Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Hello World": learning to program to better understand how translation works for software and the web

I'm developing a new class on software and web page localization for DU's University College.

I plan to teach how to create a web page using a text editor: I find that actually inputting the code, and see what the result looks like in a Browser, then changing it and see the effects of the changes, helps to understand how the web works.

I'll also teach how to write some simple programs, to show what's code, what are translatable strings, and how to tell the difference.

Finally, I'll introduce some more advanced topics, such as explaining the role that variables play in the text that users read on screen.

I don't think that software and web translators should necessarily become programmers (though knowing how to program at least a bit is often helpful). But to do our job better we should understand how various components of software go together. This way we can know what to translate and how, what not to translate and why, and, above all, what kind of questions to ask in case of doubt.

You can find more information on the Certificate of Advanced Study in Translation on the University College Web site.


  1. I taught a similar class to the grad students at Kent. It's important to know what tags mean so that translators don't break the tags and ruin the entire page. Let me know if you need someone to bounce ideas off of.

  2. Very good idea, Riccardo!

    I'm currently working in a medium sized translation agency where I'm training other PMs on a few localisation (website and software) issues - I'm sure they would have strongly benefitted from a course such as the one you propose.

    Luckily enough, even though I graduated in translation (SSLMIT di Trieste come te, se non sbaglio), I've always been interested in IT and I learnt the basics of programming by myself. It's been an extremely important asset that helped me find good jobs in the language industry.

    I think you or your students might find this link useful:



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