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Technical Writing
August 13, 2014
xx min read

Using DITA XML to streamline and improve your localization processes

Write Once. Translate Once. Reuse Everywhere.

There are a lot of reasons why structuring your content with DITA XML can make for a quick and painless localization process. The same efficiencies that the DITA information standard brings to authoring, content management, review, and publishing can also be applied to translation management.

A big part of the savings you get from DITA will come from content reuse. Modular, topic-based DITA content can be shared by multiple products in a variety of deliverables, but it only has to be written and maintained in one place. That also means it only has to be translated once.

Automate and control the translation process

A good DITA XML CMS system adds even more efficiency to the localization process. Storing information in a pile of XML files or Word documents is not conducive to any kind of systematic content management, and adding translation to the mix can multiply your headaches by 10. Putting your content into a predictable structure makes it easier for Localization Service Providers (LSP) that understand DITA to import your files, manage the translation process, then export them back to you.

Heretto’s Localization Manager provides access to a list of the localization jobs in progress for any publication, so you can manage content that has been checked-out and exported to the LSP. You can start a new localization job using XLIFF or an export of the DITA source files, and see the current localization status for the document.

Heretto's Localization Manager

You will have to decide how you want to send your documentation for translation. Localizing topics as soon as they are written can greatly improve your time to market, however sending whole documents in a DITA bookmap can provide the necessary context for accurate translation. In the Heretto CMS, you can attach a full source copy of the documents to your export as reference material, another way to provide your LSP with the context they need.

Remembering what has already been translated

Before sending the file for localization you can opt to have Heretto replace any exact matches it finds, reducing the translation word count. If you're using a third party localization tool or provider that has their own translation memory software, you may wish to have them do the auto-matching and replacing themselves.

The more you work with an LSP, the smoother everything goes. As your provider gets to know your content and processes better they can start to build in some automation, and the translation memory that is stored in their system will further cut down on the number of paragraphs that need translation.

When there are those inevitable last-minute changes to the product, LSPs with good translation memory may be able to automatically update already translated segments with the new information. Some translation management systems are better at this than others, so if this is important to you make sure you do your research before settling on a provider.

How to get an accurate translation

Getting consistent, accurate translations begins with good writing practices; following a few simple rules will help you get the results you want. Use terminology consistently, avoid slang and figures of speech. Use images where possible, especially diagrams with few or no words, and indicate anything that should not be translated, like measurements or currency.

Because word order varies so widely between languages, it is best to write short, simple sentences. When planning substitutions using DITA’s ph and keyword tags, do not reference individual words, as word order differences will inevitably lead to grammar mistakes. Instead, only use substitution for linguistically complete sentences.

Dominick Kelly, Client Solutions Manager of XTM International, providers of the leading web-based translation management and translation tool XTM Cloud, gave an insightful talk about DITA and localization. Here is a recording of the webinar on Translation for the Fortune 5,000,000.

Once you get your translated content back from the LSP, you will need to review it for accuracy. This is another area where reducing the number of files and moving them through a web-based workflow can really have a big impact, especially when your translator is in Pago Pago.

In Heretto’s workflow tool, a documentation manager assigns a completed localization job for review and tracks its progress in a dashboard. There is no seat charge for reviewers, and everyone has global access to the content through their browsers. Any comments or corrections are made directly on the DITA content where everyone can see, and version control is strictly maintained.

Publishing your translated content

Finally, DITA makes it easy to manage localization jobs when it comes time to publish. A tip: If your source language is English, make sure you leave a lot of white space in your design templates, as it generally requires more characters to say the same thing in other languages.

A lot of LSPs will take your content, flow it into InDesign and charge you to lay it out and produce a PDF. This is essential for some content, but in many cases, the whole Desktop Publishing step can be avoided with an automated publishing pipeline. It’s worth looking into; the result can be simultaneous output to multiple formats and languages at the click of a button with very little ongoing cost, saving even more time and money.

Create great content together

Write, review, translate, and publish all from one system. Heretto is the only ContentOps platform that allows multiple authors to work together at the same time.