Case study: Translation for GIS training manuals and materials

Executive Summary

The client, a Canadian provider of geographic information systems (GIS), periodically updates their software training manuals and other multimedia training content. The updated content then requires translation from English into French for Canadian and European users. As the primary provider of all the client’s business translation needs, Scriptis handles this and many other projects. However, the training content presents particular challenges.

The Challenge

The training manuals and multimedia content run approximately 80,000 words. Each update requires a significant investment by the client. In order to share the costs, the client teamed with their counterparts in France, Switzerland, and other countries, who also needed translation of the updated source content.

Europeans and Canadians use different “flavors” of French because there is no standard “international” French. Translators must be careful to exclude cultural references and use neutral terms. In addition, the two groups have different training needs. Canadians use the English version of the software but receive the training in French. Europeans, on the other hand, use the French version of the software and receive the training in French. Therefore, each reference to a linguistic element of the user interface is presented in French for the Europeans and in both English and French for the Canadians. 


Scriptis helped the client and their European colleagues share localization costs by developing an efficient workflow.  Computer-aided translation (CAT) tools provide the foundation for the process.

Translation memory

When our team translates a document, the CAT tool creates or updates a translation memory (TM): a database of paired source-target segments of text. Later, when the team uploads an updated version of the source document, the tool retrieves and re-populates the unchanged segments. It also autocompletes segments that are repeated throughout the text. The TM reduces the cost of translating updates because the pre-translated text only needs in-context review, not full translation. For years, Scriptis has handled the training updates and developed a substantial client-specific translation memory.

Most of the UI elements and their translations already appear in the existing TM.  The client provides approved translations for any new English UI elements.  To easily create both the bilingual Canadian version and the French version, translators tag the English terms while working on the text within the CAT tool. This facilitates the removal of English terms from the all-French European version.

Expert human translation

To serve our clients in information technology, Scriptis maintains an in-house translation team with special expertise in IT. In addition to knowledge of the style and terminology of the Canadian IT industry, our translators are proficient at writing neutral French copy for global speakers of the language. Through long experience with this client and others, the Scriptis team knows what terms to use and what terms to avoid when translating GIS training manuals and materials for a global audience.


Over the years and through many updates of their content, Scriptis has developed a great working relationship with this client. As with other long-term clients, the amount of back and forth has been minimized. Each of us knows what to expect from the other.  We look forward to many more years of collaboration.