The Design of Software (CLOSED)

A public forum for discussing the design of software, from the user interface to the code architecture. Now closed.

The "Design of Software" discussion group has been merged with the main Joel on Software discussion group.

The archives will remain online indefinitely.

Translation Services?

I have a web app. (around 900 words) that I need to have translated from English into French to obtain my first customer.  I don't speak any French, so I will have limited ability to check the quality of the work.  I found many services that do this via Google, but have no idea if they're reputable.  Has anyone used a third party translation service?  Also, what's the cost like (I'm building this in my spare time so less cash out = happier family)?  Any other advice?

.d Send private email
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Have you thought of local colleges.  You could post an ad for any grad students that want to make a few extra bucks.
Cowboy coder
Saturday, June 04, 2005
This will have impact on the perceived quality of your product, so you are right to be prudent. Ideally, you would need somebody who is both skilled in French language and in French computer vocabulary (Cancel, Save, Paste...), and who would be able to use you software.
Maybe you will need someone to do the work, and someone to check it.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Local colleges/universities would be a good option. If you are in a sizeable city with thriving immigrant community, you will also find companies in the local Yellow Pages that offer Translation Services.

Remember this golden rule of tranlsation:
* Make sure the translator is translating INTO his/her native language.

That is, you need a native French speaker who speaks Englisgh, NOT a native English speaker who speaks French. This is the ONLY way that you can ensure the end result won't contain odd sentence structures or potentially comical results.

Very few people ever can seamlessly use a foreign language like a native, getting every idiom correct.

Golden rule of translating a software application:
* The translator should be an IT person, who understands without confusion, for example, that "Save" means to copy a file to disk, and not to rescue a person from a burning building.
Travelling Steve Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
I'd personally go for a 2 stage apporach if possible. Get the content transalated into French, then get a different person to transalte back into English.

This way you can cross check to see if any major errors were made in the original transaltion. There are likely to be some  mistakes in the second part but these will be easy to cross check with the original transaltor.

I once worked for a company with a site which ran in 7 languages, we had loads of different individuals translating the different parts only for others to totally disagree with the translations. It was a constant cycle.
Gilf Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
Wow, thanks for all the great responses! I think I’m going to go the college student route and hire one person to translate to French and another to translate back to English as a check.  Does anyone know what kind of rate I should offer for this work?  Does it make more sense to pay by the word or by the hour?
Monday, June 06, 2005
I'd say by the page that way people can take on chunks, rather than the whole thing if they wish.
Gilf Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
One other thing I would say about my suggestion to cross check is don't use it as a stick to beat the transaltor. Don't assume that the person who did the original transaltion made the mistake but take it up with both parties.

As your not willing to go to the expense of a professional translation service (nothing wrong with that) don't expect too much, treat this as very much a job you will have to keep an eye on.
Gilf Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
As usual, a different tack ...

Why are you taking on, as your first customer, one where you are going to have to translate into a language you don't speak?  To say this is highly unusual would be to put things very mildly.

If they have already written a huge check to you, and understand the issues completely, that is one thing.  But to start your business this way seems to me at first blush to be crazy.

Do you mind expanding on this?
Karl Perry Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
Sure...I don't think it's that crazy...

- I'm finishing development - the product is not feature complete yet
- I found this customer through a mutual contact
- They're interested and willing to pay for the software as is
- I can use them as a reference customer to obtain future customers
- They need the software translated because they have a large division in France
- Did I mention that they're willing to pay :)
Monday, June 06, 2005
"They're interested and willing to pay for the software as is."
"They need the software translated because they have a large division in France."

If they have a large division in France, then I'm sure they have someone who is a native French speaker who knows how to translate computer softare from English into French.

Get your customer to do the translation for you.
Exception guy Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
I don't recommend the back-and-forth translation; _anything_ will come out goofy when you translate it into a foreign language and back.  If you really want to be thorough, get a couple of translations from different people, and give those two translations to a third person for critiquing.

And I second the advice about getting people to translate into their native language.
Kyralessa Send private email
Monday, June 06, 2005
I think that Microsoft have done all this work already, to enable all those languages for Windows, Office, etc.

The files for every language are on MSDN.

Of course, they cover all of normal computer words, like "Save", "Print", etc, but you may have application/industry-specific words or phrases that are not covered, but it is a great resource.
07 June 2005
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
To Gilf's comments regarding cutting up the work:

The problem with this is that each chunk will have the personal style of each author/translator. While each may be good in its own right, this might jar-- certainly if it changed from page to page (remember that a page is a metaphor). I would be more inclined to have the fewest original translators possible then have them edited by one authority.

"Never take two chronometers to sea; always take one or three."
Simon Trew Send private email
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I'm a programmer and a certified French and English translator, and I've done a lot of localization and other IT-related work.

First of all, you need a trained professional translator. A bilingual person or language major won't cut it. Would you hire a college kid who's majoring in math to do your company's taxes, just because they probably know how to add on account of their math major?

Second, you need a trained translator who's done this kind of work before - ideally one who specializes in it. Ask for references from clients. You may also contact translation agencies, who (supposedly) do the checking and work with a pool of (supposedly) reliable translator. In practice this is rarely the case - I regularly see appalling translation work apparently performed by complete idiots.

Third, you could email me with details and I'll get you a quote with no obligation. :)

Forget about translating into French and then translating back into English. That makes no sense. What if your F->E translator sucks? They could screw up a perfectly fine French translation and you'll be none the wiser. It will also double your time to market and costs. Completely pointless.

Oh, and do not ever, ever use machine translation (MT) software for production. I evaluate MT software for large companies and I can guarantee you they are nowhere near usable.

Good luck. You're doing the right thing localizing your software - and not just because there is (or used to be, at any rate) a law in France requiring any imported software (and product packaging, manuals, etc. in any industry) to be translated into French.
Roger Billerey-Mosier Send private email
Saturday, June 11, 2005

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
Powered by FogBugz