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.
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 *)
•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.
•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
•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).