How to test software in different languages

Posted by Ann MacKenzie

Have you ever had to perform software testing on a website or mobile application that’s in a different language you don’t understand? Luckily, many other testers have found themselves in the same predicament, and offer the following suggestions.

Things to check for when testing projects in different languages

Testing in multiple languages

  • Study the User Interface (UI) workflow of the site or application and check for overlapping, inconsistencies and other formatting errors.
  • Test each field by entering text in that foreign language; try entering characters that include distinguishing or diacritic marks.
  • Review menu and button labels.
  • Check each hyperlink.
  • Search for any English.

It helps to have Google Translate or a native user of the language at hand, but most websites and mobile applications use a similar kind of User Interface (UI) or workflow and layout, so you can usually start with that.

Testing in a language you don't know


Be sure to request a copy of the UI layout in English!


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Web analytics can help How to test when you don't know the language

Karen N. Johnson, Director of Mobile Quality for Orbitz, has also discussed the ramifications of testing international mobile apps and websites. She proposes that web analytics, the study of website traffic, can help testers, along with the assistance of native language testers:

How do I know what mobile devices are popular in other countries when I don’t see those devices or get exposure to them? I’ve learned to use web log analytics to see the trends and usage in different countries….I also use trending analytics from organizations like W3C to see overall trends across the globe. By looking at the trends in general and then reviewing the specific website statistics, I can see what’s in use and strategically align testing accordingly.

Writing a successful test plan

Testing in a foreign languageKaren then describes how to create a comprehensive and successful test plan based on information garnered from web analytics. There are a profuse number of web analytics tools available, including many that are open source:

A test strategy factors in the distinct statistics of a site and adjusts to the user audience by gradually shifting testing efforts by browser, operating system and mobile devices as the audience shifts. Test planning is not just “interested” in the analytics; strategic planning is about using the analytics to map out what is needed, what is most at stake and then crafting a test plan that can be executed with that knowledge and awareness. Web analytics coupled with a risk analysis can turn an infinite testing challenge to a testing effort that has an achievable end and one that enables a product to get to market.

Jumping the testing hurdles of RTL and vertical languages

Japanese text - testing in different languagesKaren also discusses the ramifications of testing hurdles like the right-to-left (RTL) languages of the Middle East, the vertical languages of the Far East and the distinguishing marks of French, Romanian and some Nordic languages:

The more widespread a user base, the more likely a website supports multiple languages. Languages introduce testing considerations like handling of right to left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew where testing ensures RTL handled correctly on text, lists and data entry fields. Also, languages such as Japanese and Chinese are more symbolic languages and testing may shift to focus on user interface alignment issues. And, finally, languages such as Romanian and Swedish may use more diacritic marks, moving testing concerns to the exporting of data, screen presentation and search testing to ensure language markings are handled accurately.

So, there are a lot of ramifications to consider when testing websites and mobile applications in various languages!

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