Introduction to database translation

The translation feature is currently in beta. This means there may still be small bugs, and not all planned features are available yet.

If you are working with team members or stakeholders who speak different languages, you may want to make your database available in more than one language.

In ActivityInfo, there are three different sources of text that a user will encounter:

System messages. ActivityInfo itself displays certain messages to the user, such as "This field is required" or the "Save" or "Export" labels of buttons. These messages are translated by the ActivityInfo team into more than 10 different languages, including French, Spanish and Arabic.

Database structure. This text, which includes the names of databases, folders, and forms, as well as the names of fields, their description, and choices, are provided by you or other users with administrative rights. To display this text in multiple languages, you will need to provide the translations, with or without the help of automated machine translation.

Record contents. When  you add a text field to a form, the text provided by a user may need to be available in multiple languages. This includes not only the results of data collection, but may also include reference data, such as the names of provinces or the names of donors and partners. 

This first release of the translation feature covers database structure. Tools to translate record contents, including the names of provinces and other reference data, will be made available later in 2022.

Supported languages

Only languages supported by ActivityInfo can be used with the translation feature. These currently include:

  • Arabic
  • Burmese
  • Dutch
  • English
  • Farsi (Dari)
  • French
  • Greek
  • Hungarian
  • Indonesia (Bahasa)
  • Polish
  • Portugese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
  • Ukrainian

Note that in principle if you do need multiple languages, you can design your database and forms in any language, though the system messages like "This field is required" will not match the language of your forms.

If you need support for another language, please contact us, we are happy add to support for new languages and can do so quite quickly thanks to our large network of translators.

Choosing the original language

The first step in setting up a multi-lingual database is choosing your "original language". This is the language in which you will design your database and forms. You can then add translations from this "original language" to additional languages.

For example, if you choose English as your original language, then you must design all of your forms in English, and then you can subsequently provide translations from English to French, and from English to Arabic. 

The original language does not have to be English. You can set the original language to Spanish, and then provide translations from Spanish to English, and from Spanish to Portuguese.

You can set the original language of your database from the Translations section of the Database Settings page for your database.

To manage translations, a user must have been assigned the 'Manage translationspermission.

Migrating from a database that already includes multiple languages

If you already have an ActivityInfo database that combines multiple languages into the form and field labels, you will need to remove the extra language before using the translation feature. For example, the form below includes both English and Arabic in the labels. 

If you decided to use English as your "original language", then you would need to remove the Arabic text from the form above. You can use the "Export fields" button to save a backup of the translations if needed.

Alternatively, you could choose Arabic as your original language and remove the English.

Adding translated languages

Once you have chosen your original language, you can add additional languages for translation. 

Once an additional language has been added, you can use the "Translate automatically" button to send your database structure to Google Translate for automatic translation or enter the translation mode to translate the database manually or to edit some of the automatically translated entries.

Only the database owner can add a new language and use the automated translation feature.

The automatic translation process can take up to several minutes, depending on the size of your database and the number of forms to be translated.

Switching between languages

Once you have run the automated translation process, you can view the translated forms by changing your language. You can switch your language temporarily by choosing "Switch language" from the profile menu:

If you switch to a language for which the database has translations available, the translated version will be displayed.

Note that the Form designer will always show the form in the original language, regardless of which language you have selected. In the screenshot below, you will that the system messages are in French, but the form structure remains in the original English language.  

Using translations with the mobile app

The ActivityInfo mobile app always uses the language the user has selected as their preferred language. You can select this language when inviting a user, and the user can change this later in their profile.

Keeping translations up to date

When you add new forms or new fields to an existing form, you will need to run the automatic translation again to provide updated translations.

If you make a change to a folder or form in the original language, the translations for that element are invalidated. You will need to re-run the automated translation process to provide new translations for the updated text.

Future work

This is the first of many releases to support multi-lingual databases. Some of the features planned for 2022 include:

  • Continuous automatic translation. Translations are automatically updated as you make changes to your database.
  • Manual translation through exporting and importing translations, allowing you to correct automated translations or provide your own
  • Delegation of translation with the "translate" permission (added in August 2022)
  • An integrated user interface for manually translating databases (added in August 2022)
  • Translations of record content, including reference data like province names and partner names. 

Please share your feedback so that we can continue to improve this functionality and prioritize the most needed features.