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I am continuing my series on software localization and translation. Translators who work on localization project are often part of a large and distributed team. The complex organization of the whole localization team creates new challenges to us independent translators, who usually work on neatly delimited projects which are our only responsibility.

In localization projects, we translators are expected to have complete command of the tools required for software localization, know the market and a lot of products, know our own position in the process, and understand the constraints involved in ever shorter production cycles. It is for this reason that most translators working in localization do so through intermediary translation bureaus, which are often specialized localization companies.

Translation of software follows a cycle of comprehension. As translators are virtually never given more than a brief summary of the product specification, we must do a lot of guessing as to what function actually does what and consequently what to call it when we translate. Often the purpose of a function, dialog box, or command will become apparent to us translators only when we finally get to the help file that explains it. In this case we may have to go back and change the term that was used in the first version of the software translation. Furthermore, it may not even be the same person doing the software and the help, which complicates matters. Too often the software is already ready for production with no additional changes possible.

One of the attributes that characterize successful and sought-after software translators is precisely the ability to guess correctly about what given software string or dialog box or function actually does, to avoid having to loop back wherever possible. It is here that experience plays an important role.

Do you have anything to add or comment to this? Do you have other experiences or challenges etc in regards to software translation and localization? Please share!

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.

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