Localization and Mobile Apps: The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
If you’re able to read this sentence, chances are English is your native or second language. It is a common misconception that English takes priority over other languages, especially in the online and tech world. This is of course not true.
What we forget is that we live in a world amongst 7 billion people, which is said to increase up to 10.9B by 2050. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2012 the population of the U.S. is 313.9 million. So if you think about the fraction of the U.S. versus the world it’s essentially an ant on an ant farm.
As of 2010, there are an estimated 445 million Chinese, 154 million Spanish and 99 million Japanese language users online. It is estimated that fast-increasing language users, such as Chinese, will fully dominate and replace English as the top online language users within a matter of time. What does this entail for app developers and brands?
Well, in order to reach a higher audience for your app, you must localize it or risk being left out in the cold. English has not always been taught as a second language so we must keep our prior generations in mind, as well, when increasing a broader market for online applications. If the user doesn’t understand what your application does, chances of them downloading it are slim to none.
An article in the MIT Technology Review states, “Mobile computers are spreading faster than any other consumer technology in history.” In January 2013, Facebook reported that for the first time the majority audience was coming from mobile devices rather than personal laptops. Mobile technology is currently our leading source and therefore we must see the importance of localization and translation for mobile apps.
Many successful companies have made their apps available on a global scale, but more often than not, it has come at a steep price. Usually professional translation services can cost big bucks, sometimes as much as $.20 or $.30 per word. Traditionally, this would lead to only big companies or individuals who can afford this extra expenditure to offer multi-lingual content.
As a relatively new alternative, machine translators have since helped to provide free translations for everyone. However, for anyone who has used Google Translate, Bing Translator, or any number of the free machine translators available online, they know the results are rarely, if ever, accurate. While some might say, “something is better than nothing,” the truth is that having poorly translated content can actually have the inverse effect on your company. Many people will be turned off by the bad grammar or unintelligible content, and may actually think your company or app is poor quality and not worth downloading, regardless of the functionality or game play. That’s a big price to pay for merely trying to expand your market.
For these reasons, there has been a large push in the translation and localization field to come up with even more alternatives to help solve the language gap issue. As a member of Ackuna, a recently launched translation service, we find that the best solution for us is utilizing crowdsourcing to power localization to another level. Ackuna markets toward app developers as well as companies wishing to translate their web content. Instead of relying on inaccurate machine translations, Ackuna utilizes crowdsourcing amongst their online members to translate the content. The service is completely free and the process is a lot more accurate than any machine translation out on the market. Think of it as a translation machine powered entirely by humans.
Bottom line is that the online world is quickly becoming more globalized. The fewer language options you provide, the fewer downloads. However, what you use to translate your content matters greatly. If you have the extra money to spend on a professional translation company, by all means you should do so. Quality translation is an investment, just like any other marketing venture. However, there are new alternatives being developed which are worth exploring if money is a significant factor.
About the Author:
Irina Usharenko is a marketing intern at Ackuna. Irina is expected to graduate this
year with a B.A. in Marketing Management from Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business. She plays a quartzy game of scrabble and has a passion for innovative technology.