top of page

We offer Free Posting Services in the UK

Understanding JSON and YAML - Essentials for Translators


In the realm of software development, data serialization formats like JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and YAML (YAML Ain't Markup Language) are crucial for configuring and exchanging data. Both formats have unique characteristics that make them suitable for different types of applications, including internationalization and localization projects. This article explores the basics of JSON and YAML, their structure, and key considerations for translators working with these files.

Understanding JSON and YAML - Essentials for Translators

JSON: Format and Characteristics

JSON is a lightweight data-interchange format that is easy for humans to read and write, and easy for machines to parse and generate. It is based on a subset of JavaScript and typically used to transmit data between a server and web application.


  • Data is organized in name/value pairs.

  • Curly braces hold objects.

  • Square brackets hold arrays.



"name": "John",

"age": 30,

"isDeveloper": true,

"languages": ["English", "Spanish", "German"]


Translation Focus:

  • For translators, key attention should be on the values associated with names like "name" or "languages". It is crucial to understand the context in which these terms are used to maintain accuracy in translation.

YAML: Format and Characteristics

YAML, a recursive acronym for "YAML Ain't Markup Language," is another human-readable data serialization format. It is particularly known for its ability to handle complex configurations with a focus on simplicity and ease of use.


  • Uses indentation to represent hierarchy.

  • No strict requirement for quotes or braces.

  • Supports complex structures like lists and associative arrays.


name: Jane

age: 25

isDeveloper: false


- French

- Japanese

- Chinese

Translation Focus:

  • Translators should concentrate on the indented items under fields like "languages". Ensuring that the structural integrity of YAML files is maintained during translation is paramount to prevent configuration errors.

Common Use Cases for JSON and YAML

JSON and YAML are two of the most popular data serialization formats used in modern computing. Their applications extend across numerous fields, offering flexibility, readability, and ease of use. Here's how each is commonly utilized:

JSON Use Cases:

  1. Web Development: JSON is extensively used in web applications for sending and receiving data between clients and servers. It's the backbone for APIs in mobile and web services.

  2. Configuration Files: Many software applications and services use JSON files for configuration due to their straightforward object-based structure.

  3. Database Queries: JSON is used in NoSQL databases like MongoDB, which store data in JSON-like documents, making data manipulation more straightforward.

YAML Use Cases:

  1. Configuration Management: YAML is widely used in configuration files for complex systems like Kubernetes and Docker due to its human-readable format and support for hierarchical data.

  2. DevOps: In the world of continuous integration and deployment, YAML files are used to create pipelines and automation scripts, helping streamline processes.

  3. Data Storage: For applications requiring clear, concise, and readable format for settings or model specifications, YAML is preferred due to its ability to handle complex data structures intuitively.

Best Practices for Handling JSON and YAML Files in Localization

When localizing JSON and YAML files, maintaining the structure and integrity of the data is as crucial as the translation itself. Here are some best practices to ensure successful localization:

JSON Localization Best Practices:

  1. Preserve Key-Value Pairs: It's essential to ensure that the key-value pairs remain unchanged except for the values that need translation. Altering keys can cause the application to malfunction.

  2. Avoid Adding Extra Elements: Introducing new elements or modifying the JSON structure can lead to errors in the application. Ensure that additions are approved and correctly integrated.

  3. Character Encoding: Use UTF-8 encoding to avoid issues with international characters and symbols, which are commonly found in different languages.

YAML Localization Best Practices:

  1. Maintain Indentation: YAML relies heavily on indentation to define the structure. Incorrect indentation can lead to parsing errors and potential system failures.

  2. Handle Scalars Carefully: When dealing with multiline scalars, be mindful of how text is broken up and ensure that the translation fits within the designated structure.

  3. Test Thoroughly: Post-translation, YAML files should be tested in the environment they are meant to function in to catch any issues that might disrupt operations.

Cross-Format Localization Considerations:

  • Consistency in Terms: When dealing with both JSON and YAML files within the same project, ensure consistency in terminology and style across all translations.

