Category Archives: language

What’s new in localization in Xcode 9 and iOS 11 – The developer and translator guide

Xcode 9 brings a surprising amount of localization updates that make it easy for developers to internationalize their apps. These changes are also helpful for the translators and localization companies like us. We want you to implement these localization features in Xcode, so let me tell you about them!

Test your app in any language/region in Xcode 9

The Test scheme editor has a couple of excellent new localization features in Xcode 9. It used to be time-consuming to see what your app looks like in each  language. Now all you have to do is set the language and region in your automated Test.

Notice another nice addition: Show non-localized strings. This should help you find those hard-coded strings you forgot to internationalize in the first place!

Grab localized screenshots too

Tests can capture screenshots as well. There are two great reasons capturing screenshots with Tests for localization.

  1. Use the localized photos to send to translators. Did you know Babble-on has a whole developer portal just for testing your localized screenshots? It’s the BEST way to ensure your localized iOS or Mac app is ready to ship worldwide.
  2. Remember the App Store? Love it or hate it, users are much more attracted to localized screenshots of your app than seeing the English.

You can now write a single Test to capture screenshots in all your localized languages. That is a huge timesaver!

XCTAttachment(screenshot:app.screenshot())

There are a couple of new pseudolocalization languages to try out in Xcode 9 as well, including better right-to-left support to test Arabic and Hebrew. The new right-to-left pseudolanguage actually writes your English “backwards” so you know how it feels:

Lorem ipsum    ->  muspi meroL

Plurals with Stringsdict gets full support in Xcode 9

In Xcode 9, export and import of localizations via XLIFF now supports stringsdict files. Next question: what’s a stringsdict? Stringsdict is a dictionary file that helps your app handle the many plural rules in foreign languages without a single line of code. You may not know this, but many languages have more than one plural form. Your sly code (if num >1) to add an ‘s’ to each word never actually worked for Russian… or Arabic… or dozens of other languages. Now you have an easy way to implement the right solution. Note that this can only work when you have a formatted string — a ‘%d’ type number of items for Xcode to parse.Stringsdict template new create in Xcode 9

Stringsdict has actually been the way to do plurals in iOS and Mac for a couple of years now, but it’s finally getting much-needed support in Xcode 9. You can view stringsdict files in a format that makes them much easier to create and to read. Xcode 9 also has templates so you can add plurals with a couple of clicks.

Stringsdict in Xcode 9More importantly, Xcode will export your plural lines in the XLIFF you give to translators. It even knows how many plural forms each language will need (though your translator should know this too, don’t you think?)

And in another “finally” moment, Xcode can view XLIFF files in a nice table format natively. Just double-click on your XLIFF to see. (Before you’d just get the raw XML, which was a mess to read or debug.)

Adaptive strings in Xcode 9

In that same Stringsdict format, Apple has allowed for another useful trick. They call it Adaptive strings. Essentially, this means you can have Xcode pick at runtime which text to use based on how much room is available in the UI. In English, that means you could have a long heading on an iPad screen like:

Worldwide Developer Conference 2017

but use a shorter one on iPhone:

WWDC 2017

It’s not based on screen size, as you might expect. It’s actually about the text length and what can fit. For internationalization that means you can add some abbreviations or alternate wording in languages that just don’t fit your UI (I’m looking at you, German). It’s done very similarly to plurals. You, or more likely your translator, adds in optional wording for each situation and the user’s device sees the correct text at runtime. Pretty cool, right? Of course there are other important ways to make sure there is room in your UI for internationalization: Auto Layout and variable constraints.

Under the radar localization changes in Xcode 9

One small but welcome change in Xcode 9 are warnings. Interface Builder now tells you if a view’s fixed constraint can cause localization problems, such as cutting off the text with the dreaded ellipses. If you can’t solve this on your own after battling with Auto Layout, talk to us and we’ll help you with shorter translations free of charge on anything we did for you!

According to the release notes, Xcode 9 now uses “\n” and “\t” instead of literal newlines and tabs in the strings files it creates. It does understand both the old and new forms, though. Xcode 9 can also export source files with encodings other than UTF-8. It used to fail in those situations, so that’s a good thing!

