Apple Hints at iPhone App Localization Top Languages

Top app localization languages

Often I’m asked which languages an app should be localized into.That really depends on the type of app, and where the market is going to embrace it. But, speaking generally, if I had to pick the top app localization languages, I’d look no further than WWDC 2012 again. Take a look at the languages Apple has focused on for localizing Siri, its latest “app”.

Top languages for app localization iPhone and iOS
Siri can tell you which are the top languages for app localization.

And there they are: French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. Siri has to listen to accents and dialects, so many languages are represented more than once here, for example French for France, French for Switzerland, and French for Canada. In my experience I’d add German and Portuguese to this list, and I wouldn’t doubt if those are next on Siri’s curriculum. But going forward the one to really focus on for app localization has to be Chinese.

Get your apps ready for China

“It’s going to be important. Get your apps ready for China.” Those are the words of Craig Federighi, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering speaking to WWDC 2012 attendees during this year’s keynote. Make no mistake about it, localization into Chinese dialects is a critical part of global marketing and distributing apps in the booming (and expanding) iOS and Mac world. The App Store was recently updated to include support for Traditional as well as Simplified Chinese and a dozen other languages. But Chinese app localization, while a new focus at Apple, is already common amongst app developers.

App Localization Services for China
App Localization Services Get Ready for China

App localization services (like us at app localization services at Babble-on) enjoy helping developers reach all the markets that iOS allows. Dozens of app localization languages are available for iPhone and it is clear from the data that users overwhelmingly download apps localized into their own languages. In fact, take a look at the App Store in countries outside the US and you’ll find that 9 out 10 of the Top Ranking apps are localized into the regional languages. It’s THAT important.

Now you know the top app localization languages. If you want to learn more, let me know in the comments.

What are the languages iPhone supports for localization?

Languages iphone supports in iOS

UPDATED: January 30, 2017: We’ve got a full table of iOS languages and language codes to remove all the guess work!

UPDATED: May 3, 2012: Apple added 10 new languages! This post has been brought up to date.

Apple has already increased the languages iPhone supports to over 30 as of iOS 5.x:40 as of iOS 9:

English (US), British English, Australian English, Indian English, French, French Canadian, Italian, Spanish, Spanish (Mexico), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Catalan, Croatian,  German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian (Bokmål), Russian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Croatian, Romanian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Traditional Chinese, Traditional Chinese (Hong Kong), Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Thai, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, and Malay.

Developers often ask which languages iPhone supports, but more critically, which languages should they support in their own iPhone apps? Obviously supporting all of Apple’s language choices above is costly and time-consuming, so you want to begin with the largest markets. An even more important consideration is that you’ll only be able to market your app effectively in the languages supported by App Store.

Yep, the iTunes App Store supports a different set of languages than the iPhone itself. Continue reading “What are the languages iPhone supports for localization?”

Localizing Twitter vocabulary like “Follow” and “Tweet”

Localizing Twitter vocabulary and "words"How does the world say Tweet?

UPDATED: We’ve added lots more Twitter vocabulary and more languages in our iOS Localization Term Glossary!

Facebook succeeded in turning “Likes” into a noun and simultaneously revolutionized the speed at which we build social relationships and destroy grammar. What about Twitter?

Twitter has also introduced new “words” into English. Even for native speakers it is difficult to know how to use them. Stephen Colbert famously “twatted,” but the more popular past tense of “tweet” has settled upon “tweeted.”

For translators and localization engineers, words like “Follow” have become important for many applications. Instead of watching a discussion, we now follow it. But how should we translate Follow into the rest of the world’s languages?


Here is a glossary of the most common Twitter vocabulary localized into some of the languages Twitter currently supports. This “cheat sheet” will be helpful for translators localizing websites and apps that want to maintain consistency with Twitter terms.

Twitter Glossary

(verbs/buttons) (verbs) (nouns/lists)
Spanish Seguir
Dejar de seguir
French Suivre
Se désabonner
Italian Segui
Smetti di seguire
Portuguese Seguir
Deixar de Seguir
Russian (Твиттер) Читать
Japanese (ツイッター) フォロー
Korean (트위터) 팔로우
Chinese (Simplified) 关注
Chinese (Traditional) 關注

Will tweet for food

This glossary was created by reading through Twitter’s pages in the target languages, but they aren’t perfect. There are cases where one Twitterism might work, and others where local grammar or common sense precludes a term. For example, note that “following” in English is translated in at least two ways for some languages, depending on whether it is the button (“I am following”), or a list of users you are following.

Use the comments to help keep this list updated. I’ll add any languages you need.

What’s wrong with a factory translation (“cloud translation”)?

Factory or online?

One question I’m often asked by software developers is why they should go with an independent translator or indie translation provider instead of the “big guys”—traditional agencies—or factory translation companies like icanlocalize or mygengo.

