Tag: mobile


Seven steps to prepare a mobile game for localization

Localization, Localization Strategy

According to App Annie’s “The State of Mobile” report, in 2018 games accounted for 74% of consumer spend in app stores. Games are huge, which is why MultiLingual‘s latest issue, which just went live, focuses on the topic. In 2019, mobile gaming is going to reach 60% market share of consumer spend. One of the reasons that makes it possible is the global presence achieved with the help of localization.

Here is a guide for understanding whether the mobile game is ready for localization. In other words, this is a draft for a game localization maturity model.

Language analytics

A game might be developed and published by different companies. But even in this case, and even though the promotion team might also have the final say, it is recommended that marketing and analytics teams — in collaboration with localizers — make a general decision on what languages the game needs to be present in. Ekaterina Zaitseva, lead localization manager of RJ Games says that “we don’t translate game descriptions a few days before release in the App Store now. Everything is planned in advance.”

When selecting the target languages, consider the following:

  • The experience of your main competitors, including the popularity of their games in the country of your interest
  • Publicly available research, such as insights on the game’s localization ROI
  • The number of potential users speaking the language and their paying capacity
  • Planned cost of localization
  • Availability of quality translation service providers

A few years ago, issues caused by miscommunicated expectations and process details between the development, design and localization teams emerged here and there in many games. The community reported cases of unlocalized text embedded in graphics, violated character limits and non-resizable text which both resulted in truncations, grammatical issues with gender and so on. Even today, in 2019, you download a game that boasts supporting, let’s say, the Russian language, and still (sad but true) you may get machine translation instead of a proper translation.

But, on the other hand, localization is being increasingly integrated into the development process. The growing trend is for all the teams involved in a game creation to communicate constantly on how and when to do things. And interest in improving the quality of the process and its outcome is growing steadily

Collaboration with the development team

So, a responsible localizer does research and tells the developer in advance what problems may arise from a linguistic point of view. The priority and relevance of the main internationalization issues are to be carefully set depending on the project, as Ekaterina Zaitseva from RJ Games states:

  • “Resourcing” all of the strings (when user-visible strings are put into resource files)
  • Avoiding hard-coding or embedding text in any graphic files as much as possible
  • Testing of every font for every planned language
  • Paying attention to special characters, such as umlauts. (If you cannot find a font that blends appealingly with the game design and at the same time supports umlauts, use diphthongs instead)
  • Remembering that UTF-8 is the right encoding choice most of the time
  • Deciding whether or not you plan on mirroring the interface to consider the difference between LTR and RTL languages
  • Making strings scalable, allocating space for size change, as some languages take more space than the source
  • Enabling wrapping for multiline texts
  • Taking into account how English is unique. Word order, use of genders, plurals and possessives, and other rules vary drastically between languages
  • Creating text strings with variables for grammatical changes as well as time, date, currency and number formatting

Localizers need to remember that collaboration with development and design teams covers not only the text and interface itself. Game sound and art need to be thought through and made localizable in advance as well. Ideally, all images, symbols and logos need to be focus-tested with the target locales to minimize the risk of offending certain audiences. IGDA, the International Game Developers Association, advises gaining awareness of the top four cultural variables as they apply to your target markets: history, religion, ethnicity and geopolitical considerations.

In the subsequent discussion with the developers, when the process is already set up, it just makes sense to go through a localization sanity checklist, which should be compiled based on publicly available sources (such as “Best Practices for Game Localization” by IGDA), and of course, personal experience.

Documentation and processes preparation

Usually at some point when the game is still cooking, you already know what the target audience is, or what languages and game setting are planned, though there is no actual text to translate yet.

Now is the time to set up the following:

  • The localization processes and workflows, including decisions on what CAT environment to use, or who reports to whom and in what cases. For instance, how the work of Support will be organized and automated, and will it be multilingual or in English only?
  • Documentation such as templates, checklists and rules, style guide, onboarding guide, language vendor scorecard, or the “Project localization Bible.” You can also start compiling a glossary: even though there’s no full source text available, some of the key terms are already known.
  • A reference system for context. If you can ask the development team to leave some notes for text strings, all the better. The precious information on game logic will help localization teams a lot, even if there’s going to be a full-scale linguistic testing.
  • A draft of the testing plan. At the linguistic testing stage linguists verify in-game texts and overall game performance (such as the correct response of game elements to user inputs). A testing plan will help to get the most out of this stage. If it seems hard to draft it at the preparation stage, you can at least think of the environment to use. Will your testers report bugs and upload screenshots in a simple Google Sheet or use an online repository, such as Jira?

Advanced companies create special onboarding kits for developers, something like “Globalization 101,” which can focus on internationalization and culturalization aspects, or, for instance, feature common mistakes found in some other games.

The alternative is seamless continuous localization. Predefined and tuned processes are a benefit. But what if some of them could be bypassed for good? Open source solutions such as Serge, which stands for String Extraction and Resource Generation Engine, offer a trendy way to make manual localization management (exporting, converting files, sending them for translation, doing reverse conversion, committing changes to version control) unnecessary.

