Raise your hand if you still don’t have a smartphone, tablet or laptop! (Birds heard chirping in the background). We’ve all witnessed how the use and diversification of electronic devices has increased exponentially in recent years, and it seems that this trend isn’t going to be reversed any time soon. The number of apps, aimed at all kinds of users and in response to any need, has also multiplied.
Just as with websites, numerous companies have discovered how to use apps to get closer to their target audience, thereby facilitating the use of and access to their products and services. This is where the potential internationalization and localization of apps comes in. Undoubtedly, launching an app in new markets is a significant business opportunity that can’t be overlooked.
However, it’s not a task that can be taken on lightly (as tends to be the case). Who hasn’t downloaded an app before and realised that it was automatically translated by a machine? Hands up! Grammar mistakes, lexical inconsistencies, menus that don’t work, elements that don’t make sense in the target culture… All this gives users the impression that the developer or the company behind the app hasn’t really worried about communicating or building a relationship with them.
The professional translation of an app goes far beyond merely transmitting the content. The relevant cultural, linguistic and technical aspects need to be taken into account so that the app has the effect that it originally intended on the target audience. Here are some of the factors that we think are essential to correctly translate an app.
- The task of localization is key in translation in general, but it’s even more important for apps and websites. This process involves adapting elements that may vary from one culture to another, such as date and time formats, currency, etc. Localization, however, is also applied to elements such as colours or images, which, although they don’t appear to require adaptation at first glance, can in fact have different meanings and connotations depending on the country. That’s why it’s essential that the professional localiser has in-depth knowledge of the culture of potential users and is able to predict the effect that each element of the app might have.
- More often than not, respecting the initial design and interface structure is paramount for the user, and therefore the translator must also make this their priority. It’s important to remember that, depending on the language combination of the project, the language and written content will be subject to the design. At times, this leads to possible character limitations; for example, in a translation from English into a Romance language, as the latter tend to have more characters per word; or when modifying the font, by using italics or bold, for example, which can hamper reading in languages such as Chinese or Korean.
- Translators must be trained to manage the different file formats that make up an app (.XML, audio and video files…) correctly. The differences according to the device and operating system used to run the app must also be taken into account: translators cannot translate an Android app in the same way as an iOS app, for example. This will have a different effect on how dialogue boxes, menus, etc., are processed. It’s crucial that translators respect the programming code and labels at all times, and that they ensure they can be adapted to the characters of the language they’re translating into.
- Together with the app, technical documentation may also need to be translated, such as forms or user manuals; legal documents, such as contracts or terms and conditions; or even commercial or advertising documents, such as social media ads or the introductory text that appears on download platforms. Translating specialised documents, as well as the content of the app itself, requires knowledge of the language and culture. Therefore, if you were to translate your app into Spanish, legislation relating to data protection, for example, would differ from English legislation, and thus these differences must be adapted so that the message has the desired effect in the target culture.
- Lastly, the most important element in this type of project is probably the constant close communication between the translation company and the client, in order to ensure that the product does what it was intended to do. It’s a task in which a translation company offers language and cultural advice while also adapting to the client’s needs and requirements.
As we already said, the process of translating an app goes far beyond the purely linguistic element. By leaving the project in the hands of a professional translation company, you’ll ensure that the final product is satisfactory and meets your expectations. For this, Tatutrad has professional translators and localisers specialised in app and software translation, with extensive experience in localization and cultural adaptation, as well as in translating a wide range of files and formats.
Why settle with an okay result when you can create a version of your app that improves the user experience?
Author: Clara Ordóñez Marvizón