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

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. Ask for clarification when in doubt about the message. Don't assume. Use the Support page.
  9. Read the message documentation carefully.
  10. Choose the best single way to translate a word if there are several possibilities, and use it consistently in all messages. Document terms in the Localization guidelines page for your language. If your language has several dialects, styles, or registers, try to choose words that will be familiar and easy to understand to the widest number of speakers.
  11. 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.
  12. Document style conventions on words, grammar and punctuation at the portal pages, and read the documentation.
  13. Avoid slang and terms that are too technical. Report them if found in the source messages. Messages in all languages, including English, must be as easy as possible to understand by all people without having to learn foreign languages, special skills, or jargon.
  14. Avoid English. Use an English term in translation only if that's the usual way to use that term into your language. Otherwise, try to find a translation.
  15. If you use machine translation to start a translation, always check every word and make sure that it's correct. Machine translation is fast and convenient, but it often makes mistakes even in languages in which it works relatively well. If you don't know the target language well, don't use machine translation at all!
  16. Choose what to translate carefully. This site hosts a lot of projects. It's good to translate all of them eventually, but there are more than a hundred thousand messages to translate there, and translating things randomly from various projects is not so useful. So choose a project to focus on, complete it, and then move to the next thing. (It's also recommended to come back regularly to projects that you've already completed, because messages are added and changed every day.)

Manipulating messages

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

  • For how to localise specific software, see its project page; in particular, see the translation notes in Translating:MediaWiki.
  • There are helpful suggestions in other projects as well.
  • Tips for Good Translations (in English) by WordPress.