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AIDA Translation Issues

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The AIDA authors, over time, have received a number of requests to translate the PC AIDA software and/or 'AIDA on-line' into various languages. There are a number of issues which need to be considered before embarking on any such translation work. These can be summarised under 6 or 7 separate headings, which will be dealt with in turn below.

  • 1. Translating the PC AIDA software (v4)
  • 2. Translating 'AIDA on-line'
  • 3. Translating the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial
  • 4. Is it possible to have the source code for the PC AIDA software (v4)?
  • 5. Is it possible to host the 'AIDA on-line' scripts on our own server?
  • 6. Web-based translation tools / services
  • 7. Our recommended approach
  • 8. How to handle non-English language characters / lettering?

  • 1. Translating the PC AIDA software (v4)

    As you will see below a recurring theme on this Web page regarding the best way to translate AIDA (and 'AIDA on-line') concerns what is feasible or possible versus what is sensible or "intelligent" given a wish to be able to develop AIDA further in the future. Let's try and explain.

    Theoretically it might be possible to take the PC AIDA software and translate each and every occurrence of a word that appears on the screen into some other language, for the sake of illustration let's say 'French'. In this way, theoretically, it should be possible to generate a French language version of the PC AIDA software. This will obviously require a translator fluent in English and French, as well as familiar with diabetes and insulin therapy. Finding such a person should not be too difficult. However what may not be so apparent is that this person will also need to have a good working understanding of various programming languages, because the way PC AIDA (v4) is written the screen displays are fully integrated with the software code. This works fine - but translating the screen displays will as a result require some software expertise / knowledge to ensure that the program code is not altered by mistake. It is not difficult to envisage a situation arising where by accident a variable name or a word in the program is translated, resulting in the program stopping working. Debugging such errors could be rather time consuming (and frustrating).

    Now while, with a fair bit of effort, it might just be possible to generate (say) a dedicated French-language version of the PC AIDA (v4) software, this whole exercise would need to be repeated for Italian, German, Armenian, Spanish, Hungarian, Arabic, Malaysian, Portuguese, Russian, Hebrew, Korean, Chinese, Danish, Pakistani, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese, Polish, Indian, etc, etc. And yes we have already had requests to translate AIDA or 'AIDA on-line' into all these languages!

    As you can see this could be a great deal of work. Furthermore there are other problems with this approach. Firstly if we ever wish to update AIDA v4 we could find ourselves having to update 20+ different versions of the program. Similarly if a 'bug' is identified in the software, 20+ different versions of the program may need to be de-bugged. This would be an absolute nightmare. Furthermore providing support for all these different versions of the program would be 20+ times as time-consuming as providing support is at present! And to be honest we don't have time to provide proper support for the single English-language version of the program, at present!!

    In case this wasn't enough of a headache, there is an additional problem, and that is distribution. Even assuming we were able to produce all these 20+ bug-free versions of AIDA in other languages, we would still need to find some way to distribute them to people who were interested. Clearly we could place the other language versions of the software on the Web and make them available for free at the AIDA Website. However this would require 20+ times as much Web storage as we use at present to store the English-language version of AIDA. With the prices of Web hosting falling all the time, and the specifications (bandwidth / storage space / etc) rising, hopefully this should not be a long term problem. Nevertheless we could end up with non-English language versions of the software at an English-language Website (the AIDA Website). Now while some people from other countries (France, Italy, Germany, Armenia, Spain, Hungary, Malaysia, Portugual, Russia, Israel, Korea, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Poland, etc) might find their version of the program at http://www.2aida.org - it is more likely that people from other countries would find the program via a Diabetes Website in their own language. For this reason, as explained below, the long-term AIDA Website plan for making versions of AIDA and 'AIDA on-line' available in other (non-English) languages requires a working partnership / collaboration with non-English language Diabetes Websites; which should then be able to get the message out to potential non-English language users of AIDA much better than we can.

