Localization and Translation: Snake Oil and Silver Bullets

Localization and Translation: Snake Oil and Silver Bullets

Get Localization is a company with a long background in mobile development. Actually we first started Get Localization as a side project to support our own product localization. In total, we have tens of years of experience on both mobile development and localization.

There’s a lot of discussion in communities about situation of indie developers. Some people are offering localization and translation as a “turnkey solution” for high downloads.

We want to make it clear that localization is not a silver bullet to success. If you localize your moderate app, it still will be a moderate app. But it’s also good to understand that your amazing app will be an utter crap app if it’s localized badly. Why is that?

First of all, people often think localization is a marketing effort. Well sometimes it is but it’s not the full story.

It’s about making your application’s user experience (UX) better.

It’s like optimizing taps and clicks to achieve a smoother experience for the user. If your app is localized badly, it is hard for the user to navigate through it. When it’s localized well, your app feels much easier to use. This means that if you decide to localize, you need to commit to it and consider it as a long-term investment.

But is it worth it? You can experience this yourself. Ask your friend to turn your phone language to Chinese or Japanese and try to navigate to switch the language back. Not so easy? Well that is how majority of people feel when they download your app in plain English.

As a developer you are supposed to make your users feel good so they recommend your app to their friends. This is why you localize your apps, to provide best possible experience to your users.

In this business, return on investment unfortunately doesn’t come instantly. There is no such silver bullet. It just requires a lot of hard work – sometimes years – to be an overnight success.

Get Localization provides a professional translation and crowdsourcing services for developers and lean content creators. Check our software!

Ovi Store and Application Languages

Earlier today Nokia’s Developer organization (aptly named Nokia Developer) released a set of really interesting numbers.

See the article here: http://www.developer.nokia.com/Distribute/Ovi_Store_statistics.xhtml#article0

Let’s drill down behind the numbers and reflect for a second what they mean for selling and marketing your app. From astounding fact that Ovi Store is available in 190 markets to interesting tidbit that Turkey sees 1.6 downloads a week this article is a must read for anyone doing software localization.

90% of Ovi Store users have Ovi Store in their local languages (Ovi Store supports 32 languages)
So 9 out of 10 Ovi users see the store in their own language. What does that mean? First of all: your app needs to speak local language. We knew that already didn’t we? But secondly and even more importantly: your support and marketing material (like webpages) needs to speak user’s language. Localized apps and support material stand out in the crowd of English only apps and it makes it more likely that your app is promoted in country specific recommended lists (it also helps if you have a strong local brand).

The 10 most active markets are (in alphabetical order): China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.K. and Vietnam

To fully reach all top 10 most active markets your application needs to speak:

  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • German
  • At least English, Hindi
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Arabic
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

Only top 10 countries you can cover with English are India and UK. And Latin character set gets us only half-way through this list. We have Right-to-Left language Arabic and we have Top to Bottom languages like Chinese. And we have cyrillic alphabet in Russian. Surprisingly no Spanish speaking markets are in top 10 of Ovi Store, but Spain is mentioned as one of the top 15 countries along with France. For app developer this list is a good check list for answering following questions:

  • What languages I should support with my app?
  • Is my web page and marketing material available in all relevant languages?
  • Am I addressing the right markets with my app?
  • What does it mean for my application to support Right-to-Left/non-Latin character set languages?
  • Is my beta test audience right?
  • Is “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sung by William Shatner the greatest song ever? (yes it is)

It would interesting to drill down even further to these numbers. What is the actual order of these countries? What are the top grossing countries? Hopefully we will get to see these numbers next time.

Other Ovi Store Facts

Series 40 accounts for 25% of the Ovi Store downloads. And number of Series 40 devices out there is mind-boggling: 650 million. Series 40 users would form the third biggest country by population in the world!

In China Ovi Store is 7 times bigger than Apple App Store.

Active users download something 8.5 times a month.

Interesting numbers, aren’t they? What is the most important or interesting of all the numbers? And what number you would like to see to support your app business?

Translation Memory is Dead, Long Live Translation Memory!

I’ve been following this debate about translation memories. Are they dead or not? To me it sounded quite confusing until I understood what people actually meant when they talked about “Translation memory”. If you have followed this blog, you know that our background is in software development. We create a product for software developers to use, “from developers to developers” as we say.

So there are now respected industry veterans telling to the world that “translation memory should be like a version control system for developers!”. I have to say that I love this statement and I agree with it fully. Actually I wrote about that over a year ago in this very same blog in almost exactly same wording.

But I would like to propose one thing: Please stop calling it “Translation memory”. Translation memory is just a feature. It’s a nice feature in the editor along with other nice features but it just doesn’t describe the behaviour of current socially enabled localisation platforms like GetLocalization.com that actually already contains a version management system. It’s not even the core thing anymore! Call it anything else, I don’t care but just do not call it “Translation memory”.

So in that sense, yes TM alone is definitely dead but technically TM is still a great feature, a little helper that makes translators day a bit easier.

Thank you for considering!

Wake Up, You are Going to Die

Facebook has Director of Monetization. It’s funny that company like Facebook really has to have somebody responsible for making money. Being valuation of 30 something billion, some people might think it is CEO’s job and the whole purpose of the company. Well it doesn’t always work like that, especially when you want to create something good. You have to have huge vision and you need to devote all your time and energy while working towards it. The bigger the goal is, the more strongly we want to achieve it.

Get Localization’s goal has and have been to revolutionize whole software localization industry. Our background is in developing software and we do that really well. We are not localization professionals and in fact when people have asked why we started to develop something like this, the answer has been “Because we hate localization”. We came to this business because we asked ourselves “Why this needs to be so difficult?”.

