Smart phones and tablets, both Android and Apple are loaded down with apps. New apps are appearing almost by the minute, while defunct ones die. The demand for mobile app localization has never been greater and unless something dramatically alters in the technological field, shows no sign of abating.

App localization may be a growing field for translators but that doesn’t mean app developers get it right every time. One reason why some apps fail to fire is because the wrong decisions have been made about the way the app as been presented for other language users. This potential is obvious when it comes to an app that has been developed in Korea, for instance, or India, where the language of the app developer is likely to be hugely different from just about everybody who uses it outside those two countries. It’s not just the literal translation of the app instructions and content, it’s the layout of the language used and whether it fits the screen.

Why is localization taken so seriously?

Apart from selecting the top languages to localize your app, the actual process of localizing it to each of those top languages is important for a number of reasons.

• Different languages are not the same when it comes to sentence structure and word length. Even what may seem to be closely related languages like German and English or Spanish and Italian may take up different amounts of space on a mobile screen. That’s even more likely when it comes to translating languages that read right to left like Arabic or Urdu and those that read top to bottom like Japanese. The point is that straightforward translation of documents doesn’t need to be take space and screen size into consideration, but mobile app. localization certainly does. The engineering of the app does need to be adapted to take into account additions to the languages the app is translated into. More space at the beginning is easier than less space!

• Units need to be altered depending on where the app is going to be used. This is as important when an app is converted from use in Australia to use in the U.S. as the latter is not just different in time zone and has a different currency of course,, but uses most of the old units of measurement that most of the rest of the world has discarded.

• App context must be taken into consideration by those doing the mobile app localization. The developer should provide the translator or translation team with sufficient contextual detail so that this can be integrated into the app localization. Sufficient appreciation of context will boost the speed of delivery of the app in the languages that have been selected for localization.

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