    Incidentally, we should perhaps say that when it comes to trying to translate PC AIDA (v4) into other languages we do speak from experience. Some years back a venture was embarked upon to translate AIDA into Hungarian. One of the original AIDA authors was from Budapest, Hungary so this seemed like a good idea at the time. Even though the author was familiar with much of the source code, and had a much deeper understanding of the workings of the program than any usual translator would have, there were still a number of technical / programming queries which needed to be solved before a Hungarian version of AIDA v4 could be generated. Apparently 'trivial' issues also needed to be addressed. These included things like the number of characters that could be displayed in a particular place / space on the screen. The screen format had been fixed for English, but what should be done when the translated word requires more space than was available on the screen? Compromises obviously had to be made. However after a considerable amount of effort a Hungarian version of the software was generated. Yet the venture did not succeed because the plan relied on a third party to distribute the program on diskette / CD-ROM with other diabetes materials. (At the time when this was being done in the 1990s, Internet access in Hungary apparently wasn't the best way of distributing such material). This whole exercise took many months to complete, and involved a considerable amount of effort / work for all concerned. In the end the venture failed at the final stage (distribution).

    Before embarking on this same approach 20+ times over we need a more sensible / 'intelligent' way of organizing such a venture. Please see below for one of the AIDA author's ideas on how best to achieve such a translation exercise. Suffice to say, individually translating PC AIDA v4 into 20+ different languages, and producing 20+ different versions of the executable program, is not the best way to proceed.

    By the way, to complicate things even further, one of the compilers used to generate the AIDA v4 executable program is no longer sold / available. As a result it is difficult to envisage how several hundred lines of code that make up the data entry screen could be recompiled to produce non-English language versions of AIDA, in its current form.

    Finally, it will be self-evident that AIDA v4 is now somewhat dated (old). Given limited time and resources it would seem that efforts are best directed at generating a stable Windows-based version of the AIDA software. Once this is produced we believe the next logical step to translate AIDA into multiple languages would be to incorporate some sort of lookup table into the program. In this way all text items on the screen could be replaced by variables - the values for which would be read from some standard (e.g. ASCII text) file. Entries / words in this file could be easily translated into multiple languages. It will be self-evident but such ASCII text file(s) could be easily transferred between translators using email, without there being a need for translators to edit source code or a risk of changing the code / introducing 'bugs' or errors into the code. Using this generic approach, one program should allow access to multi-lingual versions of AIDA - with only a single program needing to be maintained / developed. All this will clearly take time. In the interim, what else can be done?

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    2. Translating 'AIDA on-line'

    Many of the same issues apply to the translation of the Web-based version of the AIDA diabetes simulator ('AIDA on-line') which is accessible directly at http://www.2aida.net

    To understand the issues involved in translating 'AIDA on-line' it is important to understand a little bit about how the Web-based diabetes simulator works. 'AIDA on-line' comprises a few fixed HTML Web pages plus three core CGI-BIN PERL scripts. One of the scripts does the bulk of the work in generating simulations, but is passed data by the other two scripts. Unfortunately to cater for older browsers each of these scripts is currently duplicated in a slightly different form for older browser displays, giving in total six scripts.

    Translating the fixed HTML Web pages into other (non-English) languages should be a relatively trivial undertaking, although this could lead to 20+ versions of each Web page. Some sensible method would need to be found to store and access all these pages in an appropriate manner. However translating the dynamically generated Web pages produced by the CGI-BIN PERL scripts would be more challenging. Once again, as things are coded in 'AIDA on-line' version 2, the text to be displayed in the Web browser window is merged in with the model simulation code. PERL scripts can be even more sensitive to syntax errors and even harder to debug than the Pascal / QuickBasic source code used for AIDA v4. Furthermore all the issues outlined above about having 20+ versions of the PC AIDA v4 program to debug / maintain and support are multiplied six times over with 'AIDA on-line'. If we went down the route of translating each of the scripts into each of the desired languages we would end up with 6 x 20+ scripts = 120+ scripts to debug, maintain and support. This would be a considerable amount of work. But more importantly, as soon as we came to want to add any new features to 'AIDA on-line' everything would become a complete nightmare. It is hard enough coding new features, say rapidly-acting insulin (Humalog / lispro), in 'AIDA on-line' let alone trying to roll out such new features across 120+ scripts. There has to be a more sensible / practical / "intelligent" way of doing things. And of course there is.

    The logical step forward to translate 'AIDA on-line' into multiple languages would be to first try and reduce the number of scripts from 6 to 3. If we could establish a single generic script which could generate graphs in multiple formats, then we could have just 3 scripts for 'AIDA on-line'. These could produce graphs in the standard format and/or in a format compatible with older browsers. In this way things could be considerably simplified for 'AIDA on-line'; the number of scripts that require translation being halved.

