[development] Drupal and i18n, the holy grail?

Rob Thorne rob at torenware.com
Mon Feb 27 05:59:57 UTC 2006

Bèr Kessels wrote:
> The interface: And a good default?
> We are collecting some great ideas here, and i expect actual work and actual 
> code too. :)
> One particular issue, though is still unclear.  We already discussed the three 
> areas of translation: interface, configuration, content.
> The interface for the content translation is highly dictated by the workflow, 
> so I doubt we can say something good about it. Two forms next to eacother for 
> two languages? Tabs? fields under eachother? All possible solutions, but none 
> can be *the* solution.

I was one of a couple people at Netscape (before AOL bought us) that 
created tools for "leveraging" (i.e., reusing translations between 
versions), and we tried a number of different ways of doing this.  But 
we got an interesting response from the international group at IBM, and 
from localization professionals they worked with.

They didn't care about our interfaces, or our tools.

What they wanted was a simple way to get a text file out of our tool set 
that had the US English string, and a bit of contextual, explanatory 
information, like "this string is used in the File menu".  Beyond that, 
they couldn't care less what our tools did.

It wasn't that the tools weren't good.  They were.  But translation 
shops turn out to be very idiosyncratic about their work procedures, and 
are very suspicious of new tools.  In the end, we figured out how to do 
inport and export (along with commenting information, which they cared a 
lot about), and that was almost the only features of our tool sets that 
they used.

A really useful interface would be targeted not at the translators, but 
at the people that are "managing" the translators.  The main thing the 
tool needs to do is make it easy to add "comments" to strings, so that 
when a translator sees a string like "I agree" (for example), they know 
that it's used on a button to indicate  the user  agrees to the terms of 
contract. The context will make it a lot easier for the translator to 
choose the right text in the target language.   Those comments are very 
important information, and if our tools make it easy to reuse the 
comments even after we've changed strings in some modules, we'll have 
made it much easier to prepare translations into new languages quickly.

But as far as the translators themselves:  nice, simple text files are 
almost the best interface for translators you can find.

Rob Thorne
Torenware Networks, and
Netscape Communications, Way Back In the Day.

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