In 2017, Google added 30 more languages to its voice search. Native language is the language of the heart, and language is very closely associated with culture.
People are inherently cultural, and language is an obvious medium to communicate that culture. So when it comes to a mobile application, it’s vital to localise the app as more than another marketing activity.
Look at a mobile application as a local communication tool – everything changes. Now you are thinking language, words, names of features, demographic. We often see the mobile phone as a communication device while applications as just one of its features. Localisation of a mobile application brings trust because your app then becomes relatable.
A 2017 study by KPMG India and Google found that nearly 70% of Indians consider local language digital content more reliable than English content. The report stated that there were 169 million Indian language users of chat applications in 2016, which would go up to 396 million by 2021.
This report brings home a few points clearly as to why it is necessary to launch a mobile app or translate it into a native language –
- Localised mobile apps gain trust more quickly than those in a foreign language
- Native language mobile apps have a broader reach because both foreign language speaking and native language speaking demographics are combined
- Smaller and remote regions also become mobile app buyers
- Increased chances of finding new buyers
Crucial localisation factors lead to failures
Historically, there have been several examples of localisation gone wrong. The most infamous being KFC with its tagline – “finger lickin good”. While launching the product in China in the late 80s, KFC failed to translate the USP correctly in Chinese. As a result, in the Chinese language, it meant – take your fingers off! No wonder KFC couldn’t become as successful in the country as it was in the rest of the world.
Do mobile apps make similar mistakes?
It’s possible that a major reason for so many app failures is the inability to understand what works in a local market. WeChat never really took off in the rest of the world except in China because it failed to localise as per other users.
WeChat was developed for the Chinese audience. But even while launching the product outside China, the app development company Tencent didn’t quite ‘translate’ the emotions of the people while chatting. For instance, when American users search for stickers for baseball, American football or independence day, WeChat fails to show results. Similarly, words like ‘carnival’ and ‘Ramadan’ fetch no results in the stickers or emoticons sections.
The impact of localised mobile apps
|50%||iOS App store revenue-generating users are from non-English speaking countries|
|80%||Google Playstore revenue-generating users are from non-English speaking countries|
|92%||Top-grossing iPhone apps of China use Chinese names|
|80%||Top-grossing Android apps of Japan use Japanese names|
|162%||Year-on-Year growth has been traced back to non-English speaking areas of Asia|
What should mobile app translation mean in 2018?
Several companies have crashed in their efforts to localise their message to different markets. Often the reason is painfully simple – lack of proper translation and localisation of the mobile app. So what does it mean really?
Mobile app localisation stands for a process of translating not only the language but also the culture and local habits of the people. It’s not enough to translate a mobile app, it’s important to see how that app would echo in a local setting. Features, terms, keywords should be chosen according to the relevance of the app in a local market. Applications such as Pokemon Go, Replay, Clash of Clans and Weather Channel are massively successful because of their on-point localisation.
So here’s what mobile app localisation should mean in 2018 –
- Translating the thought behind the mobile app
- Naming the app in the national language of the country
- Using local trends and customs in launching the mobile app
- Running local ads on mobile apps
Translation is an integral part of app localisation and a lot of your success and victory would depend upon it. It’s vital to hire a translation agency that can provide native speakers to understand the application. Make sure that you just don’t translate the terminology but also the whole thought behind the mobile app.
How to translate and localise your app better?
1. Screen size as per language
Your mobile application may read well in English, but its screen size needs major adjustment in languages, say German or Chinese. That’s because the character count differs from one language to another and may require more space. In fact, in some target languages, the word/character count may increase to as much as 35% over the English language count. Other times, it’s the aesthetics of the language. Like the Chinese language has a lower character count but you may need larger fonts to make those characters more readable – such as the shape of the letters.
2. Internationalise the code first
Often, developers are tempted to concatenate because this can reduce the work of putting in the same words again and again. This also makes the program looks clean. However, this should be avoided because it is not considered one of the best practices of localisation. Understand that languages have different sentence structures. So when partial strings are translated and put together based on English structure, most of them will be incorrect in meaning and grammar.
3. Consider fonts as per language
Guess what affects the readability of language on mobile phones – the type of fonts. Since many mobile manufacturers use a digital screen, it is not advisable to use italics, bold or special fonts for the targeted language. Some languages have complex characters that may not be readable in special fonts. Do local research on what font is widely used in that language.
4. Understand the context
Here’s where the entire localisation team needs to ensure that they understand the application, its objective and the related field. Do thorough research of the word equivalents that you have used in the app. For instance, the English word ‘kill’ can also mean stop the app, but in Chinese, ‘kill’ only has one meaning – to kill a person/animal. So understanding the context of especially the words used in terminology or instructions is crucial.
5. Mobile app terminology
This is an extension of understanding the context. Once the context is set right, it becomes easier to choose the terminology most creatively. This also gives you a chance to explore the local flavours of the language.
6. Pseudo-localisation testing
Despite that you have taken the above precautions, it’s vital that you run a pseudo-localisation test of the application. This would clear out the confusion for considerations such as whether your app supports double-byte characters (for East Asian languages) or supports bi-directional display (for Middle East languages) or whether it supports local date/time, address formats, currency etc.
Translate By Humans is a localisation agency that has given wings to some of the most successful mobile apps in stores. We have localised these apps after a thorough understanding of the demographic and native culture. If you think your mobile app needs a winning app localisation strategy, do contact our sales team.