October 22, 2012

By Ofer Tirosh

Language Translation for Phone Apps: Android, iPhone and More 

So, you finally developed and released your fierce new smartphone app into the app store. 

But, if you're smart - you also acquire professional Spanish translation of the app for more downloads and better ROI.  After all, a lot of smartphone users in North American are Spanish speakers - it should be a pretty worthwhile investment. 

Here's a fact not every phone app developer may know: 8 out of 10 of the largest smartphone markets are non-English speaking.

So, if your brain-gears are turning, you're probably thinking, wow, I should expand to foreign markets... I guess that means I need multiple languages for phone app translation. 

But - doesn't it cost a fortune to get professional translation for things like video games and phone apps?  How can you tell if it will be worth it to invest the cost of translation services, without guarantee that any given foreign language market will respond well?

First of all - no, it doesn't have to cost a lot.  

Yes, if you go to the big name companies whose primary clients are the U.S. government and Microsoft - if you want to pay five times more for the exact same services you can get from a translation company that may not be on the Forbes Fortune 100  list.  And, in all honesty, small-to-medium translation companies probably have much more personal, and maybe even faster translations and reply rates (sometimes the biggest companies have jammed up customer service, especially when it's outsourced.  Ever call credit card customer service lines?) 

Okay, so, after a little online research, you've gotten yourself a decent, affordable translation company.  Now what?  How do you know which languages and foreign markets are best for your new phone app?  How do you know if the Swiss market will download your app, or if professional Korean translation of your app will be warranted?  Which countries have enough Android smartphone users?

Where and how do you start tapping into profits from foreign markets with smartphone app language translation?  Well, let us suggest a few things.

4 tips for Translating Your SmartPhone App for Foreign Markets

1. Translate the app store description first, before translating the whole app.  This will keep unnecessary costs to a minimum, not only with preliminary translation costs, but by monitoring which foreign language markets have a marked rise in downloads of your app.  Be sure to keep careful track of all activity that occurs relevant to your phone app after your description is released.  Remember to include localization as part of the app store description translation, so that cultural changes are considered for your app title and description.

2. Include the uber-populated markets in the languages chosen for your smartphone app - in other words, be sure to include English to Chinese translation and localization.  Hindi translation is probably a good idea as well, although tracking downloads from India will give you a much better idea as to what regions - and therefore what languages -are best for smartphone app translations.

3. Localize, Localize, Localize.  Localization is crucial.  Translation only takes care of the actual words themselves, but especially where things like video game translation and smartphone app translation are concerned - localization is key, for connecting to foreign language markets.  Localization takes care of things that are culturally affected, such as humor, graphics, terminology and vernacular, currencies, dates, formats, and a lot more.  Below are a few video game covers  for Japanese and American markets.  Notice the marked difference in expressions and implied attitudes of the characters, and how they change from one market to another.  These are exactly the kinds of things to consider for your app, in order to acquire optimum profitability in foreign markets. 

video game translation


4. If your smartphone app is a mobile game, than it may be a good idea to get mobile app localization as a Sim-Ship process, rather than post-production.  This will make distribution, sale and ROI in foreign markets much more optimized.  See our information about mobile game and video game localization for more details and how to go about localizing your mobile game app during the final test runs instead of a post-production or post-development process.

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