29(2) - 2017

Roturier, Johann (2015). Localizing apps: A practical guide for translators and translation students. New York: Routledge

Book review by Lucía Morado Vázquez

Localizing Apps is not a book about localizing mobile applications, as the title may seem to suggest; rather, it is a book about localization, with an emphasis on software localization and all the essentials surrounding it. The author has a clear audience in mind — translators and translation students (pp. 10-11) — and introduces the topic of localization from a didactical perspective, bringing together valuable information with practical exercises. The book is supplemented by a website, which contains code examples that are required to complete some of the exercises. The main content of the book is divided into five main chapters that present the field of localization in a sequential manner, from programming to advanced localization.

The first main chapter (chapter 2) introduces the concept of programming. From a translator’s perspective, this topic might seem too technical, but I believe that it is indispensable for those who want to work in the software localization domain. Understanding the product and how it is created might help them determine how to modify it. Basic programming concepts such variables, functions and programmer’s comments are introduced. The end of the chapter includes several hands-on exercises that contextualize the notions described earlier in the chapter. As the author acknowledges, the information provided in this chapter might not be enough for beginners and readers are therefore encouraged to enrich their learning experience with additional useful resources (p. 16).

I believe that certain technical aspects could be better explained if more visual elements were to be added. For example, when introducing XML, the author provides a code example that is explained in two lengthy paragraphs (pp. 35-36). I wonder whether or not total beginners will be able to fully understand this technology just by reading about it. For future editions, I believe that the visual aspect of the book could be improved by enriching the code samples with arrows and labels that describe its various components.

The chapter on programming is logically followed by one on internationalization. In this third chapter, the author describes why it is important to keep this issue in mind when designing an application, as well as the consequences of ignoring it. Using a web application as an example, the author takes us step by step through the process of internationalization and the different tasks that might be involved: allowing user input/output, formats, access via the global gateway, traditional approach to the internationalization and localization of software strings. Roturier also identifies one of the main issues that translators face when translating software strings: lack of context. He provides some possible reasons (expectations, confidentiality and complexity), potential consequences (mistranslations and truncated text) and solutions, for example including a quality assurance phase in the localization workflow or improving the internationalization phase (p. 65).

General and sometimes very complex concepts are described – for example how to internationalize software strings – by using a specific example: the app that has been developed for this book. This approach allows the reader to follow each of the points described by the author using a hands-on approach. However, it also reduces the possibility of replicating this same process with other technologies and tools. Nevertheless, covering all the possible combinations would admittedly be neither realistic nor conceivable for a work of this scope.

Chapter 4 may be viewed as the core chapter of this book. It covers the localization processes and tasks required to localize three different types of content. It is divided into sections that correspond to each type. The translation tasks and tools that can be used to carry out the processes and tasks are only briefly mentioned, as they are the focus of the following chapter. The first section — localization of software content — focuses, as its title suggests, on the process required to localize a software application, from extracting translatable content to the test phase. It also includes relevant information on specific software-related topics, such as placeholders and hotkeys. In the first part of this section, as in the previous chapter, the author mainly develops ideas using the example he has created for this book. This approach might give the reader a sense of continuity and satisfaction, since all the phases lead to a final localized product, however, as previously stated, it might not be valid for other cases. The following section discusses the processes and tasks required to localize user assistance content, and addresses the importance of reusing information and following translation guidelines. The third and shortest section focuses on online information content and how its particular characteristics might not make it ideal for following the processes and tasks described earlier; machine translation is proposed as a viable alternative. The practical tasks proposed at the end of the chapter do not include specific hands-on exercises with step-by-step instructions; instead, the author encourages readers to find open source projects in order to begin localizing a product and user assistance content on their own, as well as to locate and critically evaluate existing translation guidelines.

Chapter 5 focuses on the tools and technology used to carry out the tasks and processes presented in the previous chapter. It is a must-read for translation students who want to learn more about translation technology and how to make the most out of it. Translation management systems and translation environments are introduced in two different sections, although the author insists that the difference between them may diminish with time. A short section is devoted to translation memory, which is viewed as the core functionality of translation environments. Furthermore, special attention is given to terminology in this chapter. The author not only focuses on the technology that can be used to handle terminology, but also highlights its importance from a localization point of view. He presents possible issues related to terminology that has been mishandled during the localization process. Machine translation and post-editing are also well documented, and we can sense that the author has a great deal of experience in these specific fields. In the introduction of the chapter, he openly defends machine translation affirming that “When used correctly, this controversial technology can boost translation productivity and increase translation consistency” (p. 116). The topic of quality assurance, the importance of which has already been stated earlier in the book, makes up the last section in this chapter. The tasks proposed at the end of the chapter are more of an exploratory nature as opposed to a technical one. Roturier offers activities that will allow the reader to begin critically using some of the technology defined earlier in the chapter.

The last main chapter — advanced localization — introduces the concept of adaptation, which may be required under specific circumstances and might not always depend on the translators’ decision or skills. In the first section, the author discusses adaptations that may need to be made during in the localization process with regard to non-textual content (in particular screenshots, other graphics, audio and video), using the example of user assistance material to illustrate his points. In this section, we can see how localization is undeniably connected to other established disciplines, such as audiovisual translation. In the second section, Roturier identifies three types of textual adaptation that might also be necessary: adaptation for search engine optimization, transcreation and personalization. The author discusses the adaptation of functionality in the following section; he explains that the core functionality of an app might need to be adapted in certain situations, especially when dealing with apps that manipulate language. Finally, he addresses the importance of adapting the “location of the physical infrastructure that is required to serve translated content, applications or services to end-users (or even other systems)” (p. 180).

The book concludes with a seventh chapter that recapitulates all the content that has been covered. This final chapter also includes some insight into current and future trends, as well as directions for future research on these topics.

Roturier’s extensive experience in the industry is clearly reflected in the book. It is full of rich and pertinent examples and citations. As he is aware that the vast subject of localization cannot be covered in a single book, he also provides and recommends plenty of resources and ideas so that the reader can continue exploring the field on his or her own. Thanks to the practical tasks that round off each main chapter, the author not only encourages the reader to put into practice the technical challenges that have been described, but also promotes critical thinking, as well as self-exploration and learning, which, in my opinion, are required in a field that is constantly developing and evolving.

In conclusion, this book is an excellent source of knowledge for translators who want to work in localization, and, in particular, in the field of software localization. It is also an exceptional resource for localization teachers and students. The former may further develop and update their knowledge, and take inspiration from the recommended exercises, while the latter may venture into the fascinating field of localization by learning from the author’s experience, as well the other resources listed in the book, and testing out their new skills through the exercises he provides.

DOI 10.17462/para.2017.02.07

October 26, 2017
  29(2) - 2017