What reference materials does your software translator need


Software localizationSoftware translation and localisation goes hand in hand with many challenges and potential pitfalls. An often overlooked component in this process is the reference material necessary to properly translate all strings, dialog boxes and menus. Without any reference and context translators receive a complex riddle to solve, which results in an avalanche of questions to clarify the context or, what’s worse, in a very inaccurate translation due to the lack of the client’s feedback. To avoid this situation, try not to provide your software translator with alphabetical lists containing only extracted strings and prepare a set of useful reference materials:

A (beta) version of the running software

In the ideal situation your translators should be able to preview the software before the translation process begins. This will ensure that they understand what the particular menus, dialog boxes and strings refer to and that they have a general idea of the purpose and functionality of the application. Using the software itself is definitely far more instructive than basing on screenshots and background information only. Sadly enough, this possibility is often out of question due to technical or confidentiality reasons.


If you can’t provide your translators with any version of the software, attach several screenshots to the source text. The images of menu lists and dialog boxes are very useful, as your translators will be able to preview the content, understand the meaning of single strings and adjust the length, if necessary.

Background information

Another important step is to inform your software translators on the product they are about to translate and localise. They need to know what is the main purpose and functions of the software, who are the potential users and why they will benefit from using the application. This will clarify the context of the strings and help your translator choose an appropriate terminology and style.

Glossaries and translation memories of the previous versions

If other versions of the software or similar products have already been localised, remember to provide your translators with relevant glossaries or translation memories. This will help to ensure consistency and allow for the use of correct terminology.  

Other localised products from the same manufacturer

If other applications from the same manufacturer are available on the market, consider sending a demo or full version to your translators, or at least provide them with the link to the website where the products are for sale. This will help to see the software in a broader context and make the localisation process smoother.

Extra information for single word strings

Strings consisting of one word only are the most complex components in software translation. Words such as “Copy” or “Bookmark” may refer to a noun or to a verb, depending on the context. Similarly, single pronouns (e.g. “None”) or adjectives (e.g. “New”) may refer to different nouns and may need to be translated in a different way depending on the context (for example “New File” in Polish would be “Nowy Plik”, but “New Window” would be “Nowe Okno”). To avoid any ambiguities and to assure appropriate translation, you’ll have to provide a brief description of the single word strings.   


Preparing all necessary reference materials may seem time-consuming and troublesome, but it’s worth the effort in order to achieve a successfully localised product with clear strings and user-friendly content.

(Photo by D. Pawlak) 


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Dorota helps digital brands infuse their content with a local touch. She is a localization consultant, translator specialized in IT, prompt engineer, and a book author. Dorota teaches online courses on localization, writes for her blog and a Medium publication. She also runs a Small Biz AI, a Substack newsletter for freelancers and small business owners ready to discover handy AI tools.

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