When translating software, it is particularly important to pay attention to native language usages. Many linguistic services call this type of service localization or “L10n“. Mobile and Web-based programs represent some of the newest and most innovative software. However, in order to compete globally, software vendors need to internationalize products. After all, writing up a beautiful piece of code that is optimized for native English speaking users, automatically removes over 50 percent of the software market from your potential customer base. Those for whom English is a second language have difficulty using software without a native language option. Localization is a necessary part of optimizing the User Experience. The “side effect” of doing so, is maximizing profits.
Why is Localization Important vs. Basic Text Translation?
Localization takes into account colloquial terminology. Translation is often very literal. In fact, with “machine translation”, the results are so literal as to be unusable in many instances. In one example, when a company tried to use machine translation for a restaurant sign, the result was an error message. Not speaking the target language, the text for the error became the company’s translation. Even traditional translation returns results that confuse locals. For example, when translating “Like father, like son,” to Chinese, a translator might go literal, however, the more correct phrase would re-translate from Chinese as “Tigers do not breed dogs.” An expert translator who specializes in software localization will use the most correct translation and not a literal transliteration from language to language. A good example of how important that can be, even within the same language, is using ‘flat’ rather than ‘apartment’ when marketing real estate management software in the UK. That one word change can make the difference between a first page result on a search engine and a tenth page result.
Offer Software in Customers’ Native Languages for Optimum Sales
Maximizing sale potential is all about providing a user-friendly software package that offers value to the customer. If developers do not make the product available in the customers’ native language, they are unlikely to buy. Even skilled English speakers have trouble reading the language fluently, particularly if their native language uses a different alphabet. Customers want easy to use and intuitive products. Software localization is a necessary step to achieve that. If developers don’t rise to challenge, they stand to lose out on a huge percentage of the market. English may make up 70 percent of the software market today, but with “developing nations” increasing their Internet penetration every day, that is likely to change in the next years. Go native and deliver that great product your customers deserve.
As economic globalization has led to a global market, companies need to attract people from all over the world. Finding customers online may sound easy, but it’s not enough to simply offer products and services online. Internationally successful companies need to consider many other facts, too. One of them is communicating with clients in their native language.
If you communicate in your customer’s mother tongue, they will remain on your website for twice as long and are four times more likely to purchase from you!
Of course, millions of websites are in English, and more than 20% of Internet users are English speaking. But the dominance of the English language on the web is ebbing as there are billions of people on earth that speak in a different language.
Top 10 languages
The best way to win your client’s favor is to communicate in their native language. The figure below illustrates the top 10 languages used in the Internet. English (27%) is followed by Chinese (23%) and Spanish (8%) in the list of top 10 languages that most frequently appear online.
Did you know about Japanese?
What may surprise you is that Spanish is followed closely by Japanese: There are nearly one million Japanese-speaking Internet users, which represent 5.0% of all Internet users in the world and 78% of use the Internet.
Talking to Europe
The latest Eurobarometer survey provides another reason to develop multilingual websites: 9 of 10 internet users in the European Union said, that given a choice of languages, they would always visit a website in their own language. Only a third of them is using a foreign language actively, and only 20% of Internet users in the EU would buy products from a website in a foreign language.
Billions of people speak thousands of languages, most websites only one or two. Why is that? My guess is, that most developers are bilingual, English and some other Native Language. But wait, shouldn’t developers be building websites and translators/writers deliver the content?
I am programming for about ten years now. Most of the time as a Java developer (server and desktop projects mostly), in 2008 I switched to Ruby/Rails (web projects only). During that time I worked on quite a few projects. Despite their differences, there was one thing they all had in common: doing and maintaining translations was always a dirty and chaotic matter. I am sure you experienced some of these situations:
The translator edited the resource file in Word with all the fancy formatting.
Resource files are exchanged via email. (How would it look to have to have a “pull” and “push” command?)
The dialogue looks good in English, but in German it sucks – simply because the same text in German in 30% longer.
Missing translations, unused translations.
Spelling mistakes, weird texts like “Am I write?” in the application. Not everyone is an English Native (if you haven’t realized it yet, I am not an English native. So please don’t judge my posts by my writing style.), but many think their English rules.
And a lot more.
Analyzing these problems, I came to the conclusion that two things have to change:
Translation needs much more integration into the software process. So we can use Rake,Capistrano, CI, and so on to get the latest resource files, to push changes to translators, …
I should never ever have to explain to a translator/writer what a .yaml file is. Translators should only see a fancy web interface where they can do their job.
So, I started to work on a project called “linguist”. The goal is to make linguist the “Github” for translations. I don’t want to give away too many details at this early stage, but I will try to publish updates on this blog regularly.
One more thing, I am looking for help/support. So if you are interested on working on the project, write me an email hjuskewycz (a t) hemju.com (paid or voluntary). Of course feedback, ideas, criticism are welcome, too.