App localization... what could go wrong?

Posted by Dynamic Language on July 21, 2016

app localizationYou’ve worked hard to build a successful tech startup with an app that is ready expand across borders.  Now you are faced with the next big decision – how will you handle the localization of your app and your marketing content for a global audience?

Exactly What Is Localization?

Smartling's "App Localization" defines localization as "the adaptation of a product, application, or document content to meet the language, cultural requirements, and other criteria of a specific target market."

In essence, localization allows a user who speaks another language to have the same user experience as a user who speaks the language in which the app was first developed. Rather than a word for word translation, the aim of localization is to provide a comparable user experience to a linguistically and culturally diverse target audience.

Why Localization Matters

If you are wondering why localization is important for your global expansion, consider these statistics provided by Smartling:

  • 90 percent of mobile device activity now occurs within apps.
  • App revenues are projected to rise to a whopping $101 billion in 2020.
  • In one study, localizing iPhone application text resulted in 128 percent more downloads per country.
  • In the same study, companies saw a 26 percent increase in revenue for each country added via app localization.
  • In another experiment, before app localization, 76 percent of total app traffic came from English-speaking countries. However, after app localization, English-speakers accounted for only 10 percent of total app traffic, and downloads increased from 3,000 to 23,000 per month.

These statistics make it clear that there is substantial growth potential for startups who embrace app localization to expand globally.

Examining Your Translation Options

Since localization holds tremendous promise for future growth, you must consider how best to accomplish your localization projects. You have three choices:

  • Hire in-house translators
  • Work with freelance translators
  • Work with a professional language service agency

Hiring In-House Translators: Your first thought might be that having an in-house translation department could be a convenient way to achieve your localization goals. An advantage to in-house translation is that you can closely monitor the tone and feel of the translated material, keeping your branding message consistent across multiple languages and cultures.

However, there are significant roadblocks to such a strategy. Professional translators typically specialize in translating from their native tongue to one other language. While some translators are fluent in several languages, it is highly unlikely that you will find one translator who is proficient in all the languages you will want to target with your localization efforts.

What does this mean in practical terms? If you use an in-house translation team, you will quickly find that you have to continually hire new team members as you add languages. In short order, your translation team becomes, not an asset, but a serious expense for your startup. This situation is far from ideal.

app localization

One of your main concerns with localization should be the quality of translation provided.

Working with Freelance Translators: In order to avoid this untenable situation, some companies choose to rely on freelance translators to get the job done. This strategy eliminates the overhead of maintaining an in-house translation team and represents significant cost savings.

At first glance, freelance translators may appear to present the ideal solution to your localization problems. Scanning freelance websites like Upwork or, you will find literally thousands of freelance translators offering their services.

While it is true that many freelance translators are professionals who deliver high-quality work, there is an inherent weakness in the freelance website platforms that is difficult to ignore.'s"Upwork vs. Freelancer: Why It's a Battle YOU Can't Win" notes: "The general consensus is that there is a competition over who can give the lowest price rather than who can do the job with the highest standards of quality at a competitive price. As the competition continues, both contractors and companies feel that they cannot get what they need and turn to other sources for their work."

While it is a given that your startup wants to save money where possible, paying a lesser rate for translation services may come back to haunt you in terms of lower ROIs for your localization projects if the quality of the translation turns out to be subpar.

Since price cannot be your sole consideration, what other standards must you apply to weed through a laundry list of freelance translators in hopes of finding a highly qualified professional to do the job? Freelancer websites often provide user reviews that may be somewhat useful to you.

However, to be truly useful, the reviews would have to come from a native speaker. How can you ensure that? The simple truth is that you cannot.

Relying on independent freelancers may also result in other potential problems. For instance, just as you would need to hire more in-house translators when you add languages to your projects, so too would you have to find multiple freelancers to handle translation into multiple languages. This process can become a logistical nightmare.

Add to that the fact that a freelancer may be unavailable at any given time, or that he or she may be unable to handle the volume of work needed as your expansion continues, and you can see why working with freelance translators may not be in your best interest.


Working with a Professional Language Service Agency:'s "Localization Checklist" makes this recommendation to tech startups planning to distribute their apps via Google Play: "It is recommended to work with a professional translator to ensure high-quality translations that enhance the value of your app."

app localization

Professional language support providers will partner with you to produce consistent, high quality translations throughout the localization process.

Working with a translation agency has significant advantages. An agency can provide:

  • Professionally trained and certified translators
  • Native speakers in a wide variety of languages with first-hand understanding of the cultures for which they translate
  • Scalable, ongoing support as you continue to expand into new markets
  • Consistency of translation for your brand
  • A team of translators available to work with you according to your schedule
  • Flexible staffing to handle any volume of content to be translated
  • Quality controls and checks at every point to ensure accuracy of translation and localization

Are you ready to go global with your app? Contact us today to begin a dialogue about how we can partner with you to provide language support for all your localization needs.

localization best practices webinar

Topics: Localization, Translation, Technology, Mobile Application, business, Startup