Checking for inconsistencies in your translations

Over time language changes, hopefully not very quickly. However, if your language is new to computers the change might be rapid. So now your older translations have different text to your new translations. In this use case we look at how you can bring alignment back to your translations.

Other cases in which you can expect inconsistencies:

What we won’t be able to achieve

We cannot find grammatical errors and we won’t be able to find all cases of words, etc


You are translating Mozilla Firefox into Afrikaans. The files are stored in af. You have the following issues:

  • Your current translator is good but took over from a team of three
  • Terminology is well defined but not well used by the old translators

We’ll look at the translations first from the English, or source text, point of view. Then we will look at it from the Afrikaans point of view. The first will pick up where we have translated the same English word differently in Afrikaans i.e. an inconsistency. While the second will determine if we use the same English word for different English words, possibly this will confuse a user.

Step 1: Extracting conflicting target text translations

poconflicts -I --accelerator="&" af af-conflicts

From our existing translation in af we extract conflicts and place them in af-conflicts. We are ignoring case with -I so that Save as is considered the same as Save As. The --accelerator options allows us to ignore accelerators so that File is the sane as &File which is also the same as Fi&le

If we browse into af-conflicts we will see a flat structure of words with conflicts.

$ cd af-conflicts
$ ls
change.po         disc.po         functionality.po  letter.po          overwrite.po       restored.po
changes.po        document.po     gb.po             library.po         page.po            restore.po
character.po      dots.po         graphic.po        light.po           pager.po           retry.po
chart.po          double.po       grayscale.po      limit.po           percent.po         return.po
check.po          down.po         grid.po           line.po            pies.po            right.po
circle.po         drawing.po      group.po

These are normal PO files which you can edit in any PO editor or text editor. If we look at the first file change.po we can see that the source text Change was translated as Verander and Wysig. The translators job is now to correct these PO files, ignoring instances where the difference is in fact correct.

Once all fixes have been made we can merge our changes back into the original files.

Step 2: Merging our corrections back into the original files

Our files in af-conflicts are in a flat structure. We need to structure them into the hierarchy of the existing PO files.

porestructure af-conflicts af-restructured

The entries that where in the files in af-conflicts have been placed in af-restructured, they now appear in the correct place in the directory structure and also appear in the correct file. We are now ready to merge.

pomerge -t af -i af-restructure -o af

Using the existing files in af we merge the corrected and restructured file from af-restructure and place them back into af. Note: use a different output directory if you do not want to overwrite your existing files. All your conflict corrections are now in the correct PO file in af.

You might want to run Step 1 again to make sure you didn’t miss anything or introduce yet another problem.

Next we look at the inverted conflict problem.

Step 3: Extracting conflicts of meaning

If you have used the same Afrikaans word for two different English words then you could have created a conflict of meaning. For instance in our Xhosa translations the word Cima was used for both Delete and Cancel. Clearly this is a serious issue. This step will allow us to find those errors and take action.

poconflicts -v -I --accelerator="&" af af-conflicts-invert

We use the same command line as in Step 1 but add -v to allow us to invert the match. We are also now outputting to af-conflicts-invert to make things clear.

This time the PO files that are created have Afrikaans names

$ cd af-conflicts-invert
$ ls
dataveld.po              grys.po             lisensieooreenkoms.po  paragraaf.po        sny.po
datumgekoop.po           hallo.po            lysinhoud.po           pasmaak.po          soek.po
datum.po                 hiperboliese.po     maateenheid.po         persentasie.po      sorteer.po
deaktiveer.po            hoekbeheer.po       maatskappynaam.po      posadres.po         sorteervolgorde.po

We edit these as usual. You need to remember that you will see a normal PO file but that you are looking at how the translation might be confusing to a user. If you see the same Afrikaans translation for two different English terms but there is no conflict of meaning or no alternative then leave it as is. You will find a lot of these instances so the results are less dramatic then the results from a normal conflict analysis.

Lastly follow Step 2 to restructure and merge these conflicts back into your translations


You’ve now gone a long way to improving the quality of your translations. Congratulations! You might want to take some of what you’ve learnt here to start building a terminology list that can help prevent some of the issues you have seen.