Translation Style Guide (all SecureDrop languages)

This message is addressed to all translators of SecureDrop.

During a session dedicated to discussing translations style guide at the Localization Lab Summit that took place in Valencia in March 2018, a first draft was created to serve as reference to translators. You’ ll find it here:

The idea is to continue that discussion here, with translators of SecureDrop who would be interested in contributing to a more general conversation about style guide starting by the issues we encounter in our local languages and how we solve them. Could such a discussion help those who are going to write style guidelines for their local community?

For example, when deciding which tone to use (formal, informal, slang, technical) we can think about who is our audience and who we wish to make
the tool accessible to.
The use of gender neutral language is another topic that might be part of translation style guides and that is sometimes overlooked. For example, in languages derived from Latin, nouns and adjectives are gendered, what sometimes makes it difficult to translate and eventually results in entire phrases rewriting.

Thank you for your contribution.


@communia this is a very interesting read! I can comment on the Common Issues regarding French and in the context of SecureDrop:

  • Idioms : I don’t think we use any idiom and if we do I think there is a consensus that we should not
  • Advanced English : same as for Idioms
  • Formal v. Informal : in French we use the Formal form because it is just polite and informal is rarely appropriate in the context of a web interface
  • Gendered language : I tend to use they and avoid phrases that would require to specify genre. If there is no choice, my preference goes to using la/le etc.
  • Technical language :
  • Use of anglicisms : French has an extensive agreed upon glossary of technical terms and there is no need to resort to anglicism
  • Variations in the same language : to the best of my knowledge written French has no variations that could require multiple translations in this context. Idioms can be very different between France and Quebec but we don’t use them.

That made me realize even more that we should have a SecureDrop style guide :slight_smile:

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This is great idea. We can add some more factors as we get more input from different locales like tense, abbreviations, message length (If it is alert then fit string in most concise way) etc. We can go for Github if we are planning to do so, easy to collaborate with other contributors and best option for opensource work. Any thoughts on that?

@dachary the use of non/less gendered language in French is sometimes easier by using they /les, and you/vous being standardized as polite. These might be possible choices in other languages, if using a more formal language can help to solve the problem of using gendered language. The point is that it may, in some cases, create a distance between users and the tech. For example, in Portuguese, it would sound a bit old or ceremonial, and we prefer to use a more impersonal language or restructure the phrase.
The case of the use of Anglicisms is also interesting to think about, specially when we need to translate a term for the first time. So, how to create a neologism? It’s of course easier to use the English word, but thinking about picking a term that is already part of a local imaginary and that could describe a function, evoke and image, or some other metaphor can be more exciting. I don’t know if a style guide could help with that, but I would be interested in reading other’s experience and suggestions about it.

Hey @drashti4! these are important considerations in localization. Do you have some examples about how you reduce tense’s lenght and other problems in Hindi, specially while translating SecureDrop?
About Github, are you suggesting we move the discussion there? In these case, could you do it?

If string is in some dialogue box then length of message should be short
For example, Edited page: संपादित किआ गया पृष्ठ but instead of that we can use संपादित पृष्ठ only. Both will mean same.

No, not regarding to move discussion but If we’re agree to create style guide for different languages then I think Github would be best option because number of contributor can easily join us.

PS: There is Mozilla Global Sprint on May 10-11 where people who are interested to contribute in open source project can browse all register projects on website and starts contributing. If we can set up few mandatory file on Github then we can also showcase our project there and get some awesome contributors :wink:


Perceiveness of Nationlism by the people.

I am of the presupposition that the guiding principles are not quite met there.

Common issues

  • Gendered language

Guiding Principles

  • Nationalism and language preferences

Building in nationalistic sentiment plays into the same political hands of people that use “they” singular. That they, those people, as people factor into two camps of almost no overlap in their different political agendas, doesn’t balance it out.

The confusion seems complete when issue is taken with gendered nouns, but the premise still is at the mercy of Poe’s law. One noun always having the same marked gender, “the boat”, for example, (a boat (en båt) follows masculine form in norwegian (båten)), and you can still call it “she” and give it a female name. That is just how that works.
The works of which a professional victim clearly finds at ones hands to be “a job”.

