The Yast translation system

Yast Time tracking
The dilemma
One of the great advantages of being an Internet app, is the ability to deliver your software to any company in the world at a minimum cost. However, that doesn´t mean that your app is available to the whole world. Even if a Chinese can access, it doesn´t necessarily mean that he is capable of using it. If he doesn´t understand English, then he can´t use it. So the dilemma is present. Our software is available all over the globe, but there are still limitations due to language barriers.

The problem
But translating to several languages had an obvious obstacle. We don´t speak all languages, and definitely don´t write them. We needed someone to do it for us, and hopefully as cheap as possible.

Google Translate
As we have all fell in love with the great Google Translate, we tried it to see how it worked. But even Google has weaknesses. Even if it did most of the work correctly,there where still so many errors that it would be frustrating to use a Google Translated site over time.

The solution
The solution came to us, as it has done many times before and many times since, from our users. On our feedback forum, a user wrote us soon after launch November 2009. “I want a Spanish version, I´ll translate it for free”. The idea came to us that we could let our users do the translations, and in return we could award them on our credits page and give a 5-year premium subscription of Yast. But making your users do the work had several problems.

What had to be done
– Even if the text at is limited to a minimum from a user perspective, the amount of text adds up to a severe work load if you go through the entire system, and motivating our users to spend long hours to translate would probably only result in a 10% completion of every language.
– Translating had to be as easy interface as the rest of Yast. Just giving away a text-document and ask a user to send it back would probably lead to no translations at all.
– We had to make sure that a user wouldn´t be able to hack our system by doing a translation for us. Meaning we would have to go carefully through all the text at every translation.
– Since we don´t know that the translated text is serious or not, we would have to check if the translations are actually serious.
– Yast is improving all the time. How can we keep translations up to date as easy as possible?

That´s why we instead of translating everything, made a system that made it easy to translate everything. And basically it works like this.

How it works
At our settings page, where you can choose language, we ask users to send us an e-mail if they would like to translate into their own language. Or, users contact us through twitter (@yastdotcom).

Then we approve the user and give him access to translate into his/hers language. After logging in to as usual, the user now access and is given his own menu where he can see the list of all languages he can translate. Now let´s say I could translate into Norwegian, I press Norwegian. Then I access the translator page.

Now every text on Yast is broken down to its own text area. To the left is the source language the user translates from, and to the right is the equivalent text area where the user types the translation. This is easy to understand, and it gives the feeling of dividing the work instead of translating one long document with no spaces.

However, this is still time consuming if you have to translate everything by yourself. By using Google Translate as default, completing the task us done within a reasonable amount of time. We have a button called “Google Translate everything”. Every translation text area are now translated by Google Translate, and all the user is asked to do, is to correct the errors. This saves a lot of time.

One of the most frustrating things about computers and software is the ability to suddenly stop working. While testing out our translation system, I started translating to “Pirate”-language when I suddenly hit a wrong button, and lost my recent work. I lost all motivation, and I´m still not finished. Since we don´t want this to happen with our users, we have placed “Save” buttons everywhere. Of course, we could try to figure out how to implement auto saving, but we have more than enough to deal with already.

Our first translator was from the Netherlands, and the process seemed to run smoothly. He only used 2 hours translating the entire site, and he said he used Yast to time it :) We suspect that Gert, as his name was, was quite efficient compared to others, that´s why we operate with 3 hours to translate.

While using Yast, it may come clear to a translator that one particular translation is wrong. To make it easy to find this error, we found the need to implement a serch field so the translator easily can find the text inside the translation system.

After the translation is done, we have an approval page, where all translated text is highlighted and is ready for approval. From there we can see that no “malicious” code has been entered, but we are not capable of understanding whether the text is serious or not. We choose to trust our translators, and approve text we don´t know the meaning of, rather than being suspicious. Meaning the translated version is available as soon as we have pressed approve for that language. But if the translations somehow turn out to be wrong, our guess is that we will get feedback from other users that something is wrong. That´s why we also have version control, and can always go back to a previous version of the translation and start from there.

Now, even if we have seen many ways to improve the system, we are satisfied with the result. Yast is available in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian and German (very soon). We would like someone to translate Portuguese so we can check off the entire American continent. However, we would like all languages to be added, so feel free to help us if you want yast to be available in your language. We cannot pay you a whole lot, but you will have our eternal gratitude and respect.

– The Yast team –

We would like to thank our translators:
Google Translate (everything)
Omi (Spanish)
Alexander Kluge (German)
Gert de Gruijter (Dutch)
Charlie Hurel (French)

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  • Alex says: 

    Hey Halvor,

    I think your translation system is great way to accomplish this necessary, but to certain amount, annoying task.

    As I’ve translated into German (still in the finishing process), I can say that the division into information chunks (with the help of seperate text fields) is really helpful and motivating. So, is the seperation into several pages. I haven’t used the search field – as I didn’t see the sense behind it (after having read the article I do).

    Moreover, I think you’re Save-buttons spread all over the translation page make sense when someone knows what’s the idea behind it. For a backend interface it’s fine – although an auto-save-feature would be great with regard to the user interface.

    I’ll observe your further development and stay critical 😉 .

    PS: Thanks for the credits!

    Good Luck and Success furthermore :)
    – Alex

  • halvor says: 

    Thank you Alex. Critisism is our prefered feedback, so keep it coming.

    I cannot promise any imideate updates to the system as we have a lot of other feedback issues to deal with, but we will gladly help if you or any others have any problems.



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