Software Localization and Selecting Your Languages

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When it comes to software and website content, we speak about localization rather than translation. Localization is a specialized type of translation that tends to be more complicated and time sensitive. It uses different file formats than standard translation and also tends to have more restrictions.

TechCrunch.com recently published an article about how to choose languages for localization, in particular as a startup. Some facts from the article include, that today, in 2015, to reach 90% of the international market, you need to make your content available in at least 25 languages. That is a lot of languages. In five years, that number will grow to 48 languages. Even more languages. The author took a sample of high value tech start-ups (referred to as “unicorns,”) and analyzed the languages in which their platform is available. Some apps are available in more than 30 languages, which is an excellent benchmark. Based on the empirical research conducted, American companies are much keener on producing localized content than their Asian counterparts, even when it comes to Asian languages. Asian start ups tended to be available in fewer than two languages on average. Many of these high value start ups had about five languages in common, in order of popularity, English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. Surprisingly, Chinese was only 10th on the list.

There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between the number of languages an app was localized into and the success of the company. Companies need to determine the cost-benefit of localization and how many languages to target. Localization is complicated and with today’s dynamic market, it means that every change in English needs to be reflected in other languages. It then needs to be implemented, tested and reiterated in each language. It is a lengthy, complex and often costly process, which some startups may not be equipped to begin. Localization is not the only factor in international growth, but it can certainly play an important role.

Photo: Jayel Aheram


JLS Language Corporation offers high-quality translation services in Silicon Valley and beyond. We help bridge communication gaps in our diverse world, working in multiple languages and for many different industries, including medical, technical, and legal. JLS services include translation, interpreting, and website or software localization. Our Quality Management System is certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.

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