Testing in Tongues: How to Test When You Donít Know the Language
By: Brian Noggle
If youíre told to test an application thatís in a language you donít understand, donít panic. You know enough about testing to get started, and you might actually find yourself learning something about the language itself. Brian Noggle points out a few things you can always testóregardless of whether you speak the language.
If youíre ever handed a testing assignment that includes testing an application or website in a language you don't understand, donít panic. Iíve had to do this several times, and Iíve learned a few things about what you can effectively test without fluency.
The Good News
In most cases where youíre testing an application in a different language, you probably know something about itóif itís not an interface youíve already tested, it will have workflows similar to applications youíve already testedóso you can apply normal tests to the interface to look for where things break.
If your employers or clients know the limit of your abilities up front, you wonít be responsible for checking spelling or translations, such as whether the Submit button has been deciphered as Yield. The copywriters or the translators bear the blame for the screenshots that end up on foreign humor sites.
Here are a few things you can always testóregardless of whether you speak the language.
Check the Layout
Ensure that the layout of the website or application does not have any obvious errors, such as characters overlapping each other or misalignment of headings and text. This happens sometimes in localization, where the site was designed for English but the localized version uses another character set.
You can test any form using basic tests, such as trying to enter too much data in an edit box, attempting to submit without filling out all required fields, and double-clicking the buttons. In most cases, youíll already have a passing familiarity with the application in your own language and will understand its goals and purpose and how to try to thwart them.
As you do so, make use of the online translator you prefer to make sure that the error messages match up as much as possible with the failure you elicited.
Checking the Copy
You might have access to the copy deck that includes the translated text in the application. In some cases, this only includes labels for controls. For several projects I worked on, I got a complete copy deck and I could do some basic checking.
On one project, I was testing the translation of training videos and their interfaces into French and Spanish. I could read along with the copy while the audio played and listen to see if the audio matched the copy. Although I could not speak French and my Spanish is limited, I knew the sounds enough to confirm the vocal talent read the same script.
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