Localization of documentation covering sometimes localized features gives me a headache

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2011/01/25 07:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2011/01/25/10119781.aspx

And yes, fo those keeping score linguistically, the title of this blog is kind of a garden path sentence!

Sometimes really useful documentation is created.

By Microsoft, I mean.

I mean, people never read it -- but that does not stop if from bring useful sometimes!

Like this page containing the Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts.

But (and you knew there had to be a but in there, didn't you?) these are hard documentation pages to localize.

Because the shortcuts themselves are localized in some cases but not in others, and the people doing one kind of localization are not the same as the people doing the other kind. And there seeme to be a marked lack of communiction between them, or means to communicate what is going on.

Thus when you look at the Spanish version of that Windows 7 Keyboard Shortcuts, you run into problems. For example, to save a document in English you would use CTRL+S (as in "Save") but in Spanish it would be CTRL+G (as in "Guardar").

But that Spanish page still lists CTRL+S for Save, in the otherwise properly localized text.

Now multiply this one mistake by many other shortcuts, ad then multiply that by many other languages.

You now have a lot of different bugs,without a good mechanism or architecture to support correct descriptions.

Of course over in Office it looks like this particular problem doesn't appear to exist on their analgous keyboard shortcuts documentation pages, though Office may have other breaks along the same lines. As might other products, too.

This ends up being a pretty huge item to clean up, of course. Especially when you consider that the way centralized help pages and the plan to localize them were not really all decide at once, and the mechanisms to fully support everything weren't there (which makes solving it in documentation even harder).

I suppose someone needs to fix this.

Though I wonder why it is not reported more often by customers who speak these languages. I mean it has been reported by one person, a developer trying to write a Windows Phone 7 app showing people all the shortcuts, but wouldn't you expect user complaints too? Lots of them?


I suppose we're lucky sometimes that no one reads the documentation....

GregM on 25 Jan 2011 8:00 AM:

I imagine that it is a combination of a lack of keyboard shortcut use in the general population combined with the fact that we (the software community in general) have done such a bad job of localization in the past that users have just learned to live with the "simple" errors like that.

John Cowan on 25 Jan 2011 11:32 AM:

There's a lot of this in the Lord of the Rings.  Sauron 'cruel one' is an Elvish name and therefore original, but Saruman is Old English for 'cunning-man, wizard' and is therefore a "translation" in the conceit of the book from some word now obsolete in the Common Speech, as "hobbit" is a translation of the original word "kuduk".  Yet we are told that Saruman's Orcs use the S-rune on their helms!  This can only be justified by assuming that the "untranslated original" name of Saruman also just happened to begin with S.

On the other hand, there is also such a thing as carrying l10n too far. Douglas Hofstadter gives the hypothetical example of a history of France which, when translated into German, became a history of Germany!  (The two countries do share common political roots; the French emperor called Charlemagne in French and English is known to Germans as the German emperor named Karl der Große.)

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