DITA, XLIFF, and Their Impact on Translation Services

DITA, XLIFF, and Their Impact on Translation ServicesIn today’s complex enterprise world, there are many systems designed to help people convey information in a more concise manner. One of the most common of these systems is DITA, or Darwin Information Typing Architecture.

DITA is a model for using the XML markup language to write and publish content. DITA was developed by IBM as a way to make reusing content more efficient. Incorporating the DITA method can be a very effective tool for quickly creating content for enterprise projects. One of the biggest benefits of using DITA is that it allows users to easily organize content and optimize it for re-use in the future, and hopefully never having to pay twice for the translation of any content. A key part of succeeding with DITA as it relates to localization is proper planning and resource selection.

XLIFF + DITA = Localization Success

XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) is an open standard used to standardize the way that localizable data are passed between tools during the localization process. It was standardized by OASIS in 2002, and is currently the standard in the language industry for managing elements and attributes from various original file formats during the localization process. The main purpose of XLIFF files in localization is to track and organize source and translated content, among other elements.

In the context of DITA, once your source content is finalized and ready for translation, you can convert your DITA files to XLIFF, which your language service provider / translation company, can then utilize during their processes, applying existing translated text from translation memory databases, as needed. Once the analysis, translation, review, quality control, and other processes have been completed, you then receive the XLIFF or DITA files back, ready to import into your Content Management System.

DITA and Design Cost Savings

Historically, language companies would have to maintain staff to handle graphic design and layout work (aka Desktop Publishing) in a number of different applications, or they’d have to outsource that work. However with DITA and XLIFF, the layout of the content is dictated by tagging and designation of elements in the Content Management System (CMS). This means that Language Service Providers have to simply worry about the content itself, and not any layout requirements, so long as they utilize tools that protect the tagging in the files.

Traditional DTP and Design services have been expensive, varying with the complexity of the source content templates, which might have been in MS Word, Adobe InDesign, FrameMaker, or QuarkXPress. And for the most part, using a CMS to manage localization via DITA, and XLIFF, those costs are minimized at worst, or eliminated entirely at best. However, one needs to realize that because of the nature of language, some translation will occupy more space than others, and because of this, adjustments in the final layout may be necessary. And one step that is always necessary is testing and/or quality assurance checks.

Quality Assurance

The idea behind quality assurance is not only to make sure that your translated content is accurate, but also that you are using the right tagging, your links are working properly, and that the content fits in its intended final form properly.

It is critical to have a technical quality assurance process that goes along with your translation services so you can ensure there are no issues with creating content using the DITA protocol. Remember that there are many different stages of quality assurance: for best results, it should be an ongoing process that happens during the various phases of translating.

If you are looking to expand a product or service into a new market, it might be a necessary challenge. With the right approach to quality assurance, you can alleviate many of the difficulties of translation services when it comes to converting content into a new language using DITA principles.