What are some best practices for DITA content localization?

Some of the best practices for DITA content localization include:

  • Modularize Content
  • Use Localization Keys
  • xml:lang Attribute
  • Content Extraction
  • Translation Memory (TM) Integration
  • Clear Translation Workflow

These concepts are fundamental aspects of localizing DITA content. Following these principles and using these tools will greatly improve efficiency, cost savings, and quality of localized documents.

Modularize Content: Modularization is a fundamental practice in DITA content localization. Documentation should be broken into smaller, self-contained modules, such as topics or sections. Each module should cover a specific aspect of the content, making it easier to translate individual pieces. This approach also ensures that translated modules can be swapped in while maintaining the overall document’s structure. This principle is the core of DITA’s framework and should be applied to all DITA projects, even if localization is not intended.

Use Localization Keys: Localization keys, or “l10n keys,” serve as placeholders for translatable text within DITA content. Keys representing translatable segments should be inserted instead of embedding raw text that needs translation. This practice cleanly separates the source content from translated content, making it more organized and easier to manage during translation. Once translations are available, keys are replaced with the corresponding translated text, preserving the document’s structure.

xml:lang Attribute: The “xml:lang” attribute is a powerful tool for indicating the language of specific content within DITA documents. By tagging individual elements with this attribute, you provide clear language information to translation tools. This practice ensures that translators understand the intended language of each content piece, greatly reducing the risk of mistranslation and improving translation accuracy.

Content Extraction: To prepare DITA content for translation, all translatable text should be extracted. This includes not only body text but also element content, attributes, and metadata. Translation tools often work with text files, so this step is crucial for making the content translation-friendly. The extracted content can then be provided to translators in a format like XLIFF, which streamlines the translation process.

Translation Memory (TM) Integration: Collaborating with translation memory (TM) tools is a best practice for efficient DITA content localization. TM tools store previously translated segments, allowing translators to reuse these translations for consistency and cost savings. Integrating TM tools into localization workflows ensures that translators can leverage existing translations when working on new content, maintaining uniformity across languages.

Clear Translation Workflow: Establishing a well-defined workflow for DITA content localization is essential. This includes determining how content will be exported for translation, how translations will be performed by linguistic experts, and how the translated content will be reintegrated into DITA documents. Additionally, any formatting or structural changes that may occur during translation should be considered, ensuring that DITA templates can accommodate these adjustments. A clear workflow minimizes confusion and delays during the localization process.