That’s the roundup! Be sure to check out these Xcode 9 localization resources for more information:

What’s new in Xcode 6 Localization for iOS 8 and Yosemite

Xcode 6 brings XLIFF file format and new localization languages

While developers are poring over the Xcode 6 beta released at WWDC 2014, we’ve been getting questions about some of the big changes and improvements Apple made for localization in iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite. We’ll go in depth in these topics as we update our iOS App Localization Tutorial, but for now here is a recap of the biggest changes.

Update Our new iOS localization tutorial for Xcode 6 is ready. Check it out!

XLIFF comes to Xcode with easy import and export

Apple touts that the new xliff file file format is an industry standard, which can be used by many localization tools. That’s true. Babble-on has been working with xliff for years, so we’re happy to see this change. (We can still work with your .strings files of course.) Essentially, xliff is just an xml file structured specifically for localization. Rather than having to go through the unintuitive process of using two, separate command-line functions to export your strings for localization, Apple now let’s you do it from the menu bar. Select Editor > Export For Localization

The localization editor in Xcode 6 makes it much simpler to export your strings.

The localization editor in Xcode 6 makes it much simpler to export your strings.

The exported xliff file is actually a combination of ALL your .strings files. Those .strings still exist in Xcode — you just won’t need to deal with them any more! Once we’ve translated the en.xliff file for you, you’ll get back a new one for each language: fr.xliff for French, es.xliff for Spanish, and so on. Import those into Xcode using the menu Editor > Import Localizations. Easy! Having just 1 file per language is a great improvement.

In case you do love the command line, Apple also introduced new commands to accomplish the same thing:

xcodebuild -exportLocalizations -localizationPath <dirpath> -project <projectname> [[-exportLanguage <targetlanguage>]]
xcodebuild -importLocalizations -localizationPath <dirpath> -project <projectname> [-forceImport] Import CLI removed from Xcode golden master

Preview localizations and pseudolocalizations in Interface Builder

Another new feature in Xcode 6 is the ability to view your localizations “live” in Interface Builder. This is a good way of checking that your interface doesn’t break or look sloppy in other languages that are more verbose than English (I’m looking at you, German). We hope more developers will take advantage of this tool to improve the design layout for international audiences. In fact, Xcode 6 even lets you preview these issues BEFORE you localize. There is a new Pseudolocalization option for Interface builder offering right-to-left and DOUBLE-length options.

 Testing your app using Apple’s pseudolanguages

  1. Click the target in the Run destination menu and choose Edit Scheme.
  2. On the right, select Options.
  3. Choose a pseudolocalization from the Application Language pop-up menu. Then hit the Close button.
  4. Click Run to relaunch your app in the pseudolanguage.

Apple’s method is nice because it is built in. However, our developers have told us they like the pseudolocalization files we provide because you can view your texts as    

Seeing your texts in a different script makes it easier to spot strings you have overlooked. Apple’s method simply CAPITALIZES words to indicate you forgot to localize them. We still offer free pseudolocalization, including for the XLIFF format, from our Web site.

Free Pseudolocalization

New localization languages, regions, and locales

The other big news for localization in Xcode 6 is the addition of new languages and locales. Specifically, Apple has added its own localizations for:

Hindi
Indian English
Canadian French
Hong Kong Chinese

In addition, Apple added keyboards for Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Indian English, Filipino, SlovenianThat means that, even if iOS 8 is not translated into those languages yet, at least users in those countries can use their own alphabet or keyboard to type out messages.

For developers, the bigger news is the lifting of an old iOS restriction about languages and locales. You can now localize your app into ANY language (even Klingon) — not just those that Apple has done! This means that if you have a project for India, you can localize in Tamil and Bengali even though Apple doesn’t provide system-wide localizations for those languages. That puts iOS on par with Mac OS X in region capabilities. It also means Lord of the Rings fans can add Elvish to the list of languages they support, assuming they find an Elvish translator.

Babble-on can’t translate Elvish or Klingon, but we can help you with some of the other localizations you may want. Contact us!

iOS Language Codes: What do you name your .lproj folder?

Apple’s localization documentation is sometimes lacking. This is especially true for localization topics like language codes. We’ve put together a very handy chart to answer a surprisingly difficult question: Which languages do iOS and the App Store support? It is actually a trick question. Apple supports a different list of language codes and regions on iOS than the iTunes App Store.