  • Contextual Translation: Understand the context in which terms are used. This is particularly important for placeholders and variables, which should not be translated unless specified.

  • Tool Support: Utilize localization tools and software that support both JSON and YAML formats to streamline the process and minimize errors.

By following these guidelines, developers and translators can ensure that JSON and YAML files are handled effectively during the localization process, maintaining the functionality and usability of software across different languages.

Review of Software and Tools for Translating JSON and YAML Files

Translating JSON and YAML files requires precision and an understanding of how these files are structured and function within applications. To assist translators in this task, various software and tools have been developed. These include translation management systems (TMS) and specialized editors, which provide vital support by ensuring translations are accurate and fit within the original file structures. Here are some key tools and software that are particularly useful:

  1. Poedit: Often used for translating software, Poedit can handle JSON files and offers a user-friendly interface that simplifies the translation process.

  2. OmegaT: A free, open-source translation memory application that supports YAML files among other formats, allowing translators to work efficiently while ensuring consistency across files.

  3. Phrase: A robust TMS that supports both JSON and YAML formats. It provides features such as term bases, translation memories, and in-context editing, making it easier to manage localization projects.

  4. memoQ: This translation software is renowned for its versatility and efficiency. memoQ supports a wide range of file formats including JSON and YAML, making it a favored choice for translators working with diverse and complex data structures.

  5. Transifex: An online TMS that can handle complex file formats, including JSON and YAML. Transifex allows multiple translators to work on a project simultaneously and integrates well with development workflows.

  6. Lokalise: This tool is a powerful ally in software localization, offering features that support editing, collaboration, and version control for both JSON and YAML files.

  7. SDL Trados Studio: While primarily a TMS, it can be configured to support JSON and YAML through plugins and custom settings, allowing translators to leverage its powerful translation memory capabilities.

These tools streamline the translation process, ensuring that files are handled correctly and efficiently, preserving their structure and syntax during translation.

Challenges in Translating JSON and YAML

Translating JSON and YAML files presents specific challenges that can complicate the localization process. These challenges include:

  1. Nested Structures: Both JSON and YAML can contain deeply nested structures that make translation difficult. Translators must navigate these structures carefully to ensure that no part of the document is overlooked or mistranslated.

  2. UI Constraints: Translations must fit within the constraints of the user interface. This can be particularly challenging when translating into languages where expressions are typically longer than in the source language, potentially leading to layout issues or truncation of text.

  3. Maintaining Valid Syntax: Both JSON and YAML have strict syntax rules. Even minor errors, such as misplacing a comma or incorrect indentation, can render a file unusable. Translators need to be vigilant about maintaining the integrity of the file format.

  4. Variable and Placeholder Integrity: These files often contain variables or placeholders that should not be translated. Accidentally translating these elements can cause the application to malfunction.

  5. Consistency Across Files: When projects use both JSON and YAML files, maintaining consistency in terminology and style across both formats is crucial but challenging.

These challenges necessitate a thorough understanding of both JSON and YAML formats and a careful approach to translation. Translators need to work closely with developers to ensure that translations are not only linguistically accurate but also technically compliant with the intended use of the files. By addressing these challenges effectively, translators can help ensure that software and applications function seamlessly across different languages and cultures.

At the conclusion of the exploration into the complexities of translating JSON and YAML files, it’s clear that precision and expertise are critical. ITS Groups Translation offers comprehensive localization services that are tailored to navigate these challenges effectively. Our team is equipped with the knowledge and tools to ensure your translation needs are met with the highest standards of accuracy and professionalism.

Whether you are dealing with intricate file structures or need to maintain the integrity of your multilingual projects, ITS Groups is here to assist every step of the way. We are committed to ensuring that your localization efforts are seamless and successful.

For more information on how we can support your localization needs or to get started on your project, please contact ITS Groups Translation. We are here to help make your global communication efforts as effective as possible.

Other posts:


bottom of page