If you are finding ways to spread your market reach and attain global presence, localization of application software is of vital importance. Besides, the very nature of any software application liberalizes the user to have it accessed, bought and downloaded from any geographical location. On the other hand a monolingual app can limit its appeal shrinking the potential offered through World Wide Web.


When we translate text and adjust the functional elements of any software application, we enhance our international reach with a wide audience who access our product. This is termed as software localization. More and more applications are crossing cultural and international boundaries, which calls for localization in order to support the user’s local language. Through internationalization, one can develop software for local user communities without changing the executable code.

Any Application is localised primarily for the following reasons:

  • Provide applications to global user
  • Interface for internationalized processes
  • Increase portability
  • Reduce development costs


Translation of text can be done in two ways.

1. Machine translation

One of the fields of computer linguistics is machine translation that investigates the software use to translate speech or text from one language to another. Computer scientists have tried to use rules and computer algorithms to get perfect translations from machine translators, however, these machines cannot give exact outputs as human translations.

Advantages of machine translation

  • Quick Translation
    Machine translation can save quality time especially when translating huge texts
  • Low price
    If a professional translator translates your text, you have to pay a hefty bill to translate each page, but not very often do we need their complete services; at times it may boil down to just a few changes or you may end up taking a second opinion. In this case machine translation system is reliable and effective.
  • Confidentiality
    Machine translation is not used by many to translate private emails owing to privacy concerns of employing an unknown translator or even being skeptical of entrusting financial documents to strangers.
  • Universality
    A professional translator is basically proficient in a specific field; however, on the other hand machine translations have a universal appeal as it can translate texts that surround any topic/subject. All you need to do is switch to a particular setting to translate in a defined terminology.
  • Online translation and translation of web page content
    Online translation services are quite handy and quick with information at the touch of a click. Besides you may also translate search engine query and web page content with the use of these software translation systems.

Disadvantages of machine translation

  • Lack of superior exactness
    Machine translations are not reliable if you are looking for the exact or superior translation of you official documents, contracts, agreements etc. Nonetheless you may get a gist or the first draft of the translation making it easy for you to work on it further for exactness.
  • Low quality translation of texts with uncertain sentences..words:
    Machine translations runs on systematic and formal rules that can create uncertainty of the context for vague and dual meaning words. In short machine translation lacks mental outlook or experience of a human translator.

2. Human Translation

Human translation is a way to translate text from the experts of targeted language.

  • First Language Expertise
    By employing a professional human translator you translate in the native language paying close attention to the flow, the tone, style, phrasing, context and the nuances of the mother tongue influence. Thus an excellent quality human translation can very conveniently deceive local users as it won’t look like a translation. It may appear as the text was originally composed in the local language.
  • Subject Knowledge
    To make sense to a legal or technical document atimes is a challenge to many, let alone the machines. Only humans with exceptional and relevant translations skills and expertise can translate such files. Thus to attain perfection in subject-specific documents, only a human translator is preferred. On the other hand machine translations would only create risks with the final output and would further lead to creating misunderstandings and confusion.
  • Creativity
    A machine adaptation would certainly lack creativity as it only portrays the literal meaning of things. Professional human translators on the other hand are equipped with creating the most stylish quotes/text in their native languages. When there exist no exact translation, a human translator would incorporate their creative skills to put relevant or appropriate expression or phrase to convey the intended meaning.
  • Cultural Sensitivity
    We just don’t live in a world of complex languages. A vast and varied culture, traditions and rituals encircle our society. A human translator, as a native speaker, would ensure the incorporation of apt use of words to convey sensitive information while translating. Culturally irrelevant, offensive, confusing or superfluous elements can be set aside or modified gracefully, which only a human translator can do.

Points to Remember

  1. Plan ahead
    Most companies think of software localization as a last minute ritual before the product is released. However, to produce a quality product, testing, translation and regression needs to be scheduled appropriately for a better output.
  2. Test your software
    Localized software should be tested as rigorously as the original English software. There’s no replacement for the awkwardness that comes with seeing a foreign language “out of context” within your software.
  3. Develop a detailed English test plan
    Use the same test plan (UI dialogs, functionality) in your localized testing. Reusing the English test plan for localization testing is common in the industry and will avoid delays in L10N testing.
  4. Leave plenty of space for text expansion in other languages
    Many languages take up to 30% more space than English! If your engineers design the software for which English “just barely fits,” you’ll have a problem down the road. Leave ample space or program dynamic UI expansion into your software.
  5. Use localization-friendly encoding of strings
    When possible, source your string tables or software resources in Unicode/UTF-8 encoding. This will avoid extra conversion steps, time-consuming debug work, and garbled text.
  6. Avoid concatenation and overuse of single strings
    A combination of words in English will most likely not follow the same order in most other languages. Concatenated strings and strings that are used in multiple contexts will have grammar and gender agreement issues. Gone are the days of optimizing software due to memory limitations, so be generous when localizing your product.
  7. Provide “internationalization” support in your software
    This will enable dates, numbers, and other region-specific data such as currency to show up in a familiar and comfortable way to all users around the world.
  8. Provide numerous comments in software resources that define context
    Knowing the context and use of certain strings will help translators choose the right translation from the beginning. Most translation tools will allow translators to see these comments as they translate the strings.
  9. Perform localization of Help and software (GUI) at the same time
    Users around the world will notice when context-sensitive help tells them to click on a button that is worded differently in the software itself. Seek a responsible and experienced translation company to handle both your software and Help/User’s Guide at the same time to ensure consistency between your software and help documentation.
  10. Always Use A Full Locale
    The full locale includes the language and country code, and it supports alternate spellings, date formats and other differences between two countries with a shared language.
    Always use a full locale instead of just a language when translating, so that you know whether you’re doing someone a favor or a favour, and that they know whether to take the elevator or the lift, and that they know whether £100.00 is expensive.
  11. Never Hard-Code Date, Time Or Currency Formats
    The whole world is inconsistent about date and time formats. Some people put the month first (6/21/2012), others the day first (21/6/2012). Some use 24-hour (14:00) time, and some use 12 (2:00 PM). Taiwan uses specially translated strings instead of AM and PM, and those come first (上午 2:00).

Point to remember for mobile app development

  1. Placeholders: Many strings contain data placeholders, or HTML codes. As in concatenated strings, this can present a challenge due to different word order and formatting structure in the target language than in the source language.
  2. Icons, symbols and images: Although the use of graphics and icons can create a more international look instead of text, it can also cause problems. In spite of popular belief, not all icons, symbols or images are universal. Special attention must be given to the meaning of each icon/symbol/image and even color in the target culture, since they can have a different cultural, religious or political meaning in the target market.
  3. Keyboard: Most of the app will need inputs from keyboard. Developers need to develop or provide support of customized keyboard for specific language.