Teams, Internationalization, and @Mentions

Translation and Strings

I have some history in software product internationalization (or I18N as it used to be called). About 35 years ago, I worked on a product called ALL-IN-1 BEV (Basic European Version), the first localized Office/Email server. Based out of Digital Equipment Corporation’s Sophia-Antipolis facility in the south of France, the engineering group took the U.S. version of ALL-IN-1 and created LLVs, Local Language Versions translated in the most common European languages and Hebrew. Most of the work was done by translating U.S. English language strings into localized versions for screens, prompts, and error messages, but a fair amount of hard-core engineering was also done to make it possible to internationalize the server.

Which brings me to Office 365 notification MC205585 posted on March 5 to let us know that Microsoft has updated the @Team (notify everyone in the team) and @Channel (notify everyone who has favored the channel) mentions so that both the English and localized version can be used to address team members.

Inline Translation

Teams introduced inline translation for personal chats and channel conversations in July 2018, a feature that is helpful in understanding what text in an unfamiliar language means without having to resort to cut-and-pasting into Google translate. I took some of the text from my July 2018 article and translated it to French, pasted it into Teams and had Teams translate it to German (Figure 1). Multiple transits through translation like this don’t help the accuracy of the output, but the point is that you at least get something to work with that’s probably better than your own attempts to translate.

English to French to German via Google Translate and Teams
Figure 1: English to French to German via Google Translate and Teams

Localized and English @Mentions

Allowing users to switch between English and localized terms isn’t as big a deal as inline translation. Rather, it’s an example of the level of detail that helps internationalized software work for end users.

In this case, Teams has supported localized @Team and @Channel mentions since November 2019. For example, a German-language user can type @Kanal to refer to the current channel (Figure 2) while a French user can use @Canal. What’s changing is that the user can type either @Kanal or @Channel and Teams will recognize and use either term.

Localized @Channel (or @Kanal)
Figure 2: Localized @Channel (or @Kanal)

Switching Languages

It’s easy to switch a Teams desktop or browser client between languages by choosing the language you’d like to use in Settings. Teams restarts the client to load the language and you can then test the different terms. I found some inconsistent results – most languages were happy to switch between @Channel and a localized version like @Canale (Italian), but some did not (for example, Danish), while I couldn’t get the localized version of @Team to work in any language.

It’s likely that things didn’t work as expected because the software underpinning the feature is not fully deployed. When it is, Microsoft should also fix the localized version of the online help (like the Italian page or German page) to make sure that the change is reflected there. After all, detail counts when it comes to internationalization.

If you have a monolingual Office 365 tenant, you probably don’t care about localization and multi-lingual support. But many of our subscribers run tenants in multiple languages, so this kind of stuff is important to them. Which is why the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook team pays attention to changes in this area.

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