Writing for locals

Writing for locals

So far, the translation stage of the virtual team assignment seems to be progressing well. We have had to make only minor changes to the English text as a result of the French translation. And there is lots of guidance available on how to write for translation, so these errors are relatively straightforward to correct. In fact, our only major problem at this point has been due to a localization issue rather than anything to do with translation.

On the search screen of the English version of the Instagram app, four tabs appear at the top. These are ‘top’, ‘people’, ‘tags’, and ‘places’. However, in the French version, icons are used instead of the text – although these clearly represent the same thing.

Our problem in terms of this assignment was to decide how to represent these in the French document. One of the preferred options was simply to include small images of these icons in brackets after the descriptive text that we created.

However, this experience does touch on what must be a huge issue for app developers. Aside from the actual content and writing, it is important also to consider the design when preparing a document for another country or market. The Instagram app gives a good example of one design recommendation: separate text from graphics on the page.

In the English version of Instagram, words are included in the graphic elements. This text must be translated and localized separately, which can lead to a complete recreation of the graphic. One way to overcome this problem and potential extra workload is to do what Instagram have done: replace the embedded words with icons for all non-English versions of the app. However, this does leave me wondering why the Instagram designers chose to leave the words in the English version, but maybe that will appear in an update soon.

Localization issues for languages like French are relatively uncomplicated. However I did stumble across this article from Google about designing apps for languages that read from left-to-right and for bidirectional scripts (such as Arabic and Hebrew). This made me realise just how complicated localization can become, and also how important it is to get it right. This will be something important for me to bear in mind for future document designs.

Image: www.freeimages.com

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