Unlike English, some languages assign a gender to nouns. The adjective agrees with the gender of the noun it modifies. These variations affect how you use conditions in DITA, as the associated adjectives will be correct in some instances and incorrect in others. Here are some guidelines to using conditions so that they work in every language.
Take the condition: The <either actor><or actress> is happy
In English, the sentence is grammatically correct in both cases.
In Croatian, the adjective changes:
- Glumac je sretan(Masculine)
- Glumica je sretna(Feminine)
The same happens in French.
- l’acteur est heureux(Masculine)
- l’actrice est heureuse(Feminine)
Now that we know the specifics of nouns in some languages, let’s look at how DITA localization works. We start with a simple localization process without review.
Localizing conditions without review
- A technical writer writes The is happy
- The translator translates the initial sentence to a target language, such as French, German, and Chinese. A PDF file, using the female condition, is also given to indicate the context. Based on the female condition, the translator translates the sentence and applies the female context. This translated sentence is saved in the CMS, and the content is published correctly.
- he translated version with female context and condition is:
The <or actress> is happy
- Later, the same sentence is reused in another document. When it is published with the male condition, the output is incorrect as it combines the female context and the male condition.
The actor is happy
Localizing conditions with review
Conditional content can also generate frustration and errors if the content is reviewed or stored in the translation memory. The same sentence starts its journey in another DITA topic.
- In this new scenario, the sentence is retrieved from the translation memory, and the translator is not required to check it. It is delivered together with the rest of the content to the CMS.
- The in-country reviewer reviews the sentence with the male condition, which doesn’t match the female context. As he has no control over the condition, he changes the context.
- The reviewer delivers the corrected version to the CMS. He also updates the translation memory.
- So far, everything is fine, until the initial document, with the female condition, gets published again.
It will be an endless loop where reviewers change and complain, the translation memory is updated, and incorrect content is published.
Tip: include adjectives and other variables in the condition
The condition should include all the elements that need to agree with the noun. For our example above, you should place the condition at the sentence level.
<either The actor is happy.><or The actress is happy.>
Conditions pointing to a range of products
If the condition relates to a range of products, some feminine, some masculine, you need to take care of how they are built to prevent translation errors. Take this example:
<either Stop the car with the handbrake on.><or Stop the truck with the handbrake on.> Lift it with a jack and loosen the bolts of the flat tire.
In English, car, truck and it are neutral. It isn’t the case in other languages.
There are two ways around this situation:
- Place the condition at the paragraph level
- Use a generic word instead of the pronoun We highly recommend this solution for technical documentation.
<either Stop the car with the handbrake on.><or Stop the truck with the handbrake on.> Lift the vehicle with a jack and loosen the bolts of the punctured wheel.
Impact on translation costs
Creating localization-ready conditions adds a few words to your content and will cost you from 1 to 5 percent more in translation. However it is well worth it, compared to the risk you take in publishing grammatically incorrect translations, and the time required to fix the errors.