Multilingual documentation

Subject: Multilingual documentation
From: AMJ Cornellier <Cornellier -at- MSN -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 08:08:34 UT

I work in Paris & was recently involved in a project where we simultaneously
produced documentation in English and 13 other European languages (including
Greek, which has a different alphabet).
Send docs to a translation service rather than hiring a translator on
contract. The advantage of this is that you pay by the word translated rather
than by the day worked. Translation off-site is cheaper because the agencies
send the work on to translators working from home. I see you are based in the
capital of Canada, so there should be plenty of translators around.
We generally use the word "localisation" with docs rather than "translation",
because often producing docs for a foreign country involves not just
translation, but changing any legal blurbs, disclaimers, etc., you might have
in the text.
The biggest problem you will face is keeping versions parallel. It's really a
question of tight admin procedures. A few tips:
make it clear to your colleagues, clients, whatever, that when they give the
sign-off for a doc to be sent to translation, and the doc goes to translation,
any changes made thereafter are going to be horribly expensive. The knock-on
effect on translated versions is huge. Apparently trivial changes can be
difficult to integrate into a doc in a lang. you don't understand. Or you
start incurring more transl. fees.
Don't be tempted to start the translation procedure before you've finalised
the source version. You won't gain much time and you risk having to redo a lot
of the work. Leave the translation to the last minute. Translators work
amazingly quickly - often over weekends.
Sometimes you'll have a source version which is never published, because all
of the localised versions are so different, e.g. if you are sending your
product to Canada, the UK, and Australia, you may have to localise for each
Some translation may need legal advice, e.g. legal disclaimers, as mentioned
When you send docs to translators, generally you send a soft copy and they
edit directly on screen. Make sure they are competent in the editing software
& do not muck up cross references, index entries, etc.
When you write the source document don't forget to use language that is easily
translatable, off the top of my head I'd suggest that you don't use idiomatic
expressions, etc. There was an article about this in one of the STC mags
Regarding file management, I do it manually using file manager or whatever and
PKZip. However, I understand there are "librarian" software pkgs around which
handle user security, permissions, version control, archiving, compression,
etc. Anybody out there have any experience with this?
That's all the time I have for now. Any further questions, let me know.
John Cornellier

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