5 pitfalls in translating French SAP ERP implementations and how to avoid them

(Ici vous trouverez l’article en français)

More and more ERP and CRM systems are delivered in the English language which severely limit adoption by non-English speakers. Frequently, I am asked to optimize English language systems for French language speakers. Especially, with the advent of machine translations, verifying and optimizing translations is ever more important for user adaptation. I translate into French software applications and their related tools such as instruction and learning materials.

With over 30 years experience in implementing information systems, mostly Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relations Management (CRM) projects, my focus is on efficient and effective IT use, by creating rich e-Learning environments, with the help of: Blackboard, Moodle, Dokeos, uPerform, User Production Kit (UPK), Articulate, WPB, Enable Now.

For the past 10 years I have been working in France. During this period I have encountered many challenges and pitfalls. The following section outlines the most common pitfalls and the solutions I’ve found for them.

PITFALL 1) Error-free and quick translating do not go together.

My solution :
•Use of translation software

This increases the working speed. I use translation machines such as translate.google.com, deepl.com and linguee.com. Especially deepl.com I appreciate. A strong point for me is the easy availability of synonyms of the translated word.
•Combination of this translation software

It increases accuracy. If you translate the same sentence into the different types of translation machines, you can judge the quality by comparing different results. In this way the quality of the translation can be improved.
•Manual intervention

Because translation software does not work error-free. Translation software produces roughly 80 percent good French translations. The error rate of around 20 percent can be reduced. For example by making the texts you enter more simple and shorter.

It helps that I have been working for 10 years in a variety of French IT environments. For example deepl.com “e-mail” translated into “courriel”. However, I knew that while the majority of French people will understand “courriel” most will use “e-mail”.

PITFALL 2) Users find it very difficult to read manuals and other learning materials. Despite the advice RTFM *)

My solution:
•Increase the accessibility of manuals and instructional materials. By means of:

◦Split longer sentences in smaller parts.

◦Name the content of paragraphs with a short, clear word.

◦Apply a logical order of the different paragraphs.

◦Be consistent with your translated words. It is easier for the reader to read. When translating, keep an overview of which words you chose.

◦Begin enumerations with a verb in the authoritative sense. For example, as I did in the enumerations in this blog post. (Am I right? Look at those words, I’ve made them italic. Do you think it helps the reader?)

•Inform the reader briefly and clearly where to find what.

•Use consistently the same terms. Improve results when a glossary is used. This glossary must be kept up to date all the time.

Consistent abbreviations also are helping the user.

*) Read The F***** Manuel

PITFALL 3) Pure text is easier to translate than text in pictures.

For example with screenshots. The text is then included in a file that cannot be processed by a word processor. Translating the texts into images takes considerably more time. Due to time pressure, project management decides more often to work with the original (screen) images. So the user will see French text with English pictures.

My solution:
•Include consistently the French and English words in the text. For example, ‘Commande d’achat/Purchase Order’. It can be beneficial to use “Cd’a/PO” here. The user reads besides the French word also the English word he/she sees in the pictures.

See also the next point!

PITFALL 4) English language is more concise than French

My solution:
•Use abbreviations. It helps readers if the same abbreviations are being used consistently. For example, abbreviate “Commande d’achat” with “Cd’a”. It was mentioned above that the ‘Commande d’achat/Purchase Order’ should be shortened to ‘Cd’a/PO’. In order to keep everything unambiguous, the glossary discussed above is an excellent tool.

PITFALL 5) The systems for which training material has to be made are not yet, or only partially, available.

My solution :
•Search for translations on websites such as sapterm.com and help.sap.com. By no means all of these websites provide the French translation. However, French translations of an important part of SAP concepts can be found there. How large that part is depends on how much custom work is done in the SAP system used. For custom work, it is much less certain that a correct translation will be found.

An example of the usability of sapterm.com. For sales orders, sapterm.com gives: “commande d’achat”, “bon de commande” and “ordre de vente”. See below:



Working with translation software increases productivity enormously. And for a good, flawless result manual adjustements are still needed.

Finally: I don’t know everything by a long shot. I feel the older I get, the more I realize the little I know. My solution: I am looking up a lot of issues. For example, bending French verbs, for which I use la-conjugaison.nouvelobs.com. And also reverso.net .

And in this way, I’ve already provided many satisfied project leaders with translations. And many more users have gone to work to learn to use a system. With teaching materials that I helped to make.

Do you have questions on translating for SAP ERP implementations?
I love to answer them!

I have experience with financial and logistic software solutions: IBM-Copics, Mapics, Dun & Bradstreet, AMAPS, Big Bear, King, Exact, Baan, JDEdwards, Siebel, Oracle products such as PASS, E-Business Suite (EBS).