The tool gathers new source, publishes it for translation, acquires translations and integrates them back into the product, pulling and pushing changes, and will also synchronize with an external CAT tool of your choice.

Serge is being developed by Evernote, which has its products and marketing materials continously localized into 25 languages. This solution is mostly tailored to work with text translations, though. Its effect is not so noticeable in the localization of non-textual formats such as graphics or audio. So if you need to localize these things for a game, Serge will only grant you partial automation

QA and testing setup

Another extremely useful means of partial automation is QA checks. When a language vendor delivers the job, you can apply industry standard practices such as a third-party review of a sample translation and extensive QA metrics. But in a budget or time-constraint environment it makes sense to at least run a simple in-house check prior to importing localized content into the game build for future linguistic testing. Use QA tools: QA built-in CAT, Xbench or Verifika. QA or at least spotcheck methods should be thought about in advance, as they may and most certainly will be another expense item.

Prior to actual QA, a handy approach for advanced teams is to build a pseudolocalization tool for the mobile application testing. Even MT helps get a view of the localized product. And this might lead to useful proactive design changes.

In addition to linguistic testing, some games can afford to invite focus groups to actually play the game. Their gaming experience is recorded and analyzed to evaluate their playing habits, if and when (and why) they face any difficulties in the game. This type of testing, though, belongs at the final stage of the project.

Budgets and legal matters

To dive into the localization stage at full speed, one must come prepared. And this is almost impossible without having agreed on who would actually do the job. So test the waters with localization vendors in advance.

Communication with vendors prior to the actual project’s start will help with calculating localization budgets (advice: add 15-20% for unforeseen expenses, especially if there is a voiceover planned on the project), and avoiding delays in production due to any possible legal issues. Early collaboration with your legal department on setting up vendor contracts will streamline your future mutual localization efforts.

Each new language, though, generates additional costs associated with globalization, as you would likely need to invest in social media localization and tracking reviews in app stores.

Feedback collection

Speaking of reviews, you can actually start gathering feedback from gamers related not to your game but to similar ones. Search for competing games and pay attention to the comments and ratings in app stores. There’s always something to learn: if the errors themselves aren’t useful, the root causes for them will be.

Another smart move is to make it easy for gamers to leave feedback in the game itself. But if you’re conducting a survey, for example, you should give an incentive, maybe by providing an in-game currency per reply. This is something to discuss with development and design teams, especially considering the multilingual background of the users, but any way to thank a user for informative feedback adds a nice touch.

(Yearly) plan and user engagement

Continuing on user engagement, the #1 thing to include in the game plan for the next year is culturalization.

2018 saw a trend of labeling culturalization as a fictitious step created for demonstrative localization activity purposes only, which some localizers get offended by. They’re putting their hearts into making the game content viable and meaningful. And to make content meaningful, it pays to ask questions. So open discussions inside and even outside of your team that relate to plot, characters and objects during the conceptual stage, which will help identify cultural patterns and possible issues.

As The Game Localization Handbook says, culturalization is all the more effective the earlier it’s applied to game content. The same could be said about the planning itself. But it’s even more fun to make amendments to the plan in the localization process. So with all due circumspection, let the game begin!

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Yulia Akhulkova graduated from Moscow University of Electronic Engineering as a software engineer. Since 2010 she has worked in localization, currently combining research functions at Nimdzi with leading the localization department at ITI.

SDL Tados 2021

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Kudos and Comhghairdeas* to Duolingo’s Irish Language Volunteers

Language, Language in the News, Translation Technology

The Irish President (Uachtarán Na hEireann) Michael D. Higgins (Micheál D Ó hUigínn) (@PresidentIRL) has publicly recognized seven volunteers for their work in building up the Irish language (Gaeilge) version of the crowd-sourced, languagelearning social app Duolingo (@duolingo).

Duolingo on Twitter

Duolingo on Twitter

This is first time I’ve read about a head of state doing something like this in the language space, although volunteerism is something that’s often acknowledged publicly by officialdom.

Indeed, it is well-deserved recognition for these Duolingo volunteers given the results.

Duolingo Irish in the Top Ten

Over the past two years, over 2.3 million people had downloaded the language app and selected Irish as the language they wanted to learn. This means that Irish is in the top 10 most popular languages offered by Duolingo.

Over 2.3 million users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn on Duolingo

Over 2.3 million Duolingo users have selected Irish as the language they want to learn

About 75% of these Irish language users are outside of Ireland, and the majority of new learners are located in the United States.

President Higgins commended the volunteers’ efforts at the official residence of the President, Áras an Uachtaráin, saying that their contribution was “an act of both national and global citizenship”.

The President also took this opportunity to comment on the status of the Irish language generally and about Government plans for the language.

Well done to Duolingo and to its volunteers in Ireland, and indeed everywhere!

The Duolingo Lessons for Other Languages

The Journal.ie quotes Oisín Ó Doinn, one of the volunteers, who was clearly delighted so many are enjoying the benefits of the contributions made to the Irish language lessons on Duolingo:

“The fact that an average of 3,000 people a day have begun using the Duolingo Irish course shows the massive worldwide interest in our native language and makes all the hard work we put in worthwhile.”

