Poor translations in software
January 13, 2007
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So I came across this gem from the Asus Update software that came with my new Asus G1 Laptop
What a great translation…"The environment is no need to update". Did they mean "There is no need to update the environment"? Or perhaps "The environment is up to date"? Asus makes high quality laptops, including the Apple Powerbooks, but this is just bad. They might as well have put All Your Base Are Belong to Us.
However, this got me thinking. How often do Western developers translate their software? Almost never. After 5 years of development, I can honestly say I have only been exposed to translation in software once. And that was during training for the creation of Enterprise Applications while I worked at J.D. Edwards as an Application Test Developer. There were entire teams at JDE whose only job was to translate text labels, and messages within the applications that other engineers developed. These people knew little to nothing about development or coding and merely did the job of translating the displayed text on the software. Rarely would you find an engineer/developer who could translate their own apps into multiple languages without handing it off to a translation team.
Outside of the English-as-a-first-language world, I suspect that many developers are probably responsible for writing the code and translating their user interface into one or two languages. Once in a while you will see job opportunities listed here in the US where they want a developer who can speak Spanish fluently, and these jobs are becoming more and more common. Immigrant owned businesses are also on the rise, as a recent report in the Bay Area suggests that 25 percent of Startups have immigrants behind them. While it’s unlikely that many of us will start translating our own software, its important to recognize that limiting ourselves to English-only speakers may not be an option in a few years. Making efforts to internationalize your software today will help make future translations of your software far smoother. With an effortless, real-time solution still a few decades away, I think all Western Developers should put basic software internationalization at the top of their list for skills to refine in 2007.