And I worked with many SAP products. Started in 1989 in a mainfraime environment (SAP R/2). Followed by client-server environments (SAP R/3) and mySAP ERP (ECC ERP Central Component). Main functional experience in the fields of SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM). More specific projects with Enterprise Central Component (ECC), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Master Data Management (MDM), Apparel and Footwear Solution (AFS), Extended Warehouse Management (EWM), HANA (formerly known as High-performance Analytics Appliance).


Quality of cycle paths Lille>Paris

Between Lille & Paris I came across cycle paths of very different quality. / Entre Lille et Paris, je suis tombé sur des pistes cyclables de qualité très différente.

JUNE 2016 I pictured some of these different qualities below: / JUIN 2016 J’ai présenté ci-dessous quelques-unes de ces différentes qualités :





One has to search good for suitable cycling routes / Il faut chercher bon pour pistes cyclables appropriées !

z pain 1

Typically Dutch? Nasi Goreng?

From ± 1800 – 1949 Indonesia was a Dutch colony. The Dutch imported, among a lot of other stuff, the national food of Indonesia “Nasi Goreng“, which means “fried rice”. My mother learned me to fry rice. She was a nurse in Indonesia from 1947-1949 . I prepare “nasi” like this (ci-dessous il y a ce texte en français) :

  1. Fry meat (one can choose any meat, mostly I choose chicken or porc, and bacon is a good choice) koriander and cumin, when brown add onions.
  2. Add diced carottes (one can boil them a bit, but sure bake well with the onions, so the carottes are getting the koriander/cumin taste)
  3. Add rice (which was boiled before)
  4. Add the cabbage, which you chop into pieces (take care that cabbage is stewd gentle)
  5. Vegetarians do not add meat (one can add more carottes!)
  6. And vegans? Often I have prepared a quick nassi as meal for my self. With a mint tea from the garden I do find it a good meal.

Goes well with: soja sauce, eggs, bananas, coconut , peanuts, raisins, fried shrimp, etc. etc.

(EN) Clockwise: leak, carrots, rice, meat, cabbage. / (F) Dans le sens des aiguilles d´une montre : le poireau, les carottes, le riz, lardons + les oignons cuits avec de la coriandre + cumin et du chou
(EN) Nasi is backed! Also you see the bananas ready to be backed, ginger, eggs, sambal soya sauce, peanuts sauce / (F) Le nasi est cuit! Ici on voit aussi : des bananes prêtes pour être cuit, le gingembre, les oignons cuits, des œufs durs, sauce piment, sauce soja et sauce cacahuètes


A table! :)
(EN) Come and get it! / (F) À table! 🙂
(EN) Something to drink? Tea goes well. Or beer. / (F) Quelque chose à boire? Du thé convient parfaitement. Ou de la bière


Ci-dessous la recette en français :

De ± 1800 – 1949 L’Indonésie était une colonie Néerlandaise. Les Néerlandais ont amené le plat national d’Indonésie : “Nasi Goreng” ce qui veut dire “Riz Cuit”. Ma mère m’a appris à cuir le riz. Elle était infirmière en Indonésie de 1947-1949, . Moi je le fais comme ça:

  1. Cuire de la viande (on peut prendre n’importe quelle viande) avec coriandre et cumin, puis une fois cuite ajouter les oignons.
  2. Ajouter les carottes, couper en dés (on peut bouillir en avance, mais je trouve important de faire revenir bien les carottes avec le mélange des oignions, coriandre et cumin)
  3. Ajouter le riz (que l’on fait bouillir en avance)
  4. Ajouter le chou, couper en lamelles (le chou doit être bouilli jusqu’à ce que les lamelles soient fondantes)
  5. Pour les végétariens, ne pas ajouter la viande (on peut mettre plus de carottes!)
  6. Et les végétaliens? Plus souvent j’ai le nassi prépare, comme petit repas pour moi même. Avec un the du menthe, beaucoup carrottes, choux ça me donne un bon repas.

Mes petites astuces : vous pouvez saupoudre de sauce de soja, bananes, coco rapée, cacahuètes, raisins, beignets de crevettes etc. etc. Très clair, brève description sur fr.wikipedia l’explication de “Nasi Goreng”. Pour plus de détails: les recettes “Nasi Goreng” sur marimiton.org.


Préférence personnelle : des œufs cuits, avec un sauce aux cacahuètes (« sauce sate »). Sauce aux cacahuètes :

  • Remuer un oignon dans l’huile.
  • Ajouter de l’ail
  • Ajouter de la crème de cacahuètes.
  • Faire une sauce en ajoutant du lait (et : vinaigre, piment, sauce soja, noix coco)


Hieronder het recept in het Nederlands:

