Expand Your App’s Reach By Teaching It A New Language

With a population of over 300 million people, and over 100 million smartphones sold, it’s easy to see why the United States is the first target for most software developers — app developers included. More than half of the smartphones sold in the United States are Android phones.

That number has been steadily rising since December 2009, as you can see on this chart from Eric S. Raymond based on data from ComScore. And there’s no reason to believe that the trend is tapering off.

The Market Share of various smartphone platforms in the USA over time.

As breaking into the English-speaking market gets harder and harder, there are abundant reasons to translate apps into other languages. One of the most obvious reasons is the “big fish in a small pond” situation. The English-speaking app market is saturated. App discovery is getting harder by the day. Other languages are still somewhat more open.

The AppsGeyser team has been researching where to begin localization efforts and following are some of our findings.

Consider Chinese Or Russian

Eighty two million Chinese have smartphones, and 25.2 million Russians have smartphones. It seems obvious, then, that Russian and Chinese are great languages to translate your app into.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to break into the Chinese market. Android isn’t popular there, and even Apple is still having trouble competing with Nokia, Windows, and RIM. Moreover, standard app stores like Google Play have been banned in China.

Still, for an app-maker looking for maximum market exposure, Mandarin Chinese is a logical language to consider.

Skip Indian Languages, Unless You Really Want That Audience

The second most populous country in the world is India, and English is one of the major languages spoken there, so there’s no need to translate your app to break into that market, especially since smartphone penetration is only at 3%, according to Wired.

Obviously, if you’re looking to make it into niche markets in India, Hindu, Urdu, and other local languages can make that a reality. But if you’re just looking to maximize your audience, India’s other languages aren’t at the top of the list for translations.

¿Se Habla Español?

The language that is the mother tongue of the most people in the world is Mandarin Chinese. No surprise there. The second language on that list is not English, though. It’s Spanish.

It’s true that more people speak English than speak Spanish, but for a substantial number of those people, English is a second language. There are around 400 million native Spanish speakers, and another 100 million who speak Spanish as a second language.

Mexico, with a population of over 100 million, is the largest Spanish-speaking country, followed by Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and Chile. Around 34 million Americans speak Spanish at home, too, and many of them are more comfortable in Spanish than in English.

Unlike Chinese and Russian, Spanish uses the same general alphabet and keyboard layout as English, which means that localization of your app should be easier and less costly than Chinese or Russian.

Additionally, from a cultural perspective, China is a very different target market from the United States, while the Spanish market has more similarities. It is important to remember to target Latin America, which is very different culturally from Spain, to gain the maximum benefit from translating your app into Spanish. Note, also, that there are country-specific and even regional differences in language, so be sure your translator takes that into consideration.

5 Things To Consider When Translating Your App

1. Be sure to translate all relevant text, including your bio/about page and all menus and buttons.

2. Consider how you want your app translated. One easy method is to use a service like One Hour Translation. You may be able to find better translators or a better price elsewhere, but this service saves you the headache of looking for a translator, and they’ve already pre-screened the translators for you, so you know that you’re getting someone who is capable.

3. Consider carefully whether you want to have two separate apps or an app that localizes based on locale. In the case of Android, it may be advantageous to create two separate apps with different names, descriptions, and screenshots, and have the two link to each other in the description easily by putting the words “looking for this app in English? Try SuperApp” into the Spanish description and putting a line of Spanish into the English description directing Spanish-speakers to the English app. There are three advantages to this method:

  • You have two different opportunities for search in the Google Play.
  • Having more than one app lends your company credibility.
  • People living in the United States who speak Spanish, for example, will not have to fight with the app to get the Spanish version despite their location. They can simply choose to download the Spanish version.

[There is a disadvantage in the fact that each app will likely receive fewer downloads and ratings than one would if listed individually. This will affect its overall ranking in app stores.]

4. Consider whether a different demographic group may need different graphics or other adjustments. For example, if your app has a date and time feature, you may wish to change the format to DD/MM/YYYY in order to conform with the European standard. (As opposed to the American MM/DD/YYYY format.)

5. Above all, consider whether your app is likely to interest Spanish speakers or speakers of any foreign language. If the app features the library hours for a small town with an exclusively English-speaking population, then translating the app is a waste of money. If the app is an international e-commerce site selling cosmetics worldwide, translate early and often!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: works at Hunter & Bard, where she is the Content & Community Manager for AppsGeyser.com. She has been working in SEO, content, and social media since 2004.

Sign Up To Get This Newsletter Via Email:  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://twitter.com/JimWatson9 Jim Watson

    Great article and a really new and fresh view of apps

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Polish-Interpreter/100003099514954 Polish Interpreter

    If you need help with Polish then please don’t hesitate to ask!!!

  • Dimitris Glezos

    Another option is to crowdsource translations of your app. Multilingual teams in a company can also work on the translation themselves. Check out Transifex.com for a service which helps you do exactly that. :)

    Note: I’m one of the maintainers of the service.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!