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I am trying to translate an application with an English UI into Hindi.

The menu items such as Edit in English can be interpreted as either nouns or verbs, which doesn't seem to matter as much. While translating such words into Hindi (हिंदी) depending on whether I use it as a noun or a verb, the expression varies and the meaning also changes significantly.


Example :

  • Edit (noun) - संपादन

  • Edit (verb) - संपादित करें , which basically is the present perfect form with an adverb

The first is obviously shorter but, in my opinion, it does not convey an action. It is equivalent to referring to an object.

The second form conveys the action but is longer and not well-suited to a menu bar, where spaces are the separators between buttons.


This same issue is there for just about every option that there is.

Do I sacrifice meaning over style and size by selecting the noun or do I go for the longer but more accurate action description?

What general rules are there while translating menus from one language to another with widely varying constructs?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Take a look at the Apple HCI Guidelines for menus titles and items.

http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/#documentation/userexperience/conceptual/applehiguidelines/Menus/Menus.html

Some Microsoft Hindi terminology glossaries for well-know apps UIS are here: http://www.microsoft.com/Language/en-US/Search.aspx

Some considerations:

  • Context is everything
  • I would say never shorten a word JUST to save space. I would also say dont shorten JUST to save space. The meaning drives the UI action. If it's a action then use a verb. It's it's just an organizing title, then a noun.
  • What is the user expectation here - what are they used to with similar desktop, web or mobile apps?

The issue with translation is of course (usually) text expansion over English (rules vary), reuse of strings in one-to-many scenarios (cannot be done in all languages) and concatenation of text and dyanmic constructions. There are ways around this (google up Mozilla L20n for example).

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1  
According to Microsoft and Apple, I should go with the verb. Thanks +1 –  AsheeshR Jan 28 '13 at 5:24

It's a tradeoff between a number of factors, and there really isn't a 'right answer' here.

You haven't said how other applications in Hindi handle this. You should take a look at a number of popular Hindi applications and see how they handle it. If there is a standard way of dealing with this, then you should follow that.

In the absence of any general standard or consensus, I would go for accuracy over terseness, but that also depends on design constraints.

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I don't personally know Hindi, so unfortunately, I won't be much help in specifics in this case. In general, though:

There really is no substitute for working with a native speaker with domain knowledge. Translation can be expensive and it needs to be verified, but if the market is potentially worth the investment, you should seek out the right people and pay for translation. Don't forget to verify it with one or two other sources.

Absent that, you should at least be looking at conventions put forward by other software in that language and language, preferably software that was written natively for that language rather than software that was translated (who knows how rigorous their translation methods were?).

You might also find a question I asked on Stack Overflow about Design Considerations for Internationalization helpful.

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1  
Hindi is my mother tongue :) Thanks –  AsheeshR Jan 28 '13 at 5:25
    
@AshRj No problem. Sorry I couldn't help with your main issue, then, but do check out that link. I think it still might help your process. –  Virtuosi Media Jan 28 '13 at 5:57

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