Translating Telegram

We‘ve worked hard to make Telegram’s English version as smooth as possible in terms of language. Now we're looking for equally smooth translations into the rest of the world‘s languages. If you’re a linguist, pro translator or language geek and would like to help us get closer to perfection, you've come to the right place.

The interface

This is the Telegram translation interface. To get started, simply log in, find a phrase in your language that you can improve and suggest a new translation – or vote for an existing suggestion. When our moderators review and accept suggestions, the new strings become immediately available in Telegram apps, no updates required.

If your language is not available yet, please wait – we will soon expand the interface to allow adding new languages.


Style guide

The following style guide describes what we think a good translation should be.

1. Consistent

The same things need to have the same names everywhere. Not just within one app, but also on all platforms. Telegram features should have the same names on Android, iOS, WP, etc. (unless they have to do with platform defaults). For system features, we should always use platform defaults (unless they are very ugly or don't fit).

2. Natural

You don't have to always stick to the English original. Sometimes it makes more sense to simply describe what the app does in your own language.

But please don't get carried away:

3. Default

It‘s no longer 2001 and our users have seen many other apps. It will be much easier for them to use Telegram if familiar concepts have familiar names here. Whenever you’re looking for a word, look at the defaults first: what does Apple use in this case? what does Google use? what do Telegram's main competitors in your region use?

4. Beautiful

Use good language, that would make the app look as if it was built in your region. Respect your language's grammar and style where possible. Avoid abbreviations. Try to find ways around gender problems instead of going for things like o(a), etc. In most cases it's possible to find a way of saying anything without hurting the language.

5. And it MUST FIT

This last one will probably cause you the most problems in most languages. Sometimes you need to look to the surrounding phrases and change them for the problematic one to work.

An example: the German team couldn‘t make the secret chats description fit into the lines on an empty chat page. The English text says: ’A user has invited you to a secret chat. Secret chats:‘ then comes a list that has this item: ’use end-to-end encryption‘. The maximum length for the list items is 25 characters. The problem with German is that the term for end-to-end encryption is ’Ende-zu-Ende Verschlüsselung‘ and is 28 characters long even without the ’use‘. An anglicized version would have been ’End-to-end Verschlüsselung' — but still too long at 26 characters.

The German team found a way around. They went and changed the first phrase, so that it now says ‘A user has invited you to an end-to-end encrypted secret chat. Secret chats:’ and then they came up with a new list item to replace the encryption that was moved to the top, where the length of the string would allow it.


Typography

What we're looking for is not just linguistic, but also typographic and aesthetic correctness. The text is inseparable from design. Text is design and we need to make sure it works. So approach the text as a magazine editor would.

  1. Everything must fit into its allotted space. So always check in-app after editing. Words and phrases that are too long will be automatically cut (Like thi…) or contracted (Li..is) — we can‘t allow this to happen (we’re not as sloppy as, say, Instagram after all). In other cases the text may flow over into the next line.
  2. The text should ideally be kept from spreading over two lines where the original only had one line.
  3. Same with double lines, don‘t let them spread into triple lines. Although this is a less strict requirement — it isn’t too bad if you let the double-line descriptions in Settings become triple lined.
  4. We need to avoid hanging words — when there's just one or two words left on a new line.
  5. We need to avoid gaps in the text, for example when the top right space is empty before the line break. A good way of avoiding this is to use shorter words, so that they wrap more easily. When short words are not an option, put your long ones at the beginning of the line, then add short words as padding.
  6. There will be times when making things fit will seem impossible. Our experience shows that it never is. Several determined people focusing on a word and the phrases around it will always find a solution after a few weeks, or even earlier. After all, it's just words.

This takes a lot of effort, but it really makes you feel proud when you're done.


Applied typography

On the whole, we've worked hard to make the English version as typographically sound as possible. So as a rule of thumb, if your phrase is of the same length as the English one, it will fit well. If it is shorter — not too much of a problem, but beware of hanging words and gaps.

Note for iPhone Plus users: When checking strings in-app, try iOS Settings > Display & Brightness > View > ‘Zoomed’. Using this mode you can make sure that strings will fit the screens of the narrower models.


And that‘s about it. Let’s bring perfection to the localized versions of Telegram together.