Well I think we are half-way there. We have had success cases, for example our own products have been translated to over 20 languages among many other cases. Just following our own way of doing things, we’ve managed to build software localization community that is totally unique and stands on its own. But to really revolutionize this industry, there needs to be new business models. Why?

“While demand for language services has continued to grow (at a rate of over 13% per year), for the most part the price of translation and localization services has dropped.” – Common Sense Advisory, August 2010

That sounds healthy to you? Come on, is it really so that couple of nerds needs to come and tell you that this doesn’t make sense? Localization industry needs their own Director of Monetization. But uttermost localization industry needs to wake up and start thinking how to improve their product. It is not ideal if us, developers, your customers need to enter this business in order to make things happen.

To make money, you need to have that HUGE vision. How long you can make business just by screwing translators? Are you thinking out of the box? Are you really asking what your customers need? Are you really thinking where and how you can make that money? Do you understand that everything will change?

If not, you are going to die.

October at Get Localization and the world of Crowdsourcing

It has been rather busy at our office during last couple of weeks. Additionally we’ve been busy meeting interesting people at different. Sadly we missed #Pyconfi at Turku last week but I hear it was a great event. We just love Python and Django (that powers Get Localization) and it would have been interesting to see what other people have created using them.

But we went to Slush10 and we are happy to see that localization is something that startups really get. We talked to many people and saw many good presentations. One of the things that got our attention was that many startups mention localization as a necessary step in growth of a service and reaching new markets. We couldn’t agree more on this. Localization is not just something you do after you have grown. For many services the localization is the means for growth (see the story about Runtastic). Web services and especially mobile services are really personal. When you serve people personally you serve them with their own language. Nokia’s EVP Niklas Savander put this  very nicely in an interview yesterday: “Location not just navigation will be big in many markers. ‘we have the availability of locally relevant apps. It doesn’t matter if you have 200,000 applications in Vietnam if they are all in English.'” See the story here.

On other news you may have noticed a story by Talouselämä later on picked up by Arctic Startup on how Nokia is putting more emphasis on crowdsourcing and they have a chief of crowdsourcing. Story by ArcticStartup here and original Talouselämä arctic in Finnish. Article gives you a good insight on how to plan and organize your crowdsourcing project.

How to Localize a World Cup Application

World Cup is here with a plethora of World Cup applications (see here for instance: http://www.symbian-guru.com/welcome/2010/06/symbian-gurus-ultimate-guide-to-the-2010-fifa-worldcup-on-symbian.html or here http://mashable.com/2010/06/10/world-cup-android-apps/). If you would like to global with your application what would you need to take into account? There are 32 countries in the competition and couple of hot favourites to unseat the reigning champion Italy (in the absence of Finnish team also my long time favourite).

Country Languages Comment
Australia English Sorry mate, this is the World Cup not the Ashes
Japan Japanese
Korea DPR Korean
Korea Republic Korean
Algeria Arabic Yes, right-to-left writing is supported too
Cameroon French, English
Côte d’Ivoire French
Ghana English
Nigeria English, (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba)
South Africa Afrikaans
English (South African English)
Southern Ndebele
Northern Sotho
Southern Sotho
Host country with 11 official languages.
Honduras Spanish
Mexico Spanish
United States English
Argentina Spanish Two words: Lionel Messi
Brazil Portuguese You have 5 already
Chile Spanish
Paraguay Spanish
Uruguay Spanish Stop it, I know what you are thinking
New Zealand English
Denmark Danish
England English
France French What is “handled the ball” in French?
Germany German Whatever you do: avoid the penalties
Greece Greek
Italy Italian
Netherlands Dutch
Portugal Portuguese
Serbia Serbian
Slovakia Slovak
Slovenia Slovene
Spain Spanish Number one favourite
Switzerland Italian, French, German, Romansh

So what if you had a simple web service going live July 11th congratulating the new World Cup winners? How would you make sure that visitor will see the greeting in their own language? By crowdsourcing you your localization of course. See the example project at: http://www.getlocalization.com/WeAreTheChampions

By the way, if you really want to build an app like this go on and sign up to our free beta.

Localizing Android applications

Android is currently fastest growing mobile OS. There’s no official numbers of Android geographical distribution but AdMob has released their monthly mobile metrics report with data of Android and iPhone device usage by country. We’ve discussed of iPhone localization in our previous post with older AdMob data so we will update that based on this data as well. However this post is now concentrating on Android.

Android geographical distribution

As we are localization blog, we are interested whether you need to localize your Android applications or not. So lets start by looking the geographical distribution.

Please Note that this data is based on AdMob report that is only measuring how many devices are making requests in their ad network. Due to the fact that AdMob ads are mostly shown in US websites this data is for sure skewed towards US. However I believe the data can give us a good direction.

As expected, United States and China are the biggest countries. Following United Kingdom and France. Distribution is not that highly fragmented as for example on iPhone and Symbian. With just English you can roughly reach 80% of the whole market.  Based on AdMob data, this would mean only 2M+ Android devices you don’t reach. It’s not that much if you also consider how many are willing to install or purchase apps (or even can because of platform fragmentation).

So I guess there’s no need to localize?

Well it depends how you look into this. Android is growing really fast and in coming years especially in Europe and Asia. With localization you can quite easily buy some fan base for your application in those countries. For now, it’s not about growing your market but basically providing good quality apps for your customers in hope of bigger market in the future.

Of course, in case you are Chinese or European developer make sure your app is available in English.

As being said, market is changing rapidly so we will follow these developments closely in the future here in Get Localization Blog as well.