    As with the PC AIDA v4 software, the next logical step forward to translate 'AIDA on-line' into multiple languages would incorporate some sort of lookup table into the scripts. In this way all text items on the screen could be replaced by variables - the values for which would be read from some standard (e.g. ASCII text) file. Entries / words in this file could be easily translated into multiple languages. It will be self-evident but such ASCII text file(s) could be easily transferred between translators using email, without there being a need for translators to edit source code or a risk of changing the code / introducing 'bugs' or errors into the code. Using this generic approach one script should allow access to multi-lingual versions of 'AIDA on-line' the language being selected by a simple 'flag' / variable. In this way only a single suite of 3 scripts would need to be maintained / developed. However as new features (insulins, exercise, etc) were added to 'AIDA on-line' the text for these could be translated into other languages, requiring relatively little effort. All this will clearly take time. However we think that it is preferable to take a slightly longer / possibly slower route to the translation of 'AIDA on-line' if this ensures that in the long term we have something which can be more readily maintained and supported.

    With the idea of translating 'AIDA on-line' into other languages there are some other issues that might be worthwhile to raise. There are a number of different viewpoints as to how much (or little) of 'AIDA on-line' actually needs to be translated. For instance some people might argue that most of the dynamically generated .cgi pages at 'AIDA on-line' actually contain very little English language text, and anyway words like insulin should anyhow be quite understandable to most Web users. Which raises the issue whether trying to translate dynamically generated pages could involve a lot of technical (programming) work for relatively little gain. An alternative viewpoint is that in order to be fully useful for people for whom English is not their first language, really requires all the text and explanations to be properly translated. Yet another viewpoint might suggest that for small group teaching sessions a teacher who can lead / direct the sessions can also act as a language translator (translating any words that appear on screen for the audience). This is certainly the approach that has been adopted for small group educational sessions that have been run with PC AIDA v4 in Italy. See the Evaluation section of this Website at http://www.2aida.org/evaluate for more information on this approach. Yet another viewpoint may suggest that rather than putting too much effort into translation ventures, just now, it might actually help more people overall if rapidly-acting insulin (Humalog / lispro), long-acting insulin (Lantus / glargine), exercise, stress, and insulin pumps, etc were all added to AIDA / 'AIDA on-line' first.

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    3. Translating the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial

    OK. Having highlighted many of the current problems with translating PC AIDA v4 and 'AIDA on-line' into other languages, is there anything that can be done now? Well, yes there is.

    At the AIDA Website we have a Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial accessible directly at http://www.2aida.org/tutorial which aims to teach a little bit about balancing insulin and diet in diabetes. This tutorial is novel because while reading text about, say, insulin and diet in diabetes it is possible to click on hard coded HTML links which load a dynamic simulation of the situation which the visitor has been reading about in a pop-up (new) window. Hopefully in this way it will be possible to combine static / informational representations of knowledge regarding diabetes with interactive / dynamically generated information - and thereby enhance the learning experience.

    All the HTML pages (and graphics) that make up the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial are fixed (not dynamically generated) so translating these into other languages becomes a relatively 'straight-forward' matter of translating the text / updating the graphics. Provided the fixed HTML links to fast-track (hard-coded) simulations are left in place, whatever else changes, the simulations should continue to run fine in a pop-up (new) window at the www.2aida.net Website.

    A Diabetes Webmaster who was fluent in English and their local language should have sufficient HTML skills to undertake the translation work and generate revised Web pages in their local language. To facilitate this we are happy to make available the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial Web pages from the AIDA site in a form that can be accessed / used on an external server. To find out more about our ideas for such collaborations with other diabetes Websites please check out our Tutorial Info page. For further information about translating the Tutorial into other (non-English) languages - please check out our Translation Ideas Web page. For our ideas on general collaboration with other not-for-profit / non-commercial diabetes Websites - please check out our Webmaster page.

    To see examples of the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial operating in different languages you may wish to view the following site:

    http://www.diabet.ru/aida2/rus/tutorial.htm (in Russian)

    It is early days for this collaboration, and we hope over time to find some non-commercial Diabetes Websites in other languages that might be interested in developing this approach.

    We are particular interested to hear from Webmasters who have diabetes sites in German, Armenian, Spanish, Hungarian, Arabic, Malaysian, Portuguese, Hebrew, Korean, Chinese, Danish, Pakistani, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese, Indian, and Polish. However this list is not exhaustive. If you have a non-English language Diabetes Website that you think could benefit from making use of the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial in your own local language, please do get in contact with us via the on-line AIDA contact form.