UPDATED: 2017. It seems this page about iOS Language Codes is still a hit, but the information has changed since we first published it in 2013. Should be good now!

The difference between the App Store language list and the iOS language list has some real-world consequences. For instance,  you can localize your iPhone app into Hindi, (language code: hi) but you will not be able to paste in the Hindi app description and keywords in iTunes Connect. Since this metadata is important for discovering your app, you may not be as inclined to localize your app into Hindi knowing this fact.

The other way around is also strange. Technically, since iOS 8, you can localize your app into ANY language by including the proper ISO language and region code. That means, technically, you could do Klingon if you wanted. However, Apple itself only localizes the system text into 40 languages, and the chance that your user has selected a language other than one of those is extremely small. In short:

iOS: Supports 40 languages and regional variants (Indian English is the most recent addition)
App Store: Supports 21 languages and 7 additional regions of those languages

We always pass this information on to developers who contact us about localizing their apps into all the languages of the App Store. But we also think Apple should make this information a bit more plain to see. Here is the only page we found documenting it.

iOS Language Codes – The Missing Manual

At the request of the developers we work with, we’ve put together a Knowledge Base article with a complete chart. At a glance you’ll be able to see if the language you want is supported by either/both iOS and the App Store. We’ve also included those handy ISO-639 language codes you always ask us about. You’ll need those to create your en.lproj and other folders to store the localizations of your app in Xcode.

Not sure what a en.lproj folder is? Well check out our iPhone Localization Tutorial first! And we’ve got a tutorial for adding localized app descriptions and keywords too.

Localizing Twitter vocabulary like “Follow” and “Tweet”

Localizing Twitter vocabulary and "words"How does the world say Tweet?

UPDATED: We’ve added lots more Twitter vocabulary and more languages in our iOS Localization Term Glossary!

Facebook succeeded in turning “Likes” into a noun and simultaneously revolutionized the speed at which we build social relationships and destroy grammar. What about Twitter?

Twitter has also introduced new “words” into English. Even for native speakers it is difficult to know how to use them. Stephen Colbert famously “twatted,” but the more popular past tense of “tweet” has settled upon “tweeted.”

For translators and localization engineers, words like “Follow” have become important for many applications. Instead of watching a discussion, we now follow it. But how should we translate Follow into the rest of the world’s languages?

TO TWEET OR TWITTER BY ANY OTHER NAME…

Here is a glossary of the most common Twitter vocabulary localized into some of the languages Twitter currently supports. This “cheat sheet” will be helpful for translators localizing websites and apps that want to maintain consistency with Twitter terms.

Twitter Glossary

Follow
Following 
Unfollow
Tweet
Retweet
Tweets
Mentions
Following
Followers
(verbs/buttons) (verbs) (nouns/lists)
Spanish Seguir
Siguiendo
Dejar de seguir
Twittear
Retwittear
Tweets
Menciones
Siguiendo
Seguidores
French Suivre
Abonné
Se désabonner
Tweeter
Retweeter
Tweets
Mentions
Abonnements
Abonnés
Italian Segui
Following
Smetti di seguire
Twittare
Ritwittare
Tweet
Menzioni
Following
Follower
Portuguese Seguir
Seguindo
Deixar de Seguir
Tweetar
Retweetar
Tweets
Menções
Seguindo
Seguidores
Russian (Твиттер) Читать
Читаю
Отмена
Твитнуть
Ретвитнуть
Твиты
Упоминания
Читает
Читатели
Japanese (ツイッター) フォロー
フォロー中
解除
ツイートする
リツイートする
ツイート
@ツイート
フォロー
フォロワー
Korean (트위터) 팔로우
팔로잉
언팔로우
트윗하기
리트윗
트윗들
멘션
팔로잉
팔로워
Chinese (Simplified) 关注
正在关注
取消关注
发推
转推
推文
提及
正在关注
关注者
Chinese (Traditional) 關注
正在關注
取消關注
推文
轉推
推文
提及
正在關注
關注者

Will tweet for food

This glossary was created by reading through Twitter’s pages in the target languages, but they aren’t perfect. There are cases where one Twitterism might work, and others where local grammar or common sense precludes a term. For example, note that “following” in English is translated in at least two ways for some languages, depending on whether it is the button (“I am following”), or a list of users you are following.

