To be user-friendly and intuitive, interfaces need the most appropriate words to describe their functionality.

This means that the translator needs to understand the software’s functionality in order to translate properly. Think about translating “File” out of English – is it a noun? Is it a verb?

A similar problem is found in Japanese, where the root of a verb can be used for a status/characteristic or an action. The translator needs to know where the text appears and what the software is doing when it appears to choose the appropriate term in the target language.

認証 nintei Authenticate (for a button)

認証 nintei Authenticated (as a status)

The translator needs more than just the words. If strings are exported and sent for translation without context or reference material (or access to the running software), the translator will not have enough information to interpret the text and choose the right word. Languages don’t map neatly onto each other (otherwise machine translation would be much better than it is!) and direct translations can be technically correct but misleading or incomprehensible in a specific context.

In some cases, they may also identify strings that do not need to be translated or data that does not need to be collected in another language – or on the other hand, text that needs to be added and additional data required in another market.

名前 (漢字・カナ・ローマ字・全角・半角) Name (kanji/kana/romaji/full-width characters/half-width characters) Name (none of the rest is relevant for English)

Knowledge of both cultures also allows translators to highlight where existing systems may need to be modified, for example checking form data on submission for addresses or phone numbers in different countries.

郵便番号(000-0000) Postcode/Zip code (three digits-four digits) Postal codes differ, so any data checking or structuring may need to be altered for use in other countries

Exporting strings to an Excel file and sending them out for translation – throwing them over the wall, as it were – deprives the translator of the information they need to select the right terms. A professional will research and deliver their best guess, but greater engagement and more information will ensure that the translation is just what you’re looking for.