6 XLIFF FAQs every multi-language course creator needs to be able to answer
We rate the XLIFF standard highly and consider it an essential component of a fully functional eLearning authoring tool. It’s an industry standard for a reason, offering a highly efficient way to create accurate translations of your course content. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll never encounter a single technical hiccup while using it—in this list of six frequently asked questions, we tackle some common XLIFF issues and recommend how to avoid or work around them.
Q: Help, my XLIFF file won’t import!
A: The vast majority of XLIFF import issues occur because edits of one sort or another have been made to the course in your authoring tool, or the files you’re trying to import. A mismatch between the fields and variables your authoring tool is expecting will often result in an error, and the specific issue can be hard to detect. Because of this, it’s essential that when an XLIFF file is exported, work on the course stops until a translation has been produced and reimported. If someone has been adding or removing assets to your cloud-based course since you exported it, the content won’t match!
In the next couple of questions, we address some (common and easily addressable) things that may have changed in your file without your knowledge, and how you can save a misbehaving file.
Explore more information about team working in...‘5 reasons why a cloud-based authoring tool is more cost-efficient’
Q: My team stopped working on our course immediately before we ran an XLIFF export. We have our translation, but it’s still failing to import! What should we do?
A: If you’re absolutely sure that nobody has been sneaking into the course to make edits that have caused a misalignment, check the following:
- Was the course duplicated, and are you trying to import the translation into the correct duplicate? The IDs of duplicate courses will differ from each other and can cause an error when importing your translation.
- Are your individual XLIFFs in the root of the folder you’re trying to import? Ensure that the file structure is identical to the original export. A common issue involves an extra folder level being added at some point in the process, causing your import to fail because the import tool can’t see the files.
- Has your translation agency made intentional or unintentional edits to the files out of scope of what you wanted translating? Common mistakes include:
- Alteration of source and target language codes. Small changes such as designating your Hungarian language version as ‘hu’ rather than ‘hu-HU’ can cause a show-stopping mismatch.
- Translation/alteration of terms in the XLIFF code: it’s important that the field names themselves remain the same, even if they aren’t understandable in the target language (only machines need to read them!)
Give advance warning!
See the question “What does my translator need to know about your XLIFF file?” below for a quick list of dos and don’ts that you should make your translation team aware of.
If you’ve checked with all stakeholders (and looked at the relevant fields in the files themselves –- see below), there is of course a possibility that there’s simply something wrong with the import process. Explain the situation (and the checks you’ve already run) to your authoring tool’s support team and try to find a solution.
Q: Changes were made to the course and the import failed. What options do we have for making the import work?
A: Generally, the most straightforward way of solving the problem will be to work with your translation agency to find a solution. If you export an up-to-date (i.e. blank) version of the course, they should be able to transfer all previously translated strings into the new file (and translate any new additions too, of course).
If only minor edits have been made to the course since you created your XLIFF export, it’s technically possible to make manual edits to the files to align them with the new version. This involves checking your translated import against a new export in a text editor—adding and deleting specific codes and fields as necessary. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process and is generally not recommended (it’s quite easy to delete or add something that makes the problem worse).
If you do decide to edit the file, make sure you keep a backup of all unedited files in case something goes wrong!
Keep the importance of planning and feature choices front of mind. Read‘4 ways your eLearning design choices can save time and money’
Q: Why aren’t the variables I translated being imported into my course?
A: Different tools will manage variables differently, but in Gomo specifically, when working with variables your XLIFF ZIP file will contain a file called ‘variables-variables’. Translators should be made aware that the items in this file don’t need to be translated. If the default value of any variable is altered, the variable won’t show in the course.
Q: Are there alternatives to working with XLIFF?
A: Rather than working with XLIFF, you do have the option of manually translating your courses within your eLearning software. The one advantage of this method is that it gives the translator the full context of the words they’re translating. However, because this requires that you provide tool access to translators, the method becomes:
- Problematic if you have a limited number of author licenses to provide, especially if scaling up beyond a single secondary language
- A security risk if external translators are given access to your full course library
- Inefficient if authors are unfamiliar with the tool. You may have to train them to find everything they need to translate.
In-tool translation is far less efficient overall. While working with an XLIFF export removes context, it also removes a lot of distractions and ensures that all of the text that needs to be translated is easy to find. Navigating through every individual screen in the course looking for the next line of text to translate can obviously be frustrating. It’s also worth considering that some centrally defined elements—such as terms used on submit buttons, or in the navigation—may be hard to locate, or even impossible to edit within the tool itself.
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Q: What does my translator need to know about my XLIFF file?
A: Taking the potential misalignment issues into account, why not pass on this ready-made list of pointers to your translation agency?
In order to ensure that this XLIFF file can be imported directly into the eLearning authoring tool we use, please follow the instructions below:
- DO NOT alter any source or target language codes present in any file or filename.
- DO NOT change the filenames of any file in the XLIFF ZIP.
- DO NOT translate anything in the following files:
- DO NOT discard or alter any formatting code in the text strings e.g. “[b][/b]” (bold text)
- Please ensure that the .xliff files remain in the root of the ZIP when repackaged.
- Please let us know if the context for any text string is not clear from the context provided.
- Please test whether the translation tools you work with also follow these rules!
Keep learning about XLIFF and global eLearning
This article is an extract from our complete guide to the XLIFF standard, ‘XLIFF: Everything you need to know to create multi-language eLearning’. The full guide takes an in-depth look into the XLIFF standard, including a look at a typical export, why you should use it and how best to use it.
Additional topics covered in the full resource include:
- Why XLIFF is the best choice for translating your eLearning course content
- An easy-to-follow six-step process for working with XLIFF
- An explanation of the files in a typical XLIFF export