standardized language.

One thought on “Collaborative Translation: Future of Web App Translation?

  1. It’s hardly the matter of bringing new experts, they sure exists. I can’t but agree that certain standardization is required + input from the community successful localization. And I’m sure lots of users are aware of the advantages of collaborative translation.

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