Posts Tagged ‘Localization’

The Harsh Realities for In-house Translation of Apps

Written by Joel Diamond on . Posted in Blog

Preparing your app for the US market will enable you to thrive and prosper, right? Maybe. But many American marketers and app inventors forget some critical facts.

Over 535 million world users access the Internet in English. But that number, while huge, represents only 27% of Internet users worldwide. Add over 500m Chinese and over 165m Spanish speakers, and you’ve targeted another 12% of the world market. That leaves many millions of Japanese, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), German, Arabic, French, Russian and Korean speakers whom your App is neglecting. Together they make up another 21.5% of world Internet users, with an additional 350 million users speaking other languages.

As you can see, preparing your app only in English leaves a huge gap for your app – and a hole your competitors can fill. Localizing your app in other languages through a professional language service suddenly expands your market beyond what you might have imagined.

The two biggest mistakes that publishers make when localizing for other markets are:

  1. To assume that Machine Translation (MT) such as Google or Babelfish will work fine. It won’t. MT makes comical, critical and casual mistakes that simply damage your credibility and reputation.   As an example,  
English Source Google Translate into Spanish Back translation into English
Shoppers in Budapest can by products from the US, while an American teen could be downloading folk music from a site in Nepal. Los compradores en Budapest por los productos de los EE.UU., mientras que un adolescente americano podría ser la descarga de música tradicional de un sitio en Nepal. Buyers in Budapest for U.S. products, while an American teenager could be the traditional music download site in Nepal.
  1. To presume that any in-house employees or native-speaking friends who speak the desired language can translate it properly. They usually can’t. Translation is an art which professional linguists study at a grad level. They understand word usage, proper spelling and grammar, technical terminology in a wide variety of fields, and know how to render cultural concepts, not just words.


    A Latino in the US wanted to say “Time flies” in Spanish. She said, “Tiempo moscas” which means Time and Flies (as in the annoying bug).  Another wanted to say “I can fly.” Instead of saying Puedo volar, he used, “Yo lata mosca” (which means I – tin can – annoying bug).Do you think those are too obvious? What about a client’s reviewer who changed the phrase “motor oil” to “salad oil” or who used “polish” when she meant to say “Polish.” We’ve seen it. 

Moral of these examples? Rely on a professional language service to localize your app correctly, quickly and relatively inexpensively. And if you think that professional translations are expensive, just wait until you see what amateur mistakes will cost you. (Why do people usually have the money to fix major errors but balk over spending to do it correctly the first time?)

Difficulties encountered and overcome

Many of the challenges in app language localization involve formatting and layout. A professional language service can effectively make an exact copy of the original file in another language. For websites and apps, it is essential to maintain all programming code intact.

Inexperienced writers or non-professionals assume that they can use Notepad to translate their files. But that too is fraught with risk: Delete just one tag or just one “;” in C language and the compiling will not run. Sometimes, non-professional translators are used to translating reserved words like If or While. This too makes the code unusable.

In addition, publishers should always utilize correct fonts. Each language has its own hyphenation, punctuation and word-splitting rules. Imposing English assumptions on other languages simply will not work.

Chinese, Japanese and Korean – the most common non-Western writing systems – require special fonts. Chinese itself is written with Simplified characters for China and Traditional characters for Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere overseas. If you use the wrong font, your file will appear scrambled and unreadable.

In another example, Russian is very large compared to English and it is better to use professional language services to keep the text inside the label components.

Arabic and Hebrew are the most commonly written RTL – right to left – languages. Localizing for those markets requires the right version of software. InDesign, a primary layout program, has a Middle East version which language services commonly have but non-professionals do not.

In conclusion, professional language agencies have many years’ experience keeping clients out of trouble. This includes knowing what works and was doesn’t, what coding rules to apply and which not to, how to adapt the content of an app or file to the target culture, and knowing standard grammar and correct word usage in each target language.

For a relatively small investment, you can reach the 73 percent (hundreds of millions) of world internet users who do not speak English … and get your company or app registered with other countries’ primary search engines in their languages. By delaying, what is this lost opportunity costing you?

Auerbach International (, contributed to this article. The firm, a 25 year old firm specializing in providing professional clients with translation services, can render anything written, spoken or electronic into the top 80 languages. We use only the finest qualified professional linguists who deliver with the fastest times humanly possible and acculturate your concepts for the target country. You can also reach at tel 415 592 0042 x 107 or at