Use the comments to help keep this list updated. I’ll add any languages you need.


Google and Bing Team Up to Make One Bad Translator

If you haven’t checked out Bad Translator, you don’t know what fun you are missing.

Original text:

“I think I’ll use Google Translate to localize my website so that everyone can understand it.”

…50 translations later Google gives us:

“You know, if you use Google, I think all the ingredients.”

Bad Translator does something quite simple, but demonstrates a great point. It asks Google and Bing to translate a phrase from English into another language and back again. Repeating this process dozens of times is reminiscent of the “Telephone” game we used to play as children: whisper a few words into one person’s ear, repeat it to the next, and by the end of the line you get something totally wacky. Often, the results are hilarious.

But if you’re using Google Translate or Bing to translate your company website, the results are often less funny. You quickly lose control of your message and have no idea how you are presenting yourself to foreign audiences.

How far are we from an accurate machine language translation service?

Another question from Quora:

How far are we from an accurate machine language translation service?

As a professional translator, this is a topic that interests me greatly. I agree with Steven’s assessment of what a machine should be able to do, and I believe all of us in the linguistic field believe that machines will be able to do this. The question remains: when?

It is amusing to go back and review science fiction in the past 60 years, which, since the advent of computers, has always believed that we are on the cusp of this breakthrough. “Within a decade” seems to be a common response, but it has been wrong every time and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Advances like IBM’s Watson are encouraging, and show that a computer that is well trained and given copious amounts of data can decipher “what” we mean in most cases. This is half of the battle for translation.

The other half is correctly translating into a given context, and as Steven shrewdly points out, even humans cannot do it properly every time. However, we are good at putting ourselves in the user’s context and deciding to change English units to metric, fixing mailing addresses, and even explaining terms that make no sense in another country. For instance, imagine you are a rental car company in the US: how useful would it be for me to tell you that I have 26 points on my driving record in Italy? Points are good in Italy, with a maximum of 30. You often need a translator or a native to point such things out.

One thing I often tell translators is that the key to translating is not just what you know, but being able to see that you don’t know something. Idioms often make some sense when translated literally, but it takes someone well versed in a language and in their own abilities to identify a phrase that might have a second or third meaning. In these cases, translators research in specialized glossaries, search for examples in articles and search engines, etc. Computer architects will need to teach machines this same skill of double-checking their work.

An interesting circumvention of typical thought on translation is Google’s online translator. In large part, it works like any other translator. However, Google is also trying to gather proper translations (from humans) for everything in every language. For instance, recently it acquired rights to the European patent catalog. Using such information, Google continually improves its translator with the hopes of one day offering translations based on what it “knows” is correct. Even this has its limitations and seems a ways off. Notwithstanding, it does show, of course, that lots of computer power and human intellect is trying to tackle the problem. Ask Google, and its engineers might tell you they’ll be there “within a decade” but we all know this is unlikely.

When will machines be able to translate for us? For getting the gist of something, online translators are already there. They will be much better in 10 years time, and perhaps good enough for many more common uses. But to do a professional-quality translation, where we truly rely on the computer: that might take a lifetime.

How do two cultures with different languages learn to communicate at first contact?

Original question from Quora:

How do two cultures with extremely divergent languages learn to communicate with each other at first contact?

My thesis work was in Latin American studies, and as such I read a lot of the “first encounter” diaries and biographies that were written. The answer is actually surprisingly easy: CHILDREN.

Columbus, Cortez, and likely many of the other explorers kidnapped young children or took them on as servants. As children learn language incredibly quickly, it was not long before they could work as interpreters for the Spanish. By the time of the second voyage to the Americas, Columbus had fluent interpreters.

Other accounts of first meetings between the Spanish and the Native Americans show similar patterns that work from there. The Indian tongues could be divided into several groups, but even if you had an interpreter from one Indian language, that person could communicate with other tribes not too far off, much the way Spaniards and Italians could (and still can) communicate even though they don’t speak exactly the same language.

When no interpreter was available, they were reduced to drawing pictures and using gestures, just as you would imagine. However, language is learned rather quickly, especially when you have a child’s brain to help you!