Grauw’s blog

Translating Firefox

April 7th, 2007

For some time now I’m a member of the Dutch localisation team for Firefox. I’ve been doing this since Firefox 1.0, and the reason I joined was because at that time the translation was really awkward, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole, and I thought it was important that there was a proper translation for Firefox to be really successful in the Netherlands. My version of Windows is Dutch, and then it’s strange if your browser that you use everyday is in English.

Translating something like Firefox is often quite a challenge. It is a big program with a lot of translation strings and texts, and many of it fairly technical which doesn’t always have an easy Dutch translation. One of the German localisers posted on his blog about error messages being a particular challenge to translate.

This is very familiar; for nl-NL we also had some healthy discussion about XML parsing error messages and other error messages in Mozilla. As a (web tech) programmer, I quite frequently encounter these, and the original strings were quite bad, to the point where you had to consciously translate them back into English to decipher what they actually meant to say.

The problem is twofold. First, where do you draw the line between translating technical terms and when not. Second, if you do translate something, how are you sure that you’re translating it correctly? There is a lot of terminology that implies specific things, and does not mean the same as another word that is normally roughly synonymous, but not in the context of that technology.

Especially if you’re not very familiar with the particular technologies, it’s difficult to know if your translations strike the right balance or even convey the proper message. And because they’re error messages, it’s important that they do point to the exact problem. Some translations originally even said something completely different than the original English one.

As an example, in the phrase “XML parsing error: not well-formed”, the term ‘well-formed’ does not translate to ‘valide’ (valid) because that means something different in XML. However, a direct translation to ‘goed-gevormd’ also doesn’t really sound right. The original translation was XML-ontleedfout: niet goed-gevormd”, and we ended up with the translation XML-parsefout: onjuist gevormd”, which is much better.

Anyway, we got it more or less right now, I think. We used Dutch where the Dutch was commonly used or resembled the English, and the phrasings are now such that they will actually help the programmer, instead of work against him :).

p.s. If you have the Dutch version, you will find my name in the about screen :). Go to Help > Over Mozilla Firefox > Medewerkers, and wait until it scrolled down to the localisation credits.


1 comment [reply]


Dude! by Reinier Holst at 2007-04-10 19:05

Je freakin’ naam staat bij de over firefox staff team!

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