Searching for the right string to translate

Created by Matthew Revell on
search string translation
Last updated by:
Jeroen T. Vermeulen on

Sometimes a program running on your system shows you a message that is poorly translated, and you would like to help by fixing it. How can you do this in Launchpad?

For starters, you'll want to search for the message string. To do this, you need to make two guesses.

The first guess is: are there any parts of the message that are variables? For example, if the message says something like "found 14 items," there will not be different messages for "found 10 items," found 11 items," "found 12 items," and so on. Instead, the program will contain a string like "found %d items " or "found $nitems items," or any of a number of variations. Try to identify those replaceable parts and leave them out of your search text. Sometimes large parts of the message come from a different place, for example when the program gives you the reason why something in another piece of software failed. So a message like "Could not save settings: out of disk space" can be composed out of two halves produced by different software packages, and translated separately. You don't have to get this exactly right to get search results, but if you can, you'll get fewer and more useful search results.

Once you have an idea of what to search for, go to any Launchpad page and enter your search string in the Search box.

This will probably produce a number of pages, and that's where the second bit of guesswork comes in: which is the right one? Try looking for pages with titles like "Translating <...> in <...> to <your language>." The name of the software may not be familiar, because the program you run may be calling on other software to do parts of the work. You'll also want to pay attention to the exact context: a program can be translated in Launchpad by itself, but there may also be a translation in different distribution versions such as Ubuntu's Hardy Heron, another in Intrepid Ibex, and so on.

Once you are on the "translating" page, you may not see your message. This page has an additional search box just for searching through the specific translation you're looking at. Try entering a part of your message there. This search is much more precise, so try typing a small but characteristic piece of the message _exactly_ as you expect it to appear in the program.

Did you find the string you were looking for? Then there is probably, depending on how the maintainers configured access, an input box where you can enter your own suggestion. Try to be consistent with the rest of the translation, using the same words and style. If you have time, locate the translation team and see if they have documented any standards for localized terminology, tone and style, terminology, spelling, etc. Afterwards you'll be able to find back your suggestions under the Translations tab on your personal page.