Van ± 1800 – 1949 was Indonesie een Nederlandse kolonie. De Nederlanders importeerde, naast een heleboel andere zaken het nationaal gerecht van Indonesie: “Nasi Goreng“, wat betekent “rijst gebakken”. Mijn moeder deed me voor hoe je nassi maakt. Ze verbleef in Batavia, het huidige Djakarta, als verpleegster in het Nederlands leger 1947-1949 . Toen ik het ouderlijk huis verliet om te gaan studeren, leerde ze hoe je het simpel aan kan pakken. Men neme een zakje Nassikruiden van Conimex. En volgt de korte en heldere handleiding op dat zakje. Als student en later vader, en weer later man van een Franse vrouw heb ik menige nassi gemaakt. En daar heel veel positieve reacties op gehad. Ik maak nassi als volgt:

  1. Bak vlees in vet, en voeg koriander- (ketoembar) en komijn (djinten)-poeder toe (alle soorten vlees komen in aanmerking, ik kies vaak kip of varkensvlees, en uitgebakken spekjes krijgen veel waardering). Als vlees aangebakken is voeg gesnipperde ui toe.
  2. Voeg wortel in dobbelsteentjes toe. (Je kan wortel een beetje garen door vooraf te koken in water, winterpeen kook je langer dan jonge bospeen. Bak vooral de wortelblokjes mee in het vlees/ui mengsel, zodat de kruiden goed in de wortel trekken.)
  3. Bak rijst mee (die je vooraf hebt gekookt)
  4. Voeg stukken, reepjes kool toe. Ik kies vaak witte, savoie of chinese kool (let op dat de kool genoeg mee gaart, maar niet kapot gekookt wordt.)
  5. Vegetariers voegen geen vlees toe (echter ze kunnen meer wortel toevoegen!)

Erbij serveren kan : ketjap, gekookte of gebakken eieren, saté-saus, gebakken bananen, kokos , pinda’s, rozijnen, kroepoek etc. etc.

En als je weinig tijd en/of ervaring hebt. Koop een zakje nassikruiden en volg de handleiding!


How to do “omelette aux poireaux”

Roel and Patricia
Me and Patricia. (Pictured by an uncle of Sam van Keulen, who organises great parties in Burgundy, France).

Patricia learned me to make “omelette aux poireaux”. In English: “Leak omelet”.  Or “Prei-omelet” in Dutch. The vegetable “Poireau”, “leak” or “prei” seems to be available always and everywhere in Northern Europa.

It is simple. It takes about half an hour.  You’ll need:

  • Leak
  • Eggs
  • Butter or oil
  • Salt & pepper

Start with cleaning the leak. (Personnaly I start washing the sand or clay out of the different leafs of the leak, before chopping it in to pieces. Often I’ve seen people washing after chopping. I my humble opinion it is more difficult to get the dirt out of the chopped leak. And just a bit of sand can spoil your meal.). Then:

  1. Chop the leak (The whiter bottom parts will give smoother taste than the greener upper parts. I recommend a good mix of both)
  2. Heat leak slowly in enough butter or oil.  Reckon it takes more than a quarter of an hour. (It is a crucial phase. You need to find out the just amount of butter/oil. And you have to keep an eye on the leak nearly contiously. Use modest heat so the leak does not dry, and gets burned. It helps if you have a reasonable thick layer of leak-pieces in your pan. Cover with a lid, while heating, avoids to fast drying.) Still I want to experiment on where to add the salt and pepper best: adding to the leak, or to the beated eggs?
  3. Beat the eggs thoroughly. After breaking the eggs, beat a lot of air into content of the broken eggs. Beat till the liquid mass gets foamy. Use adjusted equipment to beat, a fork does not beat very easy.
  4. Add salt and pepper to the eggs
  5. (Take a part from the leak aside, if you have too much leak in your pan to make an omelet. This leak you can serve separate, together with the omelet.)
  6. Pour the foamy egg mass over the smoothed leak, and wait patiently till your omelet is slowly taken shape. You can have it jelly or more dry. Somewhere in between I find the most tasty.)
  7. Serve with bread. I like an accompanying hot tea. Even more I appreciate a cold white wine

When I am hosted via networks like couchsurfing.com, bewelcome.org, warmshowers.org or trustroots.org I often offer my hosts to prepare a simple meal. I have been preparing “omelette aux poireaux” in many different kitchens. In Paris, Genth, Antwerp, Rotterdam. And much more smaller places. Always followed by nice conversations with the people hosting me.

It astonishes me how much variations I got while preparing omelets. Only two simple ingredients: leak and eggs. It seems simple. However I have spent rather some time on reading and watching following links. I like the information on omelets at wikipedia. Or watching Jamie Oliver making one in rather simple way. Or watch one of the several videos of french chief Jacques Pepin (speaking english), like in this video. And there is much more to be found. It astonishes me. (I hope to add some information on a recipe of a certain french chief La Varenne living around 1600. This recipe I read in the seventies in a glossy magazine “Avenue”. While preparing a bicycle trip to France. I noted it down in a little note book . I would like to re-read the text and write about it, in a later stage.)

Patricia has added all kinds of cheeses, all kinds of vegetables to her ommelettes. And she does much, much more for me! I love he