Help:Extension:Translate/Translation best practices

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There are always more translations needed than translators available. While the work of volunteer translators is greatly valued by the Wikimedia movement, many if not most have no formal translator training. Becoming a good translator needs lots of practice, and we'd really like to help them to improve the quality of their work. Translating on Wikimedia sites can have a strong social aspect, and translators are encouraged to group together to take an ask, don't guess attitude. We also encourage translation administrators to be responsive to questions and to welcome new translators.

Multilingual Wikimedians can become good translators in specific contexts even without formal training, but approaching professional standards usually requires many years of experience. It's possible to speed up this process if translators are provided direct and constructive feedback through a review process. Even experienced translators can learn, and it's always good to have someone else else check over their work, even if only for surface errors.

The long journey starts from the basics. Translators should be able to copy-edit in their own language, and have a conscious awareness of grammar; and they should have a reasonable understanding of the language they're translating from.

For languages with few speakers, who themselves are just starting to use computers and the internet, even the way to spell words or the vocabulary itself might still be under discussion. Regardless, translators should be prepared to create something new – there are bound to be words and concepts that have not been translated into their language before.

Getting started[edit]

Before starting, make sure you are able to type and read in your language. This might involve installing additional fonts and key maps for your computer.

Orient yourself. You might find many reasons to translate, whether you just do it for fun, hone your skills and accumulate credit or just want to give something back to the causes you support. You should understand and adopt the core principles of translation, like translating the meaning, not word by word, but still trying to be as close as possible to the original text.

Try to join pre-existing translation communities and ask others to review your work. You will encounter non-linguistic mark-up like variables and wiki text when translating. The gist in that is to recognize what parts should be left untranslated and what is the special meaning of them.

Message documentation[edit]

The plain source text is not enough to make good translations. This is more relevant in shorter texts, but it applies to all texts. With the Translate extension, along with each message, there is a place to provide context and more information for translators; such message documentation is wiki text and can contain anything from links to images. It might take a few minutes to write good documentation for a message, but that documentation will save each of the potentially hundreds of translators a minute or more and produce higher quality translations, so it's definitely worth it.

It is possible to configure an Ask question button to show up in the translation editor. This provides a low barrier and very direct way for translators to make sure they are making a good translation, instead of making a best guess translation. Of course you should make sure that someone will be on the target support page to answer the questions and update the message documentation, otherwise translators will only be discouraged.

Consistency[edit]

The translation administrators can make glossaries and link them from the group description or use them in the translation documentation descriptions. When multiple translators work together, it is crucial that they first of all recognize the terminology, and secondly that they use the same translations. When making glossaries, it is a good idea to write a short definition for each term instead of just providing translations. The definition helps translators to understand and apply them better in their translations, and is also a good exercise to improve consistency in source texts.

Further reading[edit]

Foss localisation manual – http://www.africanlocalisation.net/foss-localisation-manual
A good introduction for translators, although the chapters about other localisation tools are not relevant here.
FOSS localisation – b:FOSS Localization
Less of a translator-oriented book, this discusses localisation in a bigger picture. It contains some information about localisation efforts in Asia.
Sourceforge localisation guide – http://translate.sourceforge.net/wiki/guide/start
Not very good, but may be useful sometimes.
Translating WordPress – http://codex.wordpress.org/Translating_WordPress
Specifically for WordPress, but with some general advice
Writing for translation – http://bookshop.europa.eu/en/writing-for-translation-pbTF3110675/
A booklet from the Translation Centre for bodies of the European Union (CdT), especially for longer texts but always valid