Translating software strings or individual terms often presents translators with very special challenges. In many cases the customer isn’t aware that it’s difficult or even impossible to translate isolated terms or expressions outside an explanatory context. Here’s an English-German example to illustrate the problem.
The customer wants to have the following software instructions translated:
1. Are you sure you want to exit?
If we translate the first sentence word for word into “Möchten Sie wirklich beenden?”, it doesn’t sound at all good, since the sentence lacks an object.
What would be desirable here is to know exactly WHAT is to be closed or exited (a programme, a process, a dialogue window), which would enable the translator to offer a better stylistic solution:
“Möchten Sie das Programm wirklich beenden?”
“Möchten Sie den Prozess wirklich beenden?”
“Möchten Sie das Dialogfenster wirklich schließen?”
String No. 2 poses a problem for the translator, since without context he/she can’t know which type of word is meant. Here this could be one of three different translations: “Öffnen”, “Offen” or “Geöffnet”. To help select the translation that is appropriate in the context, the customer should accordingly state whether this is a request or order for the user, a description of a particular status, and what actually is open/has been opened.
String No. 3 puts the translator in a difficult position, since German nouns have a genus, meaning that he/she must decide between one of three forms for the German word for “previous”, namely “Vorherige”, “Vorheriges” und “Vorheriger”. Hence he/she must know the term that follows “previous” (if this isn’t given), e.g. “Vorherige (Seite)”, “Vorheriges (Feld)” or “Vorheriger (Eintrag)”.
This example shows that a string made up of just nine words can take longer to translate than originally calculated if the customer doesn’t supply the necessary information on the context, meaning that more time and effort is spent asking and answering questions. This is another aspect that must be considered when ordering a translation.
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