There's An App For That! Tips For App Translations

If you’re a creative marketing agency working on behalf of global businesses, you will have no doubt dabbled in website translation and localisation.

But a translated website is not the only thing international businesses need in a digital age. They may also have an app or two that they would like to localise for their customers.

App translation is a relatively new concept, not really surprising since apps are a fairly recent digital innovation. However, many businesses are developing apps to support their operations – let’s face it, nearly everyone has a smartphone these days! – and so the logical next step for international businesses is to localise their apps for overseas users.

Currently there are few translation providers with experience of handling sophisticated localisation projects such as app translation, but this is a growing market and we at Comtec are leading the charge!

So, if you want to look sharp and stay ahead of the pack, why not consider offering your clients app translation and localisation services?

Tips For Successful App Translation Projects

As with any other translation and localisation project it’s best to start planning in advance. While it is possible to translate an existing app, it may take longer if the app isn’t optimised for translation and therefore costs are generally higher.

When planning a new app, design with localisation in mind. This means separating code from content to enable easier translations (don’t hardcode text), using fluid layouts to accommodate text in different languages (translated text may be a different length), and writing the text specifically for translation. If you’re not sure how to write source text for translation, get in touch for some pointers!

Cultural Review: Should You Translate The App?

Before getting too carried away it may be a good idea to commission a cultural review, depending on your target market. If your client has in-market contacts (perhaps local employees or distributors), they may be able to initiate this. Alternatively, a translation provider will be able to do this for you.

One effective way to test the market is to translate the apps description field in the app store first. Having translated just the description, and associated meta data, tags and keywords, you will be able to see whether there’s any interest before committing to a full translation and localisation project.

You, or your client, will also need to explore whether the app is appropriate for the target market, and if it can be tweaked to align it better. It’s not just about translating text; it’s about localising it too. You’ll need to consider whether content such as images, graphics, and audio need adapting, as well as subtler cultural elements such as the tone and messaging.

Languages / Markets: Who To Prioritise

Most companies opt to translate their apps into just one language initially, to test the market and explore whether it’s viable to roll out across other regions too. Others may be looking at English speaking markets such as the US, Canada, and Australia.

While you may not think to translate content for an American market – although there are linguistic differences between UK English and US English – what about translating an app into Spanish? There are approximately 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US, and another 11.6 million are bilingual: many are the children of Spanish speaking immigrants. So if you’re planning to launch your app in the US, not only should it be localised for American English speakers, but also Spanish speakers too.

Similarly in Canada there are many French speakers, according to the 2011 census 7,300,000 people are native French speakers.

We expect to see more and more companies requesting app translation in the next few years. It’s certainly something that creative agencies in particular could offer their clients in addition to other services. If you would like to talk about how you can offer clients app translation, and also learn more about how to optimise apps for translation and localisation, please get in touch. Call +44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email

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