We are planning several changes for Drupal 8 to improve the user experience around translations of the Drupal software (including its modules, themes and distributions). We plan to build in the Localization update module into Drupal 8 core, and we are on track doing some of those steps. We also want to improve the general user experience of some software translation tools we have in Drupal, and your feedback on both counts would be very appreciated.
Improvements to the built-in software translation interface
We have fixed a long standing bug of idenification of singular/plural string pairs such as "1 minute"/"@count minutes". If you did not load in a .po file in Drupal 7 and before, the identification of these source strings never related them to each other, and translating them properly was impossible on the user interface. We fixed this bug by changing the storage for singular/plural pairs, and introduced a temporary complication to the built-in translation UI. We kept the search/overview screen as-is in Drupal 7 and before. See the third and second images at http://drupal.org/node/532512#comment-5641302.
We think that people go to the translation screen to actually translate things, and also that it is more likely that people want to translate multiple things into one language (which the current UI does not support at all) versus translating one thing to many languages (which the current UI is optimized for). So we have an ongoing discussion at http://drupal.org/node/1452188 with various UI idea to move forward. The most up to date list of options we considered is at http://drupal.org/node/1452188#comment-5777686
Because there are so many directions we can go, and we don't necessarily agree on the exact goals of the UI either, feedback from translators would be extremely valuable. If we cannot agree, the worst thing that can happen is that we'll release with the UI as-is now in Drupal 8, which I think is not ideal. Your feedback welcome!
Custom string translation tracking
We already centralized .po file lookup into one directory, so Drupal 8 will not look at various places under modules, etc. for .po files. This is very useful to support distribution and staging/deployment of translations without interference to version control of the source repositories. Adding in automated download and import of .po files from the community is still to be done.
However, because most community translations are not complete and we want to keep the possibility for people to customize translations downloaded from the community, we are building custom string tracking and customized string protection into the APIs and the UI. This is being discussed in http://drupal.org/node/1445004 with the main UI simplification / new UI additions explained in http://drupal.org/node/1445004#comment-5673836 and the following comments. I hope/believe that even though we are adding some new functionality here, we can also use this opportunity to not complicate the UI much at the same time and build in the automated translation feeding in a way that people can still customize and divert from as needed. Because the proposal does add some new concepts and UI components to the .po import/export screen to understand, it would be great if you could help provide feedback on whether the additions make sense and the simplification of the extended functionality helps make it easier to understand overall.
If the changes proposed look exciting to you and you are interested in being involved, the Drupal 8 Multilingual Initiative is meeting every second Wednesday on IRC in the #drupal-i18n channel. Meeting announcements with exact times are posted on http://groups.drupal.org/drupal-initiatives. People from all experience levels and all angles are welcome!