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Translation or Localization of Apps and Software

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Software localization or translation has been around for many years. Developers and translators are well aware of how source code should be separated and processed to obtain translated texts and how files should be prepared for later compilation. Some translation providers such as Sytext can even run quality checks on translations -length of the text, ampersand positioning (for short cuts)-, differentiate between text boxes, menu texts, commands, title texts of windows or tables and offer machine translation with post-editing.

However, not everything has been said about localization. In the last few years the number of programming languages, platforms and technologies has been increasing due to the growth of the Internet of Things or apps for mobile devices, games, etc.

The number of languages ​​into which apps and software are translated is on the rise. Some operating systems are translated into more than 100 languages, and consequently, demand is also increasing.

  • There is an increase in the number of products and devices. Some app stores offer more than 200,000 apps and games for a wide range of smartphone models. Use of portable devices like smartwatches with their own downloadable apps is also increasing. Cars are becoming more and more "intelligent" and interactive. The surge of these devices and, therefore, of their applications and software, is enormous throughout the world. Developers, programmers, and translators are facing ever-faster changes.

  • The amount of translatable content is in continuous growth. The information must be localized in different languages. But simultaneously, there are more and more projects with fewer words to translate but with shorter deadlines. This is what happens with the localization of small Apps, for which less than 400 words must be translated quickly and with quality to more than 20 languages.

  • Existence of Numerous operating systems and programming languages: Microsoft, Android, Linux, Symbian, Mac iOS, Xcode, .NET, Qt, Java, as well as special languages ​​developed for specific tasks and sectors.

  • The integration of different technologies more demanding functionalities in terms of applications and documentation. Touch screens, virtual reality, voice commands, etc. are just a few examples of the new requirements that developers and translators face..

The file formats to be localized are many (resource files, XML, TXT, XLS(X), PO, JSON, HTML5, etc.).The files contain user interface texts, menu texts, messages, drop-down lists, data, lists, etc.

One of the main problems we face when translating is the length of the texts. In many languages, ​​the length increases up to 20% and many texts don’t fit in the boxes. In most cases, companies like Sytext, with the use of localization software, are able to resize the boxes or have a preview so as to shorten the text. But many programming languages ​​do not export design information along with the translatable text. This compels you to work “blindly” and carry out the necessary checks by testing the translated and compiled application or software.

The Translation Process

The first step is to think localization (translation) from the very beginning when designing the software, so it enables and facilitates its localization to the different markets, cultures and languages. Numbers, date format, course, calendars, special characters, the direction of the text, etc. are some of the elements that should be taken into account.

Programmers should consider the possibility of being able to export the texts in one of the formats that can be processed by the translator. Popular editing tools for many translation agencies are SDL Passolo (, Alchemy Catalyst (, Visual Localize (, to name a few.

A quality check follows the translation.Quality checks not only affect language aspects (spelling, punctuation, terminology, etc.) but also includes functionality and technical revision. We must check that the translated file (multilingual or a file for each language) can be compiled and that it displays all the text of the interface, buttons, drop-down lists, etc.

To carry out the post-translation quality check, Sytext, for instance, has specific tools that, in addition to carrying out the checks mentioned above, allow you to verify that the shortcuts have been assigned to the correct letter. One must also ensure (using terminology software), that the commands are correctly translated according to target country (Store as or Save as, file or archive, delete or erase, OK or Accept, etc.). Another key thing to check is the character "%" (to make sure for example, that a specific value is displayed after it).

As we have seen, the increasing complexity of localization projects requires collaborating with a reliable linguistic service provider, who is technologically equipped and counts on the necessary resources and experience to be able to offer fair prices, even for projects that have a few words in many languages.

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