    Finally, it will be apparent that a lot more could be done with respect to translating AIDA / 'AIDA on-line' +/- information from the AIDA Website into other languages. However we feel it is important to start somewhere and take small steps in the desired direction. Hopefully building a 'network' of free diabetes Websites that have translated the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial into other languages will be a step in the right direction.

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    4. Is it possible to have the source code for the PC AIDA software (v4)?

    The simple answer, unfortunately, is no. Please see our entry in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the AIDA Website, by clicking here. Briefly, we simply do not have the time to support individual efforts trying to translate PC AIDA v4 into other languages. Also for all the reasons outlined above we do not believe that generating 20+ different program executables to cover each different language is really the best way to proceed.

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    5. Is it possible to host the 'AIDA on-line' scripts on our own server?

    We sometimes get asked why have the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial run simulations on the www.2aida.net server? The simple answer is that this is the best way to arrange things. The CGI-BIN scripts are only one component of what is required to get 'AIDA on-line' up and running on a server. The whole process is non-trivial. It took us several months to get everything sorted when we moved 'AIDA on-line' from its version 1 form on a server in Rayleigh, North Carolina, USA to its version 2 form running in London, England. Basically, some of the support programs that are required to run 'AIDA on-line' need to be actually compiled on the server to install them. This in itself requires the server to be taken off-line, which might be acceptable if you have a dedicated server, but is generally not acceptable for shared servers. The process is quite complex and involved, and to be honest there is little reason to spawn loads of copies of 'AIDA on-line' all over the Web. One of the key advantages of a Web-based simulation approach is that as updates are made to the on-line simulator, they become available - instantaneously - worldwide. This would not happen if there were a multitude of on-line simulators all over the place. Furthermore in terms of capacity one of the beauties of the Web-based simulation approach is that the files (Web pages) produced are incredibly small (<25 Kb). As a result it is actually quite possible for a single server / site such as www.2aida.net to serve as a simulation engine for a whole range of free diabetes Websites.

    Certainly the 'AIDA on-line' server is currently operating at considerably less than 50% of its maximum (paid for) capacity, and if need be it would be relatively easy (and cheap) to purchase some additional bandwidth / capacity. Also AIDA has considerable additional spare capacity at its US Mirror Site at http://www.2aida.net - so Web capacity should not be a limiting factor to the number of simulations that can be run at 'AIDA on-line'. Furthermore much of the existing capacity which is used at www.2aida.org is actually taken up with fixed HTML page hits - and not 'AIDA on-line' simulations. If it proved necessary to free up capacity on the www.2aida.org server for more 'AIDA on-line' simulations, it would be trivial to redirect fixed HTML page view traffic via the much larger capacity AIDA US Mirror site.

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    6. Web-based translation tools / services

    From time to time we come across Web-based translation services that offer to translate Web pages into various non-English languages (using automated Web based programs). We have looked into these at various times, and have asked friends / colleagues who are fluent in those other languages to check out some of the translated Web pages. The answer that we hear back, repeatedly, is that the translations are not very good. They do not recommend that the AIDA Website makes use of these services.

    Some people express the view that the automated translation services offer a 'gist' of what the Website is about. Others think that if we are going to embark on translation work, this should be done properly. As we do not speak any of these other languages, we have to be guided by others as to the best way to proceed.

    There is no simple answer to this. However it is of interest that each month the AIDA Websites have thousands of hits from visitors who come via various automated, free Web-based translation services. Even if the translations are not that accurate or reliable - judging by the on-going usage some visitors clearly find this helpful. Perhaps as this automated software improves we shall start to offer such translation services ourselves for the AIDA Websites.

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    7. Our recommended approach

    OK. We hope you are not thoroughly depressed by now. As we hope is clear from the amount of thought that has gone into the issues considered on this Web page, we are keen on seeing AIDA and 'AIDA on-line' translated into other languages. However we are of the opinion that it would not be a good idea to come up with a 'solution' that involved producing 20+ versions of the AIDA v4 executable program and some 120+ versions of the 'AIDA on-line' scripts - for loads of different languages. Only to find that each version needed to be individually updated when we came to add a new feature to the simulator. Clearly there has to be a much more sensible / "intelligent" way of doing things.

