Localisation guidelines

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This page will describe some translation guidelines and best practices for translators. Following these guidelines will increase the quality of the translations. Remember: localisation is not only about translating messages, it also includes customizing everything from time formats to grammatical features like inflection.

For each language, translatewiki.net has a portal page named Portal:und, where und is a language code. It lists some of the formal features of the language, statistics, translators, etc. The portal page can be used for coordination among translators; it may hold, or link to, word lists of translations of specific technical terms, for instance.

Translate, don't customize

The first rule is to do a translation, which gives the same message as the original. This does not mean that you should do literal translation word by word, to the contrary, you should try to make your translating as fluent as possible. It means that you should not add extra information which is not relevant, extra formatting (colors, font size), extra links to any pages which may or may not exist and anything else the original does not contain. This is to keep the default interface clean and simple and to leave the customization to administrators. Common problems are that translators link to pages they assume to exist (for example in Wikipedia), refer to extensions which are not installed by default or introduce extra formatting which is not in harmony.

Other guidelines

TODO: write open

For MediaWiki, see Localisation page at the MediaWiki.org and Translating:MediaWiki

  1. report enhancement suggestions to the Support page
  2. translate the message, not the words
  3. be aware of the special features of your language - gender, plural, punctuation, grammar
  4. report messages that are hard to translate to the Support page
  5. check fuzzy messages and fix warnings
  6. don't work alone, try to bring your friends
  7. review, talk, discuss, collaborate
  8. if in doubt about the message, ask for clarification and don't assume. Use the Support page.
  9. read the message documentation carefully
  10. collaborate in arriving at a consistent style and writing conventions for a language. Translatewiki.net is not always the best place to hold a discussion on these matters. Other projects, especially Wikipedia, usually have larger communities available for discussion. New projects adopted by translatewiki.net may already be partly localised, and may have different style conventions in place. Again, discussion with the project community before changing conventions, if possible, can be expected to have a better outcome than sudden changes to conventions.
  11. style conventions on words, grammar or punctuation should be documented at the portal pages
  12. try to avoid technical terms and slang (and report them if found in the source messages)
  13. try to avoid English


Manipulating messages

Message name

This link will open the message page in edit mode. When you edit a message, you have a normal edit page with some extra features. Above the edit area is a box, which shows the original version of the message. If your language has a fallback, and the fallback language has translated the message, you will see it as well. You always see a box with translation hints for the message, even if it sometimes says that we have none, yet. When you finish your translation, click "save" as you would normally do. See interface translation guidelines. It is recommended to use a web browser that supports tabs when translating messages. Open 10 or so messages in 10 new tabs and translate the messages in those tabs in order. Open new tabs once you have processed the pages.

Parameters in messages

Expressions with a dollar sign and a number, such as $1, $2, $3, etc. are parameters. They will be replaced with other words when the message will be displayed to the user. The meaning of $1 is supposed to be described in the message documentation. (If it's not described there, please ask at Support.)

For example, a message may say "You are editing the page '$1'". $1 will be be replaced by a page name, and the result may be "You are editing the page 'Leonardo da Vinci'", "You are editing the page 'Bubusara Beyshenalieva'" etc.

When you are translating a message with parameters, place the parameter wherever it fits in your language. In the English message the parameter may appear at the end of the message, but if in your language it fits in the middle or in the beginning, place it there.

See also Translating:MediaWiki#Translation_guidelines.

See also

There are helpful suggestions in other projects as well.