One of the challenges of documenting a program like Flight Simulator is that its complexity goes beyond program functionality. It's about aviation and aircraft and systems and aerodynamics...'n stuff. We have to think locally in terms of how to explain all of that to a technical and non-technical audience. But we have to think globally in terms of every word we write, whether it's a word in an article about graphics or a word in a control label.
We always have to think about the length of a string and where it's going to go in the UI, because that string will grow 25% in languages like German. We can't just think, "Oh, it would read nice this way." That doesn't cut it.
We can't write colloquially (although that always seems to creep in here and there) because some things just don't translate, no matter how hard you try. We even have to be somewhat circumspect about the aviation terminology, which is a language all its own.
Even though English is the international language of aviation, more than 50% of our customers do not use English as their first language. We're not teaching them how to fly, we're entertaining them, so we can't expect them to be fluent in colloquial English. We have to keep that in mind when we write for our audience.
Fortunately, we have wonderful colleagues in Dublin, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and elsewhere that do the hard work of translating our words for an international audience. They come up with some amazing ideas and questions about aspects of FS that we'd never think of ourselves.
Flight Simulator's ATC system presents particular challenges. Because ATC-speak is truly its own language, what works in English doesn't work at all in some languages. Japanese for instance requires that the sentence structures be reorganized. Fortunately the way our ATC dev wrote the code, this can be done but it's a lot of work. We get questions from the translators about phrases that make perfect sense to us but are unintelligible if you translate them into another language.
Flight Simulator's appeal cuts across boundaries and languages, which is a very appealing thing for us to know. But it definitely creates challenges.