    Our approach, given our limited time and resources, is to concentrate first on producing a working, reliable version of 'AIDA v5 for Windows'. Once this is up and running and released our plan would be to try and produce a multi-lingual version of this in which all text displayed on screen is read from a standard lookup table (ASCII text file). Translation of all the words / phrases in that file should allow non-English language versions of the software to be generated. Along similar lines / possibly in parallel we would like to generate a generic version of the 'AIDA on-line' scripts that can read all screen text from a standard ASCII text file. In the same way, these words / phrases could be translated into other languages, giving us a multi-lingual version of 'AIDA on-line'. Using this approach, adding further languages or new features to a multi-lingual 'AIDA on-line' would entail no more work than adding those same features to the current version of 'AIDA on-line'.

    Even though it may possibly take longer to achieve translated versions of AIDA and 'AIDA on-line' in this way - we hope that the approach we propose will ensure that when we have actually produced non-English language versions of AIDA and 'AIDA on-line' - it will still be possible to enhance / develop these further without the maintenance 'overhead' of supporting multiple versions becoming unmanageable.

    In the meantime we are keen to proceed with collaborations involving translating the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial. Related to this, a certain number of people have contacted us in the past via email or this Website, asking if it would be possible to translate AIDA / 'AIDA on-line' into their preferred / chosen language. However actually identifying translators for these languages - people who are willing to put in the work required to translate words / text from English into their local languages - has proven more difficult. Some people have been excellent and a great help. However we have had situations with other volunteers where we thought we had a particular language 'covered' only to discover that this was not the case when we came to try out various translation options. And we have certainly tried to experiment with what can be done to translate AIDA / 'AIDA on-line'.

    To overcome any such issues / problems with changing commitments on the part of translators we have come up with the idea of trying to build a 'network' of strategic partner diabetes Websites. This might sound rather grand, but the concept is simple. These sites are preferably non-commercial diabetes Websites to whom we are happy to make available all the Tutorial HTML pages and graphics free-of-charge. For more information about how to obtain this free tutorial package, please click here.

    For non-English language Websites these fixed HTML pages can be translated into local languages. Provided the HTML simulation links are not changed - access to 'AIDA on-line' will be seamless. This approach has a number of benefits. Firstly Websites that go to the 'trouble' of translating the 60+ HTML Web pages into their local language have demonstrated a clear commitment to the whole 'AIDA on-line' translation idea. In addition everyone gets something useful now. Furthermore as and when the technical (programming) work is in place and we are able to proceed with the actual translation of 'AIDA on-line' hopefully these linked sites will have a vested interest in ensuring that the actual translation work happens. It will be self-evident that revising the links from non-English language versions of the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial to point to a non-English language version of 'AIDA on-line' (once available) should be a trivial undertaking. In addition establishing such a loose 'network' of AIDA-affiliated non-English language diabetes Websites should help with distribution of any multi-lingual versions of the AIDA PC software, as and when such a PC program becomes available for distribution.

    It should also be self-evident that in the interim at least the partner non-English language diabetes Websites will benefit from local language versions of the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial, while at the same time hopefully a wider audience will get to hear about / benefit from what 'AIDA on-line' currently can offer.

    If you know of any non-commercial diabetes Websites that you think might be interested in making use of the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial for free, either in English, or for translation into other languages - please do suggest that they contact us via the on-line AIDA contact form.

    Similarly if you are a Webmaster of a non-commercial diabetes site, and if you would like to benefit from this approach at your site, please do drop us a note.

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    8. How to handle non-English language characters / lettering?

    Finally, to see if you have made it all the way to the end of this Web page (!) - we have a question for you. We can see how English-language characters / lettering could be handled by a lookup table

    However we are not quite sure how non-English language lettering should be handled. For instance a Korean, or Chinese, or Russian dictionary / lookup table could not use an ASCII text based approach. We are certain that there must be a relatively simple solution to this problem. If you run a Website which does not use English language characters, we would be grateful for any advice / guidance as how best to represent such characters / letters in a lookup table. As usual it is possible to get in contact with us via the on-line AIDA contact form.

    Thank you for your time and attention.

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    AIDA Website home Return to AIDA Website Home Page AIDA is a freeware diabetes software simulator program of glucose-insulin action + insulin dose & diet adjustment in diabetes mellitus. It is intended purely for education, self-learning and / or teaching use. It is not meant for individual blood glucose prediction or therapy planning. Caveats

    This Web page was last updated on 19th October, 2003. (c) www.2aida.org, 2000. All rights reserved. Disclaimer. For the AIDA European Website, please click here. For the Diabetes / Insulin Tutorial, please click here.