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Mobile App Localisation

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ESmedo > Technical translations > Translation and Localisation of Mobile Apps
Localización de traducción de apps y aplicaciones móviles

App Localisation/Translation

Why focus our app sales on a single market? The localisation of mobile apps is no longer incidental. Mobile app stores are global, and so is your application. You never know what country the next person who downloads your app may live in. And although you application is accessible from any corner of the world, you may not be ready for it. Today, translating and localising your app is a must. Whether you localise an iOS app or an Android app, the international reach is undeniable.

Why is it important to localise your mobile application?

Estimates support the importance of localising and translating an app:

  • There are some 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, representing 96% of the world’s population.
  • More than half of these mobile subscribers are located in the Asian Pacific.
  • In 2016, Africa and the Middle East overtook Europe as the world’s second largest mobile subscription region.
  • 60% of mobile subscriptions are concentrated in just 14 countries: China comes first, of course. It is followed by India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Nigeria, Germany, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Mexico.
  • It is a fact that for each country for which an app is localised, sales increase by 26%.

Localisation and Internationalization

What is the difference between localisation and internationalisation?

Through internationalisation what you do is prepare your app so that it is easier to translate. The internationalisation step usually forces you to modify the coding so that you can later localise the app to a different country, language or culture.

Localisation is different. The aim is to make your software ready to adapt to the requirements of a particular country, language or culture.

In short: through internationalisation you will get a product ready for worldwide launch and easy to localizse and translate for any market. App localisation is considered a sub-genre of software localisation, and is the second step of the process. Localisation is the step where you actually adapt and translate the product for another market.

Some time ago localisation used to be planned after internationalisation. But with today’s translation platforms, the need to internationalise your application can be significantly reduced, by using for example a translation proxy.

IOS and Android Apps Localisation

The goal is to show your app to as many people as possible. And of course you are interested in positioning yourself on the most important platforms, especially iOS and Android.  There are several methods to localise an app for several platforms at once.

Whether you’re localising a mobile app for iOS or Android, there are some guidelines you should always follow:

Media

By media it is meant everything that is part of an app and is not code: content, images, videos, etc. Media refers to data files attached to the software’s executable code. Media simplifies the code we have to write by outsourcing the creation of graphic or data content outside the code, and doing it with more appropriate tools. To incorporate media into our app, all our code has to do is load it at runtime.

How to outsource media

The first step in the app localisation process is to host the media in external folders. Once done, localisation simply consists of creating new versions of the media for each supported language.

Default media

To ensure that your app works in all cases, regardless of the language or local version, it is necessary to have a backup media that is loaded by default. The default media for an app are those file that are not labelled with language or code.

Layout

When you design an app with the intention of localising it, it is necessary to take into account the length of sentences and words in other languages. Other factors to evaluate are the spaces and the reading direction, from left to right or from right to left.

Flexible layout

When you do the layout, you should consider that texts can be accommodated in space, whether the text expands or contracts. For example: when you translate from Spanish into German, the content can take up to 30% more space, while a translation into Finnish can expand up to 60%. Another factor to consider is languages whose characters take up more or less space than those of the Latin alphabet.

If you take all this into account when designing your app, we will be able to create a layout that accommodates all localisation languages. For languages that cannot be adapted to your flexible layout, you will create alternative layouts that will be uploaded along with the specific media for these languages.

Layout and text for right-to-left languages

If you have planned to localise our app in Hebrew, Arabic or Persian, which are written from right to left, you will have to make sure that the character coding and layout allow for this presentation.

You will always adapt to the way in which each language shows dates, times, numbers and currencies.

Whenever your app shows dates, times, numbers, currencies or time zones that vary by region, you will always use the tools offered by the platform (Android or iOS), and avoid creating specific solutions for the app. Thousand or decimal separators are not used equally in all regions, and sometimes the percentage sign may be next to or separate from the figure.

Context

Translators translating your app will need a context to know exactly what they are translating. This will considerably improve the quality of the translated content. Translators will choose the words based on where the content is located and also on how much space they have available. This is always the case, regardless of the type of content you translate, but it is especially true for app translations: screen size is limited and is not the same on all devices. If you give translators a context, the translation process will be faster and more reliable.

Test phase

Once you have translated all text strings and all media, and these are incorporated into the app, you will start a test phase to make sure that there are no problems with the layout and content.

Test environment

To test a localised app, you will create an environment with several devices (they can be virtual devices) and different screen sizes. Please note that the type of device varies by region. If possible, you will choose the most popular devices in the region for which you are localising.

Another common practice for testing a localised app is to do pseudo-translations. Let’s say you have to translate an app from English into Chinese and you want to make sure that the character encoding is correct and you don’t end up seeing a row of question marks. Pseudo-translation allows you to enter random strings of Chinese characters to check that the localised version technically accepts this encoding. This will save you a lot of and time trouble.

Problems you usually encounter during the localisation phase

On each device you wish to test, you will select the language or the locale from the Configuration menu. You will install and launch the app, and then will navigate through all the user interfaces, dialogues, user interactions, forms, etc. You should consider the following:

  • Text that is cut or overlaps with other visual elements on the screen
  • Improper line breaks
  • Improper punctuation or word division
  • Lists are not in alphabetical order
  • Incorrect text direction, in languages read from right to left
  • Untranslated texts and strings. If there are text strings that appear in the original language, these strings may not have been included for translation, or may not be correctly marked with the language label.

In cases where text strings are too long and there is no way to adjust them, the original layout must be changed, or a new one created for the language at issue.

Always check that the backup language works

Once the app has been tested in all supported languages and locales , you will select a language not offered by the application. This way you’ll make sure that the app shows the language you’ve selected by default.

App Store and Google Play Store

Listing your app in these directories will be the first impression your potential users get, so you will need translating the main features in all versions. Do ALWAYS translate:

  • The general description for the app
  • Screenshots for phones and tablets
  • All videos and advertising images