Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Twitter in Arabic

In case you didn't know it, twitter is going to launch an Arabic interface soon. But since we are now in the crowdsourcing age, instead of translating the interface themselves, they are having this website where people like you and me can suggest Arabic translations to the bits and pieces of their interface. Well, they are translating it into many languages, not just Arabic, but Arabic is what I'm concerned of here.

As a translator you get a cool badge beside your name, I didn't get mine yet, but according to this page it should be on its way. Back to the translation website, in there, beside the ability to suggest translations to the bits and pieces of the twitter interface, you also vote for other people's suggestions. And the more you participate the higher your level as a translator becomes. Don't what is the real value of the Translators Level, but you know, we are used on Foursqure Mayorships where we are obsessed with competing on meaningless trophies just for the sake of having fun. I also believe the translation with the highest number of votes gets accepted.

Finally, I'd like to add here that we always hated how Arabic software companies use a wooden-language for their Arabic softwares, so now since it's us who will decide on how to translate the interface. Please for God's sake:
  • Do not translate the phrases word by word, try to use the most meaningful translation. For example when it says "You must provide an email address", and since Email in Arabic is translated into two separate words, and not to make things very long, we can omit the word address in our translation especially that the meaning in Arabic is already clear. That's why I voted for "يجب إدخال بريد إلكتروني" instead of "يجب إدخال عنوان بريد إلكتروني".
  • Also since we are translating from scratch, people recently invented a cool word for the word "tweet" which is "تغريدة", and it is widely used now, so I believe it is nicer to use it instead of writing the English word in Arabic letters. On contrary, for the case of Mobile phones, we normally use it as it is here in Egypt, so I guess "موبايل" should be used instead of "محمول", however this is just my opinion as in other Arab countries the case might be different, so this needs to be discussed further on the translation forum.
  • Why should "Welcome back!" be literally translated to "أهلا بك مجدداً!", how about "حمد لله على السلامة!" as an alternative? Isn't this how we more commonly say it? Let me get crazier here ... how about "البهو" or "الإستقبال" for "Home Page" instead of "الصفحة الرئيسية". Again, such suggestions need to be discussed, but you know, I am putting them here as examples for how we can come out with cool and handy alternatives to the old-fashioned terms we have.
  • This is a comment for Twitter engineers. In English we say 1 User and 2, 3, 4, etc. Users. However in Arabic it's slightly different, for 1 we have certain form for the world Users, and for 2 we have another form, then for 3 - 10 some other form, and then from 11 to infinity other form somehow similar to that of the 1 User. So the point is that, your translation system is more ready to differentiate between the English forms of the sentence but I guess it needs to be adapted to suit the Arabic form. Or may be we as Translators can come out with workarounds to use in our translations if a technical solution from Twitter's side is not possible
  • ِAlso another comment for twitter, sometimes it is not clear what is the context of the word to be translated. I mean for example in the English language, there is no masculine and feminine words, and when translated some phrase like "must not contain URLs", it is not clear if it is referring to something masculine or feminine to adapt the Arabic translation accordingly. Also a phrase like "Include retweets", it is not clear if it is imperative as in "Please Mr. user include some tweets" or is it just a present tense phrase "Those so and so include tweets", and hence the context is also needed here to adapt the Arabic translations accordingly. Same goes for "contact", "update", "reply to tweet", etc.