I can think of a million reasons, but here are my TOP 5

  1. Quality. Doing an outstanding job is everything to us. It’s our reputation and our livelihood.
  2. Accountability. When issues crop up—and they do in complex localizations—you can bet that an independent translator will listen to the problem and help you find a resolution instead of passing the buck.
  3. One price doesn’t fit all. If you think that all translations can be reduced to a single per-word rate, you’re fooling yourself. Factory translation companies make money with add-on pricing: it looks cheap but you end up paying more and more to get the quality you deserved in the first place. You always get what you pay for.
  4. Answers. Unless your question is listed in an FAQ, chances are a factory translation company won’t bother to help you. Indie translators will—every time.
  5. Because you care. You care about your software. You put a lot of work into it and you genuinely want people around the world to use it. Why would you trust your baby to a website?

How do today’s cloud translation companies compare?

Click to enlarge

The death of Traditional Agencies

I don’t talk a lot about traditional agencies, because honestly there isn’t a lot to say. They are outmoded and outclassed in the localization world: high prices, low quality and response time, and problems handling new localization formats. They don’t “get” software and they never will.

Your translation questions
Independent Translators Factory (“cloud”) translations Traditional Agencies
Are the translators good? We’ve been working together for years. We do random checks, just like at the airport. Yes, and we replace them periodically with lower wage ones.
Who manages my project? The translator. An algorithm. A rotating menagerie of low-paid, overworked “coordinators”
Do you use a smartphone? For work and play. We see money! BlackBerry FTW!
Do you know what a Localizable.strings file is? “Yes” = “Sí, señor!”; Parse error. “Sí” = “Sí”.
Are you obsessive about quality? Always. Depends how much you pay. We’ll offer a discount on your next translation instead.
Personal one-on-one service? Email me right now. I dare you. How about one-on-zero? It depends how long before your coordinator quits.
Fast answers? Lightening fast. Did you read our FAQ? Let me get back to you.
Localization advice? Ask us anything. Did you read our FAQ? Let me get back to you.
Can I add new languages? We’re always ready for more. Did you read our FAQ? Yes, we make more that way.
Any format? If it’s got strings, we’ve got translations. Did you read our FAQ? Let me get back to you.


Tell me in the comments!

Google and Bing Team Up to Make One Bad Translator

If you haven’t checked out Bad Translator, you don’t know what fun you are missing.

Original text:

“I think I’ll use Google Translate to localize my website so that everyone can understand it.”

…50 translations later Google gives us:

“You know, if you use Google, I think all the ingredients.”

Bad Translator does something quite simple, but demonstrates a great point. It asks Google and Bing to translate a phrase from English into another language and back again. Repeating this process dozens of times is reminiscent of the “Telephone” game we used to play as children: whisper a few words into one person’s ear, repeat it to the next, and by the end of the line you get something totally wacky. Often, the results are hilarious.

But if you’re using Google Translate or Bing to translate your company website, the results are often less funny. You quickly lose control of your message and have no idea how you are presenting yourself to foreign audiences.

Writing iTunes App Store Descriptions

Diary of an iKamaSutra Copywriter

When Naim Cesur, developer of the iKamasutra app, contacted me about doing some copywriting I was thrilled. It’s not every day that I am able to involve my girlfriend in “copywriting research.” After a good stretch, however, it was clear that Naim had an issue typical of all mobile developers: how do you write App Store descriptions?

Today’s App Store descriptions are not only the marketplace version of an eHarmony profile, they serve as the basis of user reviews and press articles; often they serve as the only user manual a customer will ever read.

Your App Store Descriptions shouldn't read like creepy online dating profiles.

App store descriptions might be the first words a person reads about your app and—if you do it wrong—it could be the last. They are very, very important.

For iKamasutra, the stakes were even higher. Because of the content, iKamasutra is age-restricted to 17+ in the App Store, which puts its app store descriptions under added scrutiny. Then there are the words. By Apple’s definition, extremely potty-mouth and racy words like “sexy” and “sexual,” which you might only hear in a shady underground sex dungeon or PG-rated movie, may be used solely at their discretion.

Triggers an automated Apple warning:

A very sexy app!

Won’t trigger an automated warning:

I wanna sex up your mom, pal!

Apple’s views on word choice make for insanely great reading.

App Store Copywriting Deconstructed

Since Apple has had *reasonable* success with their storefront, let’s agree they know a thing or two about selling these apps. Take a look at how they construct their App Store descriptions and you quickly see a common pattern:

Introduction about being the best at what it does.

Short, clever title about what it can do.
• Key feature detail one.
 Key feature detail two.

Second, clever title about what else it does.
 Key feature detail one.
 Key feature detail two.

That’s it. And it is true whether you look at Pages, iMovie or their simplest app, Remote. (If you look at Apple’s website product pages, ultimately it is an identical pattern with better design and photos.) Now have a look at other Top Grossing apps, like Angry Birds for instance, and you’ll see a similar structure. “It just works.”

