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    This is all very true. The big question is: why translate at all? There are different reasons that directly affect expectations about quality.

    I live in Finland, which is an officially bilingual country. Finnish is the most common language, but there’s a ~10% Swedish-speaking minority. However, most people understand English, and most Swedish speakers understand Finnish.

    I’ve been in a project where we had a requirement of a Swedish translation, but no real resources to do it. So someone who doesn’t know Swedish would just kind of guess something. And AFAICT no one ever complained.

    I assume that most translation projects are similar. As a Finnish native I abhor Finnish translations of technology, because they suck 95% of the time. Even tech giants like Microsoft and Apple have bad UX in Finnish at times, and smaller companies seem to have no chance unless they’re from Finland.

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      As a Finnish native I abhor Finnish translations of technology, because they suck 95% of the time.

      I set my computer’s locale to Japanese for many years as a second language learning thing, but it really only was useful for Apple and other big company apps. Small developers usually had no translations, and OSS usually had translations that were incomplete and/or laughably bad even to me, a non-native speaker. It’s a tough thing though, because unlike Finland, most Japanese people don’t really speak English well enough to just switch the computer to English mode and ignore the bad localization.

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        As a Finnish native I abhor Finnish translations of technology, because they suck 95% of the time.

        This was also mentioned in the article and to me this is very sad. What good are computers if they can’t serve their users in their own language?

        I’m curious - do you find much value in good Finnish translations of software? Or do you think this is not good use of time and someone who wants to serve Finns would be better off making a more polished English product?

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          What good are computers if they can’t serve their users in their own language?

          An upside to having a “common” language is that the searchability of any string output by the program increases. Of course, if that is at the cost of the user understanding the text at all, then it’s no good.

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            Depends on the product and target audience. Maybe if you target only young educated people it doesn’t make a big difference. I think most Finns would benefit from a well-made UI in Finnish, but most also realize translations tend to be bad.

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            I assume that most translation projects are similar. As a Finnish native I abhor Finnish translations of technology, because they suck 95% of the time. Even tech giants like Microsoft and Apple have bad UX in Finnish at times, and smaller companies seem to have no chance unless they’re from Finland.

            I’ve only really noticed this attitude much from Europeans who can speak English - usually the ones fluent enough to post on English-language communities like Lobsters. For example, most Japanese users I’ve seen prefer using…. Japanese, because they don’t speak or can barely read English. (I have to imagine the translation quality is a bit better for Japanese than a smaller European language, both because it’s a bigger market and the users have an even more immediate need for it.)

            As with the other commenter, I think it’s better if computers can meet people in the language they’re familiar with, not what language the hackers prefer.

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              You obviously hear only the attitudes of people whose language you can understand. I’d guess Japanese people abhor bad translations even more than Finns do, because many of them don’t have the option of reverting to English.

              Maybe this is also a reason Japanese people prefer products made in Japan (I’ve heard).

              I totally agree that technology should be approachable and that includes localization. But that never worked in Finland. Those Finns that don’t know English at all tend to also be technologically illiterate. My grandparents were all smart people even if they were uneducated. They did learn to use dumbphones (Nokia is Finnish, remember) but smartphones and computers always remained a mystery to them.

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                Even in many IT jobs a lot of my coworkers just use the Dutch versions of software. I’m often the odd one out with everything set to English.

                A lot of that is due to the spectacularly horrendously bad Dutch translations that existed in many open source projects when I started using BSD and Linux the early 00s, if there were any translations at all. If you just used Windows it was a lot better, because the Dutch version of Windows was always fairly decent.

                A lot has improved since then, but I’m used to English now. It’s like watching or reading something in a language you’re not used to: it just seems all wrong. I read some Asterix & Obelix comics in English some years ago; they’re not bad translations at all and the Dutch version is also just a translated version (from the original French), but I’m used to the Dutch version from my childhood so English seems off 🤷 Similarly, I grew up on the English version of Animaniacs and the Dutch version they have now isn’t bad, but just seems weird to me (I don’t envy having to translate that one by the way).

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              This post talks about a lot of the soft aspects of localization. There are technical and process hurdles as well. What if a label is one word in English but in another it’s five? To simulate this at a prior employer of mine we had a “gibberish” environment that would mangle the English locale and pad everything according to a predefined scale. We had to at least see that forms and text were still usable, readable, and navigable both in sight and by keyboard. What keyboard shortcuts would one language use over another for example? Press Alt+N to jump to “Name”. This one in particular was a translator issue but such shortcuts had to be dynamic. Always so many checkboxes to go through in a simulated experience.

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                What if a label is one word in English but in another it’s five?

                The reverse is even more annoying: multiple words can be broken over multiple lines, which may look a bit ugly but works; with a single word that’s a lot harder. e.g. something like “user settings” would be “gebruikersinstellingen” in Dutch – like most Germanic languages compound words are common: “gebuiker” being “user” and “instellingen” being “settings” (English doesn’t really have this on account of being the exception to everything when it comes to Germanic languages). There’s a reason German was singled out as being difficult in the article since it does the same.

                Another fun one is using the correct translation but in the wrong context. e.g. for one company “get” was translated to “krijg”, which indeed means get, but in the way it was used it mostly implied get as in “getting a disease” (a somewhat common insult in Dutch by the way), which was understandable and technically not wholly incorrect, but not really how anyone would write it.

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                  I’ve been a fan of using dialects that can be seen as comical in localization testing. I had a “Pittsburghese” locale in one project I localized. For the longest time — and it probably still exists — Facebook had an xx-pirate locale hidden in a switcher or when passing it in a browser header. It was introduced for International Talk Like a Pirate Day in 2008.

                  Side note: Oh hey, ITLPD is this coming Sunday, September 19!

                  Anymore, I go straight to Esperanto because it’s more useful in the long run although it doesn’t hit problems of RTL or vertical texts or enable complex plurals such as those found in Arabic.