Apple Asking Developers to Localize Apps, Opens Chinese Support Forum

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AppleInsider is reporting that Apple has contacted app developers via its iTunes Connect program to ask them to localize their apps in multiple languages and to market that their apps and books are localized.

In the letter to iTunes Connect members, Apple noted that the App Store and Mac App Store are available in 155 countries with support for 40 languages, saying that "it has never been more important to localize your app and marketing material."

Apple also rolled out a Chinese Support Communities forum, which would give speakers of various Chinese languages the opportunity to help out fellow Apple users in their native tongues.

itunesconnectletter
The move signals how important China has grown to Apple in the past year, as during a quarterly results call in January Apple revealed that revenues in China were up 67 percent. iPhone saw its most significant growth come in the country as well, up more than 100 percent year-over-year.

Apple has recently had to deal with controversy in China over criticism about its iPhone warranty policies in the country. In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an open letter and Apple Senior VP of Operations Jeff Williams traveled to China to deal with the public relations fallout.

Top Rated Comments

Snowshiro Avatar
101 months ago
Pretty much agree with a lot of the sentiment here, but one important thing to add, is that Apple woefully underestimates what "localization" actually means.

Many countries, in particular Asia, often have radically different cultural practices and customs to the west. Localization can often mean understanding the culture itself and adjusting your output accordingly. A famous example would be games removing all imagery of bones, or skeletons as Blizzard had to painstakingly do when they launched World of Warcraft in China. No mean feat in a game where skulls are liberally sprinkled throughout the entire gaming environment.

I've worked in Japan as a software developer for over 10 years and remember once emailing a foreign developer of a school timetabling application (actually it was PC desktop software rather than an app) to tell them that they needed to add an option to add classes on a Saturday, because a large percentage of Japanese schools are open 6 days a week.

Then you have the problem of support. If you offer an app in Chinese, people are going to assume that they can email you in Chinese. Do you want to just ignore communications that come in? Should you answer emails sent in English, but provide a lower level of support to some customers simply because they don't speak the same language as you?

Apple just sending out "go and translate your apps" emails helps no one really. It just makes them seem out of touch with the limited resources that small developers have.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dwhittington Avatar
101 months ago
Aybabtu

Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ScottishCaptain Avatar
101 months ago
That's nice.

So who is going to pay for the translators to translate my stuff into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, and Arabic "just to start"?

Is it even worth it? I get sales from China and Japan all the time. A few months ago a Japanese blog/website "featured" my app by writing a nice review out of nowhere, which followed up by a few thousand sales that very same day. Not a single person asked about translations, but I did get several well written emails in english (more well written then most emails I get from english speaking folks, fancy that) asking about future features and tweaks.

It would be nice if Apple offered some kind of statistics on what I can expect in return for localizing, since doing so is neither straight forward nor cost free for me as a developer. It costs me enough of my own time to produce an english only application. I can't imagine trying to juggle 20 different languages and keeping those localization files up to date across application updates with UI tweaks.

-SC
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
komodrone Avatar
101 months ago
no worries, I'll spend the rest of my life learning these languages.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Superhai Avatar
101 months ago
I can't see that Apple require you to translate your app, only suggesting it to increase your market. Apple is just showing what resources they make available, and it is of course also in their interest to see popular apps in other languages.

So, I see many asking who should pay for the translation? Of course the one making the money out of it, meaning the developer (team). If you have an app people are willing to pay for, then investing in a translation will in most cases pay off. If not then either your app is lousy (sorry to say it) and shouldn't be out anyway or you provide it for free (no ads) and in that case rather use your users to help you. If you can get 1000 more customers and getting 70 cents for each your effort has already paid off.

It is usually wise to prepare the app for localizing even if you think you will not do an actual translation and some ideas is try to use figures and pictograms instead of written text wherever it is possible (there are some caveats here however, like people being offended or not understanding certain images - I would not worry much about that however). Try to use certain imperatives or single words instead of long sentences when applicable.

When actually translating, use preferrably professionals or natives in the language. Machine translations require some profience in the language, especially with the different subtleties, negatives and similar words with entirely different meaning. Usually it is an idea to use some translation company in the country or area you target. Except for Japan and some western-european countries they are usually cheaper.

If you are developing free apps or you can't afford the risk of translating (certain speciality apps) reach out to your audience for help. Especially free no-ad apps will easily fins someone. For certain translators or linguists who just finished education or are un-employed, it is something they can put on their CV and will have benefitted even when you did not have to pay a dime.

So do people know english? Most people don't. Many have some basic understanding of simple words, but anything more complicated and they will give in. Even those who knows will know people who don't, and if they are to help them they will suggest to them an app in a language they know. Also for me I use iPhone in my native language and an app who are properly translated will be part of the same experience. However this is more noticably on the Mac or a PC. On the mobile devices the apps are rarely integrated, but especially hooks from other apps do look akward when you have two different languages. So you want to avis these apps.

Which language to translate? I suggest starting with one of the big ones first, then you will experience the pitfalls and if it works for you. Chinese covers most of China of course, Taiwan and also many Southeast-asians (however they will most likely also know some english) Russian is known by Russia and former Soviet Union countries, Spanish and Portuguese covers Latin-America and Spain and Portugal as well as some parts of the Caribbean, Arabic in the middle-east as well as french in certain countries. All these areas have rarher poor English knowledge. South-asia is another bag however and those who are literate knows written english fairly well and all the languages there are written in different scripts as well, so I would put them lower on the list.

When you find a translation company try to make some agreement for updates as well, you want them translated also. If you are translating, do it properly in all aspects of the apps. Poor and lacking translations may end up counter-productive.

Last I wish Apple would make some provisions for bi-/multilinguals as it is a pain to write English with a foreign auto-correct - which also pollutes that one.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
flottenheimer Avatar
101 months ago

That's nice.

So who is going to pay for the translators to translate my stuff into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, and Arabic "just to start"?

Is it even worth it? I get sales from China and Japan all the time. A few months ago a Japanese blog/website "featured" my app by writing a nice review out of nowhere, which followed up by a few thousand sales that very same day. Not a single person asked about translations, but I did get several well written emails in english (more well written then most emails I get from english speaking folks, fancy that) asking about future features and tweaks.

It would be nice if Apple offered some kind of statistics on what I can expect in return for localizing, since doing so is neither straight forward nor cost free for me as a developer. It costs me enough of my own time to produce an english only application. I can't imagine trying to juggle 20 different languages and keeping those localization files up to date across application updates with UI tweaks.

-SC

Well, for what it is worth I've just been on a 16 day vacation in Tokyo and I can assure you that at least 90% don't speak english at all. They will get OK, yes, no and Coca-Cola. But that's all.
And oh, around half — that's 50% : ) — were using an iPhone.

Just ask your App users for some help. I just did a Danish translation of Little Things Forever for free, because I wanted my kids to be able to play it. I'm sure there are a lot of people willing to help out.

PS: Sad to see that Danish is not on Apples 'important languages' list. It's a small country, but iPhones and children with iPhones are everywhere.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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