What does a linguistic tester do? The name seems to imply it is the dream job for a grammar stickler who closely scrutinizes every word in a sentence. Although linguistic skills are essential in this job to spot mistranslated text, grammar mistakes, culturally inappropriate context in a software or website, it also requires a keen eye for the product’s design and functionality. In essence, the linguistic tester’s job is language quality assurance. Below are some tips for linguistic testers:
1. Do your research
Most linguistic testers have strong backgrounds in languages and translation but might not be familiar with the client’s industry. For instance, linguists might not have an engineering background, which would require extra research efforts to understand the specific terminology of high technology products, software, and services. Without the background knowledge it can be easy to mistranslate terms.
2. Know the UI
Linguistic testers that work with user interfaces (UI) or platforms should familiarize themselves with the platform environment and check if the context of the translated strings are appropriate, for instance, buttons and labels would be translated differently from error messages. Buttons would require brief texts but not messages. It is important to distinguish between buttons, labels, and error messages in software platforms and apps.
3. Communicate with developers
Even the most skilled translator will occasionally run into text they cannot understand, and situations where all research fails to generate useful results. It is important to keep communication channels with developers open at all times, and check with developers’ the texts and functions of the product in question. Developers might also invent terms that are specific to their product. When in doubt, check with the product development team to ensure accuracy.
4. Cultural appropriateness
When products are being internationalized, a context suitable for a domestic market might not be applicable in a foreign market. It is important to check strings and texts for correct dates, times, and calendar and phone number formats. In some cases, regulations or governing agencies mentioned in the original product might be inapplicable. Another example is sense of humor and personification of objects might be appropriate in one culture but not in another.
5. An eye for design
Designs of products might not always be culturally appropriate. For example, some Asian languages permit text written vertically and read from left to right but this layout design does not translate well into English or other European languages. Sometimes the original source language leaves limited space for texts of the translated language, such as Chinese characters that tend to take up less space than English. This can cause English text to be crammed and difficult to read in the final product. Other design issues can include button designs that are not easy to read in the target language.
To sum up, linguistic testers are more than linguistic experts. The skill set required covers a much broader range that requires close attention to details, and patience to deal with unstable test environments. These are just some of the things linguistic testers at CSOFT International deal with on a daily basis. The company has experienced bilingual translators that provide services in this lesser known linguistic sector to large Chinese technology companies including Alibaba and Huawei, and continues to help guide brands on their journey to international deployment.
Author: Judy Lin, Global Communications, Shanghai