If you specifically find “man” in a noun, like the recent “ombudsman” that has made its way over. Know that “man” comes from “mænni”, meaning people. You will find it in use for “Norsemen”, which are people of Norwegian origin, as opposed to Norwegians. That is, someone did manage to take offence, after the obligatory "What’s next, not being allowed to say “Norsemen either”, guided the POEthetical nature of what we call “the vaginal state”. Making an issue of what was already specifically unproblematic, in an accepting culture, to what then becomes having explain oneself.

Norway already went through modern feminism, we are ahead, in that society at large now accepts freedom of choice as superior to equity of outcome. It got pretty secteric while it lasted, and continued the satire into intersectionalism.

The genetic differences between sexes are made more prominent when you maximize for choice. The same reversed trend of industrialization can be observed in any other post-industrial society.

You will find there is valkyrian common ground in that women overlap somewhat with a section of the low-end of men, in testosterone levels, an agreed upon difference between them.
Some take this to mean gender is a fluid concept. The supposed need for such treatment to either be a woman, or develop into one, is a fallacious oxymoron in itself, when those same people will tell you anyone can be a woman, or even when implicitly observing said nature of the overlap adjusted for actual chromosomal gender.

Dare I point out the nature of having to know better in dancing around the issue here? The double thinker thinks not of the singular, for it is forever pushed into its box.
You also open the gates to stand shoulder to shoulder with people that think sexual affinity is malleable. “Pray the gay away” to stop this macro-agression! X)

It is a good thing Norse culture did away with (people) comparing others to animals at an early age, we have since found more refinement in the ways of doing so, but still.

I jumped off the politically correct train when supposedly there was something wrong with “negro”, and saw the next train pass the station loaded with “mulatto” for mixed race people. People, not horses.

On the topic of whatever to call the current misconceptualized trend;
The historic infantilization of women and dehumanization of black people, systemically, exists in no clearer a current form.

There are some transgendered people that don’t want to adopt the other sex, which to many is the actual point, wholesale gender roles and all. Traditional ones even.

It is a further subset, of what is to begin with quite a small group, which certainly makes it a hard sell to make English less functional over/for.

The latter to what end? There is a part of Norway that uses “hen” instead of “han/hun” “she/he” and conditions for transgendered people in it, are the exact same.

It is however a favorite group to push in front of agenda, i find it is cynical and wanting, creating enemies where none are needed. Women do not seem to have come closer to a vote or liberation than the old Scandinavian democracy that predated Christianity here, or what followed it, or the French revolution. One could go on, however not without noting the puzzling convenience of a mindset refusing to accept biology, in its offense taken with these cultures, rather than, for example judeo-christianity, of which Islam in origin, history and to present day belief is a most macabre display.

I digress, but before we leave the transgender people alone, know that they do suffer more mental issues than just anyone, and their suicide rate is sky-high. It is convenient to entertain this is a cultural aspect of their ways, rather than an inherent result thereof.

Begging this question, as if all of it is a result of “systemic oppression”, is a furthering of the end to a “means culpa.” If you catch adrift…

In psychology “personality dysphoria”, an observed condition, transcends gender, so I am not sure why It is a good idea to just socially except the premise of overarching culture, having some empathy with the reversal of the whole idea to speak out against it. Speaking on part of all of, however many subsets one delves into to do it, is not something I accept even then.

The misuse of “They” singular confuses what little grasp novice users have of English, at the hands of people that should know better. “He/she” “his/her” is a crutch fielded by people with poor command of it.

It can be used if the person is conceptually unknown, like "If someone is going to find the need to escape through the fire-doors, they can do so by first climbing the stairs that lead up to them.

It is possible to use “User A”, and then refer back to it later on. Mark the ungendered notion of using non-sex.

What you can do otherwise is say “the person” or “the respective entity” or some-such.

Sometimes you can get away with working in “their” to solve the issue. Another import from the norse horses mouth.

For a variation of “nationalism” that means perception of identity, I agree.
Preserving homogenity diversifies diversity.