Many third-party developers have put forth additional app description ideas that are worth considering, too. These include: Twitter and Facebook links, quotes from major press outlets, and awards (Best of 2011, Top Grossing, etc.). While Apple doesn’t do this, these are great inclusions for most app developers.

An App store description for iKamasutra

Let’s apply some of those lessons to iKamasutra.

iKamasutra App Store DescriptionsClick to read full description at iTunes

App Store Descriptions checklist

Here’s what works in this App Store description for iKamasutra. Bring some of these ideas to your own app description and see how many more satisfied buyers you can get.

  • The first line sells. 5 million users, great press, and a sense a humor. Of course you want this app! Don’t forget that you see just these first couple of lines above the “More…” button when viewing an app description in the iTunes store on your computer.
  • Stand-out features really stand out. Our second paragraph tells us all the best stuff we have to know about iKamasutra, including a highlight reel of key features and advantages over the competition, including exclusive Kama Sutra descriptions and Apple-approved sex images.
  • Intriguing titles describe and delight. Just by glancing at titles like “There’s a position for that” and “Email just got exciting again” you have an idea of what the app does with enough appeal to make you read the details. Just don’t call it “sexy,” because that word is an Apple no-no.
  • Details do sell. You’re interested by titles like “Shake it, baby” but when you learn the details of what it does, you’re really ready to hit BUY. Each essential feature is listed in precise and succinct detail. It’s part marketing and part Quick Start guide for the app, ensuring users take advantage of everything iKamasutra offers, so that they are fully satisfied with the purchase. Remember, no one reads help texts until they are already disgruntled.
  • Honesty pays—handsomely. iKamasutra offers an excellent feature set built in, with extra positions available for purchase if that’s what you want. If your app relies on in-app purchases for revenue, it is in your favor to be upfront with buyers. Tell them what is free and what isn’t. This avoids disappointment, angry reviews, and entices shoppers to become loyal customers.
  • Don’t take my word for it. Reviews, both from your users and from online and print sources, are incredible sales tools. iKamasutra has glowing reviews and we highlight them for potential buyers to see.
  • Show them how to push your buttons. Unfortunately, App Store reviews are anonymous and you can’t follow up with individual users. We give them Twitter and Facebook links where we can take the conversation to a personal level.

Your app descriptions need some love too

It has paid off to get the “positioning” of iKamasutra just right. But every app is different, and should be treated that way. The App Store descriptions you write shouldn’t be afterthoughts. They should be front and center in importance, since that is exactly how your customers are going to view them.

* Benjamin Zadik is a copywriting expert and iKamasutra novice. He wishes it were the other way around.

How much does website localization cost?

You have a website, and you have grown beyond just English speakers loving your content and buying your products. You want the whole world—or at least a few more amigos and comrades—to benefit from what you do.

Website localization is the answer, and website localization costs have never been lower. Let me explain how website localization costs are calculated and how to save money on localization for your site.

How to calculate website localization costs

Here is the simple formula:

Cost $.$$ = words x price-per-language

No matter which website localization company you go with, the bottom line depends upon how much text you have and which languages you choose. A solid number for budgeting purposes is $0.15/word, although the price will vary depending on the language, the complexity, and the services you need.

This will save you money.

Determining the word count of your website will quickly help you budget your project. You can paste your website texts into Microsoft Word and use its “Word Count” feature (available in the Tools menu) to get a fair idea of the size of your website localization project. Delete anything that is duplicated, like headers and footers and menus. This exercise will also force you to decide which pages of your website you want to localize. Often there is no need to translate everything.

In fact, there hardly ever is a good reason to translate everything. I always suggest localizing only the pages you expect a foreign audience to read. If you look at the localizations of the Babble-on site (, which is already in 12 languages, we chose to translate only the pages that a foreign audience would read. In our case, these were pages about translation services and copywriting in English. You certainly want your product and checkout pages translated, but perhaps your job listings and Help texts can wait. Cutting down the word count is the single best way to lower localization costs.

This will save you even more.

One of the most time consuming parts of website localization is not translation. It is making sure all the translated text appears in the right places in the HTML document. That is why it is important to go with a website localization company that understands the process. If you have your webmaster deal with inputting the files, you may save some money (unless your webmaster charges you by the hour). However, having the translator do this inputting helps ensure everything is put in the right place.

At Babble-on we use the latest website localization tools to make this process fast and accurate, and we pass the savings on to our clients. Make sure your preferred translator does the same.

Beyond budget


Localization is no easy task, and you want translators that are professional and knowledgable, ones that will tell you when something will be misinterpreted or misunderstood in their language. Besides budget, be sure to go with someone you trust and you can talk to any time and receive honest feedback. Check Yelp or other online reviews. Localization, after all, is not simply translation, but adapting text to a new audience with different sensitivities and needs.

Getting your site localized can be one of the best things you ever do for your business. It is relatively inexpensive and—assuming users in another country (or speaking another language in your own country)—are interested in what you do, you’ll gain back your investment tenfold in the long-run.