Translating documentation developed on Confluence wiki
A few people have asked me recently about translating content into other languages, and what functionality Confluence provides to help that process. This post is a summary of what I know, in the hope that it will give people pointers to follow up on. It’s also an invitation to share what you know about translating technical documentation.
We don’t translate our own documentation yet, so this post is based on conversations with people who need to translate their documentation, on my subsequent investigations, and on a couple of presentations I’ve attended. The presentations focused on content translation in general, and had nothing to do with Confluence.
If you’d like to add information about the requirements and process of getting documentation translated, please comment on this post. I’d love to know more about this area of technical writing.
Getting the documentation to a translation company
Translation companies need the documentation in a specific format. For example, some companies work with Microsoft Word, others with XML. So you’ll need to find out what formats work best for them, and then check if you can convert your Confluence content to that format.
Using core Confluence (that is, without adding any plugins) you can export your content to
- A proprietary XML format – useful for backing up your content and for transferring content from one Confluence site to another.
- Microsoft Word –a basic single-page conversion done via HTML and CSS.
The Confluence documentation has the details.
Plugins provide additional export formats:
- A more flexible export to Microsoft Word via Scroll Office.
- More PDF options via Scroll Wiki PDF Exporter.
- Export to DocBook XML via Scroll Wiki DocBook Exporter.
Getting translated content back into Confluence
You may want to provide the translated content on a Confluence site, as well as the original-language content. In some scenarios, you may want to do the following:
- Send the initial English content for translation. (Let’s assume the original language is English.)
- Upload the translated content into a Confluence space.
- Update the English content for the next product release.
- Send the updated English content for translation.
- Also include a copy of the current version of the translated content, for updating by the translators.
- Load the new version of the translated content into Confluence.
Looking at steps 1 and 2: When sending the English content to the translators, it would be best to send the Confluence XML, so that you can retain the formatting and macros that are part of your content. Then you can upload the translated content into Confluence without having to reapply the formatting and macros.
Looking at steps 5 and 6: If you need to put the new version of the translated content back into Confluence, then the only available option is to use Confluence’s proprietary XML format. These are the steps to follow:
- Export the current version of the translated content from Confluence to XML.
- Send it to the translators and ask them to update the content embedded in the XML.
- Import the updated XML back into the wiki.
Getting rid of page history in the Confluence XML export
The problem with the current XML export is that it includes all the page history, so it is difficult to isolate the current content from the previous versions of the pages. This is troublesome when you are sending your original-language content to the translation company, because the content will probably have been through multiple reviews and releases. Each page will therefore have many versions.
There are two rays of hope here:
- One of the awesome Confluence developers is working on an update which will allow you to exclude page history when doing the XML export. I don’t know yet when this feature will be available, although I have promised him chocolate if he gets it into a release soon. 🙂
- A suggestion: You can use the Copy Space plugin to copy your content to a different space. This will exclude all page history. Then you can do the XML export from the new space. Note that the space key will be different too.
Optimising your content for translation
Here are a couple of references about optimising your content for tranlsation. They discuss content in general, not specifically Confluence-based content .
- A while ago I attended an excellent presentation by Sarah Forget. I blogged about it here: ASTC-NSW day 2: Preparing your documentation for translation.
- Cherryleaf recently published an interview with Jill Fifoot of Lloyd International: Translating and localizing documents – Cherryleaf interview with Lloyd International
One aspect of optimising your content is to employ content reuse. This helps to ensure consistency of terminology, which makes translation easier and the results more reliable. Content reuse can also reduce the number of words to be translated, thus reducing translation costs. In Confluence, you can use the include and the excerpt include macros to reuse content across pages. I’ve written a few posts about content reuse which may be useful.
Over to you. 🙂
Posted on 5 February 2012, in Confluence, technical writing, wiki and tagged Confluence, technical communication, technical documentation, technical writing, translation, wiki. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.