For a variation of “gendered language” that means gendering of otherwise neutral language I agree.

I feel the sheep-herd inbound on the same goat that brought these two together.

Great topic.

  • Anlicisms is a hard topic for me in Dutch, many projects don’t have a localized interface, and the spoken language is getting more and more anglicized. Glossaries can help a great way.

  • The formal vs. informal is a hard one. This can be different on location (user) and region. There’s a shift towards informal going on in the spoken language and especially on the internet. What is more appropriate, is open for discussion. Personally I prefer formal, but my opinion has changed over the years on this topic. Could very well be audience/project dependent.

  • Gendered items is usually less of an issue, there are problems, but when aware we should be able to tackle them relatively easy.

  • Regional variation: there is variation in vocabulary and some (little) grammar between for example the Netherlands and Belgian Dutch. There’s also no standardization institution. I would appreciate more feedback across the different native speakers to get it all improved. Lots of translators energy is sometimes wasted (ie: creation of an extra locale which doesn’t have the same quality control, is less up-to-date…). On the other hand, subtleties can be important. Do project people know when it’s appropriate for their tool to fallback on es-MX? Should they add an es-419 if ‘es’ already exists? Often the programming tools and frameworks already prevent a good workflow. I don’t know how a style guide can help here, it’s a hard problem, often dependent as well on audience. For Dutch, I’d say that projects should only have a ‘nl’ translation, and only in specific contexts get it more localized (nl_NL, nl_BE, et al.).

And in general: developers should try to avoid forcing people to adapt to a certain grammar: no “Hello” . $name . “, welcome back.” but a simple “$welcome_back_msg $name” that prints the right thing :slight_smile:


Good to see input from others. I think we need to draft a document or have a small meeting so that we can move this topic forward.

@drashti4 @kingu @kwadronaut and @dachary,
Thank you for all your inputs. There are probably more issues we encounter and that other new translators will also have to deal with, not only use of gender and formal/informal language and anglicisms. The style guide function, for me at least, is to provide some reference to all translators, so one document doesn’t get very different in terms of style. For me a meeting could be a good thing too @drashti4, thank you for suggesting. We could maybe discuss at jtsi or IRC, or somewhere else?


Hey all,

I wonder if in this thread we are talking about several potentially different guides or sets of best practices.

In the discussion above I see recommendations for projects (Source Language Style Guide, or Writing for Localization), and then recommendations for localizers that are both project-focused and then language-focused.

What about using a SecureDrop style guide (potentially for project and for specific language teams as the working group determines best) as a way to narrow the focus of this project in the beginning and then develop and adapt the template to address digisec project needs and language team needs on the whole?

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Jitsi would be better option. We need to decide agenda for meeting.

That would be great idea I think. It’ll help us for continous development of style guide and after some round of fixing work in SecureDrop style guide we can go fo generic one. We can discuss further in call :slight_smile:


@communia @drashti4 @kwadronaut @erinm
We can do it after the usual Standup 19.00 CET and UX 19.30 CET meeting at SecureDrop.
Mondays 8.00 CET it is.

I have quite a few pointers for someone setting up a project.


@kingu @drashti4 @erinm @kwadronaut

Sounds good. That lets some time for some research about style guides.

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Yeah, I’m okay with that. 8AM CET. Let’s create etherpad and draft tentative agenda.

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Ay dios. Well at least this will ensure I get up on time :sweat_smile:

I am happy to create a Sandstorm Etherpad for notes, or we can draft and develop this on a wiki page if people are interested. Those with more wikixperience can chime in on the practicality of that approach.

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Wail a second @drashti4@kingu mentioned the SecureDrop standup at 19:00/19:30. I think he actually means 20:00 CET, which is less convenient (for you @drashti4).

Clarification por favor @kingu

Hey party people,

I’m still confused about the meeting time. I am pretty sure the meeting is supposed to be at 20:00 CET, but not 100% sure. Curious to know because I have a class I cannot get out of from 18.00 - 20.00 CEST, which would overlap with the meeting.

I am ok with 20:00CET. Nonetheless it will be late in India. Are you ok with that @drashti4?