Helena Laaksonen

Producing Aila Interface in English

The user interface of the Aila Data Service is available in English and includes all the same services as the Finnish version does. Last year, about 20% of the FSD’s data deliveries were made to researchers abroad, so there is certainly need for the ‘international’ interface.

Translator Taina Jääskeläinen says that the English interface is not a direct translation of the Finnish one. "When translating interfaces, exact correspondence between the language versions is not the most important issue. The English interface has to function independently on its own. My goal was to produce an interface that was understandable, and easy to use and navigate."

Managing the range of materials

There were about 20 different files in the archive databases which contained text related to Aila, making it a complex whole to manage. When the same things needed to be mentioned, for example, in the interface itself, usage instructions, automated messages to be sent to customers, and agreements, it was a challenge to keep the terminology consistent throughout. This, of course, applied to both the Finnish and English versions.

"Even if the same text could be used in several places in the Finnish version, differences between the languages meant that this was not necessarily possible for the English version. In these cases, small changes in programming were often called for," Jääskeläinen says.

Another difficulty was that the translator did not always know where the translated bits appeared the interface. In this sense, translating was done into the void. Staff producing text for the Finnish interface had the same problem. "I frequently had to amend the draft translations when I saw the context in which they actually appeared in the interface," Jääskeläinen says.

"In order to translate the interface, I used and browsed the as yet unpublished Finnish version of Aila. In that way, I was one of the first test users of the service. This meant that not only the translations, but occasionally also the Finnish interface as well other related source texts were amended at the translation stage."

Data available also in English

The data archive produces study descriptions in English of all archived datasets. The data itself of many quantitative datasets (questions and response options) is also available in English. New study descriptions appear in the English data catalogue as soon as the translators have created them. If the translators are busy with other tasks, this may take some time. Therefore, the English data catalogue is not always totally up-to-date.

Quantitative data are translated into English on request for researchers who do not speak Finnish. At the moment, more than 300 Finnish datasets are available in Aila also in English.

When asked what aspect of the new data service Taina Jääskeläinen would like to advertise to users, she mentioned the new variable search which is a useful feature for both Finnish- and English-speaking researchers.