Adventures in translating an app to Chinese

This is a how-to.  A log of steps to take.  I am not an expert.  This is rudimentary, but better than nothing.  The results of this amateur translation might not be the best.   But the results are probably no worse then translations coming in the other direction.

Preparing your development computer

Your development computer must be capable of displaying the glyphs of the language into which you will be translating.  You usually must install more packages.

For Ubuntu, see Pinyin Joe.  Pinyin is a standard way of writing Chinese, across many dialects of Chinese.

If you don’t have the necessary software, the symptom is that when you paste Chinese characters onto your computer, they appear as boxes.

For translation, you don’t need ‘input methods.’  You will only be copy and pasting Chinese characters, not inputting them.  You don’t need a special keyboard.

General comments about the ease of translating apps

For an app, much that needs translation are simple words or phrases, and  have special computer meanings.  Such special computer meanings often appear as separate definitions at translating web sites.

Alternatively, you can find another app that is translated, and copy the translations from it.

Error messages, which are often complete sentences and questions, are more difficult to translate well.

Translating simple words and phrases

The best web site for translating is

The steps are:

  • enter an English word or phrase and choose the ‘Search’ button.  You will see a list of translations.
  • pick a translation with the appropriate meaning and part of speech
  • click on the translated string to see a list of reverse translations to English.  That helps you know whether the forward translation is correct, or gives you ideas for a better forward translation
  • copy and paste the translation (Chinese characters) into your translating program (such as Qt Linguist.)

Translating sentences

To translate sentences, you need at least a rudimentary knowledge of the grammar.   See Wiki.

The steps are:

  • translate words and put them in what you think is an appropriate order
  • copy the translated sentence into Google translate and translate it.  Check that the English meaning is not too strange.

The difference between a word translator and Google translate

I think that a site such as wordreference starts with translated words  (it also may have translations for idiomatic phrases.)  It is your responsibility to understand grammar and parts of speech.  The data there is much about parts of speech, tense, gender and so forth.  In other words, the data there is provided by humans, asserting attributes of words (but usually just words, not always phrases or sentences).

Whereas Google simply has a codex of translated text.  It finds the best match for your source text in that codex.  It has little understanding of grammar, parts of speech, etc.  It’s success depends on whether it has indexed documents in the ‘computer application’ arena.  For example, if it has indexed the user’s manuals for many applications, it might find a good translation for phrases in your app.



One thought on “Adventures in translating an app to Chinese

  1. Pingback: Deploying PyQt Python Qt apps cross platform using pyqtdeploy | plashless

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