The world is run by apps. True, this may be an exaggeration, but it’s pretty close. Most of us manage our lives through the apps on our phones and the software on our computers. Therefore, it is not surprising that most of the most complicated, challenging and fulfilling localization projects are app-related.
Apps like to mince words. The descriptions will usually be very short – and therefore also highly creative. A majority of the content is meant to serve as call-to-action, or as guides that help users navigate. For us localization experts, this is where things become challenging. The shorter the sentences, the more precise and creative we have to be.
When dealing with micro-copy localization, we must remember three important rules: maintain the expression’s original meaning, make sure that the expression fits the new designated culture and target audience, and ensure that the call-to-action is strong and to the point. It’s not always easy, but that’s where our localization professionalism comes into play.
Many apps – especially those targeting young audiences – love to use slang. Let’s pretend we need to translate a Danish app for a Japanese audience. We must know the meaning of the original expression, and find a similar expression in Japanese, in accordance with Japanese culture and what the target audience wants to hear. If, for example, the brand’s values include “youthfulness” or “cool”, then we must align our messaging accordingly.
As a rule, localization experts are required to exhibit high creativity levels and supreme writing skills – especially where apps are concerned. Sometimes, we’ll need to perform transcreation – writing a sentence or expression from scratch, in order to convey a sentence or expression that works well in another culture. Transcreation is an acquired skill, and the more you do it, the better you become.
A Cog in the Machine
Text is just one aspect of the apps we use. There are other important aspects, such as design, UI/UX, photos and colors, icons and more. Text localization is just a part of an entire system that must be localized. Sometimes, we’ll have to change the imagery, colors or even the music. Sometimes, we’ll have to switch the language alignment (Hebrew, anyone?). These parameters influence and are influenced by textual content. As localization experts, we must aspire to be a part of the project’s think tank, so that we can familiarize ourselves with these parameters before and during the process.