Software development projects are complicated, and localization adds to the complexity. If you are working within tight timelines and a small budget, it can be challenging to accomplish your development and localization goals. However, with correct planning and implementation, you can complete your software localization project within your limitations.
If you’re a rookie software localization team, you should do your research correctly and make sure you are familiar with the process and localization best practices. This will save you from spending several hours fixing bugs or reworking the entire application.
In this article, we present five common software localization mistakes that delay localization and affect the final quality. If you avoid these pitfalls and follow best practices, you should be able to take your products to your intended markets quickly and successfully.
1. Identifying A Language And Not A Locale
Localization is not the same as translation. Similarly, a locale is not just about language. It is a collection of preferences related to linguistic, date/time format, units, cultural and legal requirements of a specific region.
If you identify your target languages and plan for translation alone, your localization efforts may not give you the desired results. The same language may have variations based on the country. For example, the word “localization” would be a typo in Australia or UK where they spell it as “localisation.”
A locale is normally identified by a shorthand token that comprises two codes - a language designator and a region designator. Have a look at the examples below:
- English (United States) - en-US
- English (Great Britain) - en-GB
- English (Australia) - en-AU
- English (Canada) - en-CA
Identify your target locales and plan your localization tasks for each of them. This approach will enable your project to support alternate spellings, units, date formats and other such differences between countries sharing a language.
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2. Decentralized Resources And Lack Of Integration
If your system is not well integrated and your resources are not centralized, you’ll end up with messy translations. Streamline your processes and make sure all your lexical resources and localization assets are centralized. Identify standards and enforce them in your development practices.
If your project doesn’t maintain and follow standards or doesn’t have centralized resources, you'll face delays with your software localization project. In addition, you will end up with bugs and poor translation quality.
To keep your software localization costs lower and to avoid quality issues, your team should establish and follow standardized processes, technologies and tools. A language service provider can assist you with an integration plan that centralizes all of your localization resources.
3. Hard-Coding Text, Units, Date And Time
Many rookie software localization teams make the common mistake of embedding text in the code. Such hard-coded text will affect your translations. You should write your code keeping in mind that the software will reach an international market.
Languages, date and time formats, units and other such data vary from one region to another. There’s a part of the world where 25.12.2017 (DD.MM.YYYY) is not right and another area where 12.25.2107 (MM.DD.YYYY) is incorrect. Some countries understand pounds, while the others speak in kilograms.
To support these differences, never hard-code such data. Instead, use localizable strings allowing regional variations. It’s good practice to store date and time in standard ISO format and then using a library to format for specific locales. Follow a similar process for number formats, currencies, units, etc.
By using a library that contains localized files, you are simplifying your software localization process. It becomes easy for translation to any locale with minimal effort, errors and cost.
4. Using Wrong Character Encoding
Wrong character encoding always lead to faulty translations. If you handle strings using a “datatype” that doesn’t support Unicode, your characters will get corrupted. It’s one of the essential practices for software localization.
Always use UTF-8 (Unicode Transformation Format 8-bit) encoding because it can represent all characters in the Unicode character set. You should use it for every layer in your stack (the application, HTTP Server, database and HTML). While working with Asian languages, you should use UTF-16.
With Unicode, you can produce code that handles the requirements of all your target locales. It has a single definition for each character, and therefore you can avoid corrupted characters.
It is imperative to be aware of Unicode when you’re creating software that targets the global market. It’s essential for successful software localization because that’s how you can support worldwide language scripts.
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5. Not Providing Context For Software Localization
You should provide localization notes and code comments, keeping in mind that translations will be carried out by multiple linguists. Providing context to every string will help them to create accurate and consistent translations.
Your translators may not know anything about your software, its user interface or how the functionalities are designed. They need “context” to understand if the word is a verb or a noun. Therefore, you should provide sufficient notes along with your resources.
Ambiguity is present in all languages. Same words hold various definitions in different contexts. To retain the original meaning in all the translated languages, “context-dependent interpretation” is a must.
You can help your translators to be more productive and efficient with the notes you provide them. This will reduce errors, save time and money.
Software localization doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you avoid the above common mistakes. Start thinking about localization in the early stages of your development cycle. Design and write your code with localization in mind, and you’ll be ready for it when you decide to step into a new market.
You don’t have to do everything on your own. If you are a development team, you should focus on creating a great product without having to worry about the nitty-gritty of software localization. Partner with a localization services provider who can advise you and help you take your product to your target market.