Localization of Cocoa applications. What awaits a lone translator?


This little story is not about what files and what you need to open to translate your favorite program, but about what accompanies the translation.

Since last (2013), I have been localizing applications for OS X (and quite a bit for iOS). At first it was just a hobby, then I began to communicate with many developers and work with some of them. In the process of finding those who are willing to cooperate, I came across different problems and received different answers. Most, as one would expect, are negative. About the reasons - below. In general, now I would like to tell from personal experience what awaits those who want to do the translation of programs on their own: for free or for a fee. So…

Applications for OS X and iOS appear daily. Popular and neglected, well-designed and well-rounded, useful and not very good. They are different. There are extremely many of them. However, most Mac or iOS users already have their own list of favorite programs, which still need to be earned. An application with an English interface on this list is a familiar thing. On the one hand, for many users this is not a problem: someone is familiar with English in principle, someone is used to working in this way in the absence of an alternative, for some programs translation is not needed at all because of their simplicity and comprehensibility. On the other hand, localization always attracts new customers. I will not venture to say what kind of growth an additional language can give (given the fact that some users would agree to English), but, as one developer told me, adding a new localization is always justified. At least in terms of positioning your product. At a minimum, there is an opportunity to tell a new audience about your application.

Now, regarding the very audience and possible growth.

One day, while chatting with a Danish developer, I found out about Appannie. One of its functions is to view a list of top applications in various stores. We are interested in the Mac App Store. So, we open the information about the "best sellers" for June 18, 2014 in Russia.

Appannie Service in Action

Free omit, more on that later. Among the paid ones, we draw attention to No. 3. This is Reeder 2, released recently. Now the program has only one language in its arsenal (I won’t tell you ...). Would you like to see her in Russian? I would like to. I think I'm not alone in this desire. Reeder, of course, is not Xcode (if we talk about the complexity of the interface), but not Bookreader, for example, in which everything can be done in two clicks. Therefore, each new language is not only pleasant, but also a useful option for a certain part of users. Whether the developer’s plans include adding Russian (or at least some other) localization is not clear. There is no answer yet to my letter with this question sent a couple of days ago.

I believe that it will be negative. And now I will try to explain what reason I have to think so.
Next, I will give the main concerns of developers regarding application localization.

1. Underestimation of the market

Many of those to whom I wrote answered me that deliberate entry into the Russian market is unlikely to bring dividends. They say that localization costs will not pay off: few people buy a program in Russia, it is unlikely that the Russian language will significantly change anything. Who would like to - and buy in English. Not entirely objective, because in half the cases the cost of translation will not exceed 10 times the cost of the program in the App Store. But along with the translation of the program, a Russian description will appear in the store. And already 10 additional people will probably be attracted by such an innovation.

And then argument number 2.

2. Further support?

To translate a program is far from the end. In a couple of weeks, a careful developer will think up and add some feature that requires translation. As I was told in several companies, they were faced with the fact that the former translator simply did not get in touch, and the program came out practically in an unfinished form. Someone is not particularly worried about this, and someone simply does not want to contact individual developers initially. And it works only with companies.

3. Lack of financial ability

If the software developer is a very small company, or even one or two comrades at all, you can hear that they simply can not afford it now.

4. Why fool your head?

These are those who reasonably (or not so) think that English is quite enough. The program is already understandable, what is there to translate?

5. "We are not ready yet," "We plan to do this in the future."

Polite refusal. They say to you: “In principle, we are interested ... but it’s too early. We have other priorities now / a lot of other work / we plan to do localization later ”, etc.

In the context of the last example, I will give the answer of a member of the Pixelmator Team to my proposal for cooperation:
Well, I have some patience ...

By the way, Applingua Ltd, which did the translation for Pixelmator, successfully updated all localizations with the release of a new version of the program. Robert Lo Bue (I will not distort the person’s name with a translation), the director of the company, continues to work with the Pixelmator Team, so my patience is also reinforced by the possibility of reaching developers through a Welsh company that actively attracts translators from different countries.

And again about the market. Throughout the story, I focused on applications for OS X, because worked less with iOS. So: one online mobile translation service estimates the Russian-speaking iOS audience at 33.4 million users.
It’s hard for me to assess the objectivity of this data, but I’ll assume that the proportional separation between languages ​​can be true. Russian - on the 5th place among additional languages. It’s just that we hardly see Russian more often than German, French and other languages ​​below in the list.

As a result, I have a question: why do I need to add some European language to the application, and leave the Russian audience with English? Or we more often than others buy programs without native localization, or somehow we are not appreciated.

A few words about non-profit localization

If you want to translate something “for the soul” (or simply the developer does not want to implement the Russian translation, but you still intend to do it), you can do the localization yourself. There are also 2 options here: to do absolutely everything alone, using different programs such as NibUnlocker and editing compiled files in a text editor, or ask the developer for uncompiled files to facilitate the task an nth number of times. However, remember that you will not necessarily be helped. And even if they help, in case of updating the program, you will need to write to the developer again or still edit the compiled files. There is already enough enthusiasm.

In the end, I will allow myself to give some small tips to those who, like me, decide to do localization of applications.
1. Always write to the developer. Firstly, he may be interested in your services. Secondly, even if he is not interested, he can help you. Be prepared for the fact that not everyone answers. In my experience, the answer comes from ~ 70% of developers, which, incidentally, is also not bad. The main thing is not to be afraid to write: no one will give you rude answers. On the contrary: they will thank for the proposal, regardless of interest.
2. Be prepared for large volumes of work: usually you need to translate much more than it seems at first glance. There are always many menu items, tooltips, settings window, etc.
3. [ General rule] Say NO! automatic translation. It’s better then to leave the program alone and not mock future users. The same Google Translator or Promt is useful to use for comparison, as well as to search for translation options for individual phrases, phrases. Do not be lazy to use the dictionary and the word-for-word translation of Lingvo, search the Internet for idioms that are incomprehensible to you.
4. Watch the length of the lines. It's no secret that English writing is quite compact. Compared to Russian, it’s an order of magnitude more compact. Naturally, in some cases (description of functions, error decoding in a separate window, tooltip), the text size is not important. But it is of fundamental importance for the signatures of most interface elements. If the text is too long, you will have to resize the neighboring element, other elements, windows. This will create additional difficulties and will come back to you when updating the translation in the future.
5. Always check your spelling. Depending on the program in which you work, errors in one or another language may or may not be highlighted. One way or another, after completing the work, use the text check, for example, using Yandex Speller. But just do not forget that if you missed something in terms of meaning (you skipped the word corny), in 99% not a single service will tell you about it.

During the work in this direction I gained unique experience, met many interesting people, earned ~ $ 600 and launched my site. I am sure that it was not in vain that I spent my free time during these 6 months. I have no experience in software development, I am not versed in programming, and English is not super, I guess. But I like what I do, and I hope I can do it. It's me that doing business that brings pleasure is still worth it. The main thing to start.

Good luck with your projects!

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