Localizing our brands

Matej Novak

10

Lately we’ve been discussing how to handle localization of our brand names. There’s currently a note about it on the translation page of the style guide, but that will soon be updated to the following:

Our brand names do not get localized, translated or transcribed. Anything that’s a proper noun with a leading capital letter (Firefox, Marketplace, etc.) remains in the original English and is always spelled out in Roman characters. In some languages, depending on the grammatical case of the word, it may need to have a different ending or be otherwise rewritten to make sense. In these instances, please rewrite the sentence instead to keep the brand name unchanged. All other names (add-ons, themes, etc.) should be localized as usual.

We decided to add the clarification after a recent discussion about how to translate “State of Mozilla.” (The example that sparked it came from Polish, but I’ll use Czech since it’s similar.)

Because of the way Czech works, there’s no word for “of” that you can use in that phrase. Instead, a literal translation becomes “Stav Mozilly,” where the changed spelling denotes that it’s “of Mozilla.” If we were to write it as “Stav Mozilla,” however, to a Czech speaker that would be the equivalent of writing “State Mozilla” in English. It’s not only awkward, it’s also wrong.

We’d like to preserve the spelling of our brand names wherever possible, so in this case the solution we suggested was to rewrite the phrase to something like “Mozilla: Stav společnosti” or “Stav společnosti Mozilla,” which means “state of the company.” The meaning is preserved, as is the spelling.

Please let us know in the comments if this is something you’ve encountered when localizing. We’d love to get more examples and hear about other languages where this kind of thing happens.

10 responses

  1. Tim wrote on ::

    Does this also apply to Firefox Sync ?

    1. mnovak wrote on :

      Great question! While Sync is a descriptive term, we use it as a brand name, so it does not get localized the way something like add-ons does, for example.

  2. Besnik wrote on :

    SQ has similar situation as well. So far I’ve handled them using – sign, as in Mozilla-s, Firefox-in, Thunderbird-it, etc. Is this correct?

    1. mnovak wrote on :

      Those look great to me as they retain the original spelling. Thanks for sharing the example!

      1. Pic wrote on :

        It’s a common thing in Poland and a correct way to deal with it is to use an apostrophe, like Thunderbird’a. However not many people use it, they just say Thunderbirda, Mozilli and so on.

        1. mnovak wrote on :

          I think “Thunderbirda” is fine (even without the apostrophe) as it still preserves the brand name, though I know Polish also has forms like “Firefoksa,” which complicates the issue further. It won’t be possible to adhere to this 100% of the time, but I would encourage localizers to feel free to rewrite sentences to avoid changing the spelling of our brands.

  3. SirRichard Ream wrote on :

    Language is difficult for one reason, no two persons have the same internal dictionary. Speaking and translation of a language is difficult even within one language. My internal understanding of a words meaning is not the same as another persons.
    I’ve found that using symbols, a pictorial representation of an idea,is more easily understood. This is why some company logos make sense(they are well designed) and others don’t. I believe its most important for any business to have a well made logo.
    As for translation from one language to another is a very difficult task. Most people don’t realize that they have an internal dictionary based upon their environment. As I type this I am hoping our “dictionarys” match up. That’s the only way this message can be understood.
    Computers, I believe, will be able to translate from one language to another. The only question about computer based translation is lack of emotion. Language is based off not only grammar but also emotion. :-)

  4. Alexander wrote on :

    I think the best way of translating a name is treating it as a (new) word in the target language. For instance in Norwegian, we use endings in some parts of grammar, and people drive cars made by Volvo, etc. In the definite form, we say “volvoen ”, not “en volvo-bil”, which, according to grammar should be speled “volvobil” if it were used. Having prefixes and suffixes does not really change the actual word, nor does transcribing it so that people can read it. Why make words harder to use and spell than necessary?

  5. Robert Kaiser wrote on ::

    “State of the company”? Awww, we really should avoid describing ourselves as a company when we are a non-profit Foundation, as “company” in most languages is equivalent with “for-profit”. Also, I hate us using those ugly crutches you now require instead of proper use of the language as it’s designed (even if I understand the commercial brand-strengthening that you propose there in find profit-making big-business style).

  6. nicefox1 wrote on :

    How does Czech not have that? Mozilla doesn’t have there any czech native speakers?

    If I’m not wrong, it’s Genitiv case – “Stav Mozilly” – “State of Mozilla”.