Typically, your content is created and enters Smartling for translation in a file. To achieve the desired results in your translation, file preparation (or file prep) is an essential step in your localization process.
In this guide, we explore some of the most necessary considerations when preparing your file for translation.
1: Structure Your File
It is a common misconception that file prep begins and ends when your content is ready for translation. File prep actually begins with your content creation, and should inform the way you organize your writing. To achieve this in your writing, you should understand how the content in your file will be parsed into strings. Here are some attributes of your writing which may impact how content is appears in Smartling.
The use of short sentences and paragraphs to create a clear structure in your content is not only important for your content creation process, but also for your file preparation process. The use of smaller paragraphs in any business document will create smaller strings and better leverage of existing translations from the translation memory.
Line breaks are fundamental to string size. In business files, for example, a hard return (“enter” key) always creates a new string, meaning if a hard return is used to create a line break in the middle of a sentence, a single sentence would be split into two separate strings in Smartling. This may result in strings that are impossible to properly translate, or at least very error-prone. This in turn could cause revisions, which delays your translation turn around time and increases translation costs.
If you want the content to appear broken into paragraphs but remain a full string, simply use soft returns (shift + enter) instead of hard returns (enter) in your writing. This will parse the string as one, but you get a new line in your content.
For more technical file types, such as JSON or XML, it is important to understand that each element or object is a string, so it's important that your content respect this. Use the newline character (
\\n) intentionally throughout the strings in your file. Keeping strings as whole pieces of content and always full sentences, and not sentence fragments, will ensure both better TM leverage but also better translation quality, as the content will be easier for translators to understand.
PowerPoint is a common file type that frequently causes confusion over its expected behavior in Smartling. If you are creating a deck that you know will be sent for translation, there should be some consideration given to the order in which the text boxes are created, as this influences the order of the strings for translation, i.e. the string order mirrors the chronological order of text boxes in the deck, and not the positioning in the slide.
Being mindful of how your content is structured within the file during the content creation process is the first step in preparing a file for translation.
2: Control Smartling Behavior
The next thing to consider is how Smartling handles the content in the file. Most resource files support the use of directives to control what content is ingested for translation. Directives are instructions to Smartling on how to process your file, such as what content is for translation, and what content is a key, or a placeholder, or a translator instruction etc. The specific file documentation should inform you on how Smartling treats the file by default, and what directives you can apply to the file to customize that behavior.
Most Connectors already apply the necessary directives to control translatable content. However, some connectors offer further control over content parsing in the connector settings. For more information, consult the relevant connector documentation.
This stage of file prep is necessary to ensure the right text is ingested for translation, and to avoid all content in the file, including dynamic content such as placeholders, being ingested as translatable text. Avoiding reviewing file documentation could result in the translation of text that should not have been translated, such as placeholders and translator instructions.
Most of our file documentation has example files with common directives attached, ready for you to download and test with.
It is important to understand that the file is treated as one for all languages you are translating it into. This means that directives are applied on a file-level, not a language-level, and will impact all target languages the file is being translated into. There is no way to configure specific directives to specific languages within the same file. However, you could duplicate the source file and prepare each individually for specific target languages.
For example, prepare one file with a set of directives for a certain cohort of target languages, and prepare a duplicate of the file with a different set of directives for another cohort of target languages. Both files can be uploaded into the same Job for translation in Smartling. Ensure to give the files a unique name (namespace) to ensure the files are treated uniquely (and string sharing is avoided). This is a common best practice when translating the same content into European and also Asian languages, as your source content may be different for each market.
Directives are not supported on business files (Microsoft Office) you can exclude content for translation in such documents using styles. For more information on how Smartling treats these files, read Translating Microsoft Office Documents.
3: Give Your Content Visual Context
Consider how to best provide Visual Context of your content to translators, beyond just seeing the text in the file. There are a number of ways to do this. Firstly, it is important to understand if your file type generates visual context automatically, or if any additional steps should be taken. Your options depend on your content type.
A highly effective method of providing visual context is to include visuals within the file itself. This applies to file types where visual context is generated automatically, meaning the file is visible to translators. This method can often be preferred by translators.
For example, it is common for social media content to be written and translated in an Excel file. The Excel file automatically generates Visual Context - translators will see rows and columns. It is possible to insert an image in the Excel file alongside the content. This method not only helps translators understand your content better, and ensures higher-quality translations delivered faster, but it will also be helpful for you and your team to understand the translations within the translated file.
For resource files that do not have automatic visual context, visual context can be supported by using a combination of clearly understandable string keys, embedding string instructions directly in the source file, and uploading visual context separately from the source file. Visual context is key, but even if that’s not possible, with the right file prep, Smartling can provide a complete “translation environment” in your file.
4: Test For Best Results
Translating content can be expensive, especially when content needs to be retranslated. A quick and easy way to ensuring your content is presented to translators as you want it, is to test it by uploading your prepared file. Uploading a file to Smartling costs nothing. You can upload as many files as you want to Smartling, completely free of charge. Just be mindful not to click the Authorize button. The authorize button approves the translation costs and immediately sends the content for translation.
- Create a test job, but do not authorize it
- In the Job Details, click View Strings to enter the Strings View
Here you can view how your content has been broken down for translation. Translators will have the same breakdown of strings in the CAT Tool, once you authorize it for translation.
- You might see some strings that you do not want to translate, such as a header row or tab name (as shown below).
You may need to adjust your directive translate path or exclude them by selecting each and clicking Exclude from the string actions.
- You can see if the string has visual context by opening the string details.From here, you can decide if additional context is required by manually uploading in the Context tab.
- You might find that additional line breaks (hard returns) are needed for strings that are too long, or soft returns are more appropriate for strings that appear too short. Furthermore, you may also notice that the string order is not as desired. This again goes back to how your content was created, and may need to be adjusted in the source file.
- You can see if your file needs additional directives to control how it has been parsed by default. For example, you might find that your dynamic content has not been secured in the placeholder, so a directive is required to fix that. You can find all supported directives in the documentation for the specific file you are testing.
If you discover that you use the same group of directives for a specific file, talk to your Customer Success Manager about applying a directive template to your project. This saves you from having to apply the directives to the file itself, by including it in the Request Translation modal in your project.
Finally, it is important to note that if you need to adjust the structure of your source file to resolve any issues after testing, such as editing directives, you simply need to save the changes to the source file, and re-upload the file with the same file name. This overwrites the existing file was uploaded initially, saving you from having to manage multiple file versions in Smartling.
For more information on updating source files, read Making Changes to Source Content.