Give me the context and I will translate the world
Apart from the problems with terminology and short timeframes that the translator usually has to face in software translation projects, there is a third and not less remarkable difficulty: the lack of context.
Lack of context is, without any doubt, the greatest shortcoming that professional translators must overcome in order to achieve success in the translation of software applications of all sorts.
The main causes that give rise to this situation are inherent to the worldwide industries in this sector, which are continuously subject to the pressure of fast production cycles, confidentiality safeguards and precautionary measures against competitors. The results of all these restrictions are working conditions that become a paradox in themselves: “everything for the sake of software, but without software”.
Bearing in mind these restrictive conditions, every software manufacturer that wishes to be successful in the translation of a software product should provide all the reference material needed to understand and interpret accurately all the elements in a certain project. Apart from specialised glossaries, lists of objects and other procedures for the resolution/notification of possible queries, the client should usually provide printed screenshots where the translator can see the terms and strings in context and therefore eliminate any kind of ambiguity.
Common examples of these ambiguities are those words that can be translated as substantives or verbs according to their function, those sentences that can be used as messages for the user or as window titles, or the interpretation of variables and codes specific to each application.
In conclusion, in order to obtain a good quality and accurate translation in a software project, the translator should have all the context possible, but it is up to the manufacturers and final clients to be willing to provide it, so that the best results can be achieved.
José Antonio Mingo and Elena Iribarren