How to Get Professional Software Translation

Imagine that you never found out about the latest cool new app just because it's not available in your language. Having software and mobile apps translated by professional translators is a cheap, fast and a reliable way to increase downloads and in-app purchases since most Apple and Play Store users are non-english speakers.

You put a ton of work into it. You had a great idea, created an app for that and uploaded it to the app stores. You get a couple of downloads and prove that your app can create some traction. What’s next?

After reaching initial proof of concept for your idea and getting first users or even paying customers, you aim to reach a larger audience.

One key element of the one-in-a-million startup wonders is an early focus on localization. Though localization is a broad topic and has many other implications, this article focuses on getting your app translated into different languages by professionals.

So let’s talk about how software translation generally works and outline the steps needed to make your app available in at least one other language.

We’ll try to cover the following points:

  • It’s hard, it takes time: Why should I bother translating my app into foreign languages?
  • How does software translation work and how do I get started?
  • How expensive is it to my translate software?
  • What are things to consider when localizing?
  • How do I decide which languages to translate my app into?
  • 10-Step Checklist for App Translation
  • This sounds like a lot, where can I get help with this?

Software Translation Is Hard and It Takes Time: Why Should I Bother at All?

62.4% of website content is in English, 25.9% of Internet users are English speakers. – According to Internet World Stats on Languages used on the internet

Though many people do understand a bit of English, most users prefer to use applications and software in their native languages if available. Worst case: They are searching using a term in their native language and will not find your app at all.

Translating your App Store app description has other benefits as well: SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM content will receive higher quality scores, rankings and click-through rates when in the searching users native language. Stop losing such a huge number of users before they even get to your doorstep.

The gist: More downloads, more revenue, more sales and even reduced costs in marketing spending.

How Does Software Translation Work?

Traditionally, you would send your document (a letter or marketing material) to a translation office, get a quote for the translation and receive a translated copy within a week or so.

Software translation works differently: Since your app is written in a programming language and most translators do not understand programming languages – nor do your programmers enjoy translators trampling all over your code.

You need to separate the language content from your source code. This process is referred to as internationalization (i18n if you want to be cool) or the process of making your software accessible and usable using different interface languages.

There are tools to automate this, but you should really use a platform developer for this process.

You might find these guides useful for the platform of your app:

When you’ve extracted your original copy from your app into a Strings, XLIFF, ResXor XML locale file you’re ready to get it to translators.

When your translator finishes the translation you will end up with multiple locale files, usually one for every language you want to support.

You then need to add these locale files into your projects source code according to your platform and release the updated version of your app. The devices will handle the language option based on the system language settings.

How Expensive Is It To Translate Software?

Translation cost are calculated per-word and usually the level of domain-knowledge of the translator. A standard translation by a professional translator can start at as little as $US 0,06 per word.

Every app is different, but an average app on our platform has 800-1200 words of original copy. Expanding to another language therefore can cost as little as $50. If you want a quote on your project, you can use the free trial at Phrase, upload your locale file and get a quote calculated in the Translation Ordering menu.

What Are Things To Consider When Localizing?

Localization does not stop at the translation of content. If you integrate external payment providers to verify that they offer suitable payment methods for your target country.

Date and Time formats differ even from one European country to another, Germans use the 24-hour clock while the British enjoy using the 12-hour notation with a.m. and p.m.

Not every piece of content is naturally suitable for translation.

Translation is not simply transposing the words from one language into another; it should focus on translating the meaning of the text which often means not sticking literally to the same words.

Cultural references, humor or proverbs might not have similar expressions in other languages or could even be taken as offensive.

The general rule: If the content is written in a neutral tone, is easy to read, simple and does not contain slang it’s translation will be easier.

Many localization frameworks allow using placeholders in text, like “Your receipt is ${bill-amount}”. Placeholders are used to reduce duplication in the translated content and to keep the sentence for translators intact. Albeit a good practice, be cautious to not break your program by accidentally translated placeholders. A translation management service like the Phrase Translation Center validates presence and format of placeholders to add an additional layer of security.

How Do I Decide Which Languages To Translate My App To?

There are many books on market research available, usually it’s a good idea to cover those languages with the most available customers on your desired platform and for commercial purposes those that promise the greatest revenue.

For the App Store in most countries apps that do not support the native language of the market have less than 20% revenue share as is illustrated by this chart made by the app analytics company Apptopia:

App revenue by language and country | Phrase

The largest revenue currently comes from the US, German, Chinese and Japanese markets for gaming apps. You can reach 83% of the world’s population by providing your app in English, Chinese (Simplified & Traditional), Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Korean, Arabic and German.

10 Step Checklist For App Translation

  1. Extract text content into locale files
  2. Check content for suitability for translation
  3. Find a translator or translation service
  4. Send locale files to translators
  5. Collect the new locale files from your translators
  6. Add the new locale files to your app code
  7. Make sure all language versions work as intended
  8. Translate your App Store description and keywords
  9. Update your App Store description online
  10. Republish the app on the App Store

This Sounds Like A Lot, Can You Help Me With This?

Absolutely! We offer a service specialized on the translation and localization of software: Phrase. Large companies and startups alike use our platform to localize their software; among them are Xing, Meetup, SecretEscapes, Virgin Pulse and MyTaxi.

Check us out and sign up for a trial or subscribe to our newsletter below to get more information on software localization.

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