Aodhán Ó Deá (@aodhanodea) of Conradh na Gaeilge (@CnaG) was also quoted by the Journal.ie about Irish language proficiency and the reasons behind it. Some of his remarks will resonate with many Irish people:

“The thing I hear again and again from people is ‘I’d love to learn the language’, and I wish I learned it in school’.

So, despite all the negativity we hear about the Irish language, particularly from within Ireland, Duolingo’s success with their Irish language version again proves that not only do people want to try and master conversational Irish but that when the digital user experience (UX) of language learning suits their world, and it is made easy and is fun, they will give it an honest shot and try to learn.

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Duolingo Irish language lesson in action

Again it is also clear how smart use of technology and an ever-improving UX can benefit the health of “minor” languages.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social ventures to the experience of learning Irish.

Duolingo language learning options. Duolingo also offers gamfication and social features to the experience of learning Irish.

It will be interesting to see how the Duolingo impact plays out, if at all, in the responses to questions about Irish language usage in the next Irish census!

Other languages, please take note!

The Irish President's speech to Duolingo's Irish volunteers and about the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud

The Irish President’s speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers, and about the state of the Irish language generally is on SoundCloud.

You can listen to the Irish President’s Áras an Uachtaráin speech about Duolingo’s Irish volunteers and about the Irish language on SoundCloud.

  • Congratulations (in Irish).
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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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Going Native: Chinese Mobile UX

Localization Culture, Personalization and Design

Shout out for a great article by Dan Grover (@dangrover), writing about Chinese mobile app user interface trends.

Chinese Mobile App UI Trends. Image via Dan Grover.

Chinese Mobile App UI Trends. Image via Dan Grover.

Dan relocated from San Francisco to China, and used this move to document and share some great insights into Chinese user experience that are invaluable for localization too.

Check out the examples. I love the sections on how discovery is the new hamburger menu and how chat is a universal UI in its own right.

And you thought QR codes were dead?

In keeping with the inspiration for the article, it is now available in Chinese too:  中国移动应用设计趋势解读

Let’s see more articles like this!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Where Will The Next 10 Million Apps Come From? BRIC to MIST

Language Industry News and Events, Personalization and Design

Picked up on this super preso from Joe McCann (@joemccann) at the PhoneGap Day EU 2012.

How To Enter Emerging Markets: Mobile

How To Enter Emerging Markets: Mobile.  Image reference from @joemccann acknowledged.

India: The purchasing power of people in the middle class is increasing rapidly, with huge potential to grow further. The highest percentage of mobile ownership is among the Indian middle class. (Source: TGI India via @joemccann)

All I can say is: “Wow. What an opportunity!” Lots of great information in Joe’s preso about the current and future globalization of mobile apps and where focus needs to be if you’re a maker of those apps.

It’s not just about BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). There’s MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey) too (yes, I know what Mist can translate as). Vital insight for mobile developers and globalization fanboys everywhere. You really need to know your markets.

Said it before, but these developer events are the kind of conferences that the translation industry needs to be attending and the type of audience that it needs to engage with, instead of talking to itself.

Worth checking out too is this article: The Mobile Browser Dominates in Emerging Markets. Mobile and Cloud wedge again.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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How to Use the HTML5 Translate Attribute: A Translatability Best Practice

Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

HTML5 introduces a translate attribute that allows fine-grained control over what content should be translated, or not. Richard Ishida of the W3C has all the details of the attribute and its applicability, as well as some interesting insights into how Bing Translator and Google Translate deal with the translatability of content issue.

Here’s an example of the translate attribute’s use, taken from Richard’s blog (the HTML5 spec’s global attributes section has another other nice example, see the Bee Game.):

<p>Click the Resume button on the Status Display or the
<span translate="no">CONTINUE</span> button
on the printer panel.</p>

See how the word CONTINUE is made non-translatable using the translate attribute’s value set to “no”? Blimey! However, there are times when CONTINUE might need to be translated. So, flip that puppy to “yes”.

This HTML5 attribute is a very welcome addition to the content creation and translation tools world, sure.  But, it is very welcome for other reasons too.

This is a time of new interactions and emerging platforms that challenge the established desktop and website norms of what should be translated or not. Mobile, augmented reality, gamification, and other trends, all challenge established norms of content rules. So too, is it a time when companies redefine themselves, cross over, and promote their own design guidance as a differentiator in the market. Oracle, for example, likes to say “Software, Hardware. Complete” so content needs to cross-reference many deliverables. SAP, as another example, recently launched an app in the consumer space (available in German and English) that may require a different style of content and translation from the enterprise applications space. Android has released user experience (UX)  guidance of its own, and so on.

I previously raised such translatability issues in my Don’t Translate: Won’t Translate blog post.  I chipped into the [Bug 12417] discussion about the attribute’s development, too.

Using content to convey a translation instruction, by making a piece of text all uppercase for example, is not a best practice. It is a UX failure, makes personalization and customization difficult, and assumes the consumer of the content is a second-class stakeholder. Frankly, it is also very dangerous. Can you imagine if software developers used text that way in their code, rather than relying on the program logic?

As for the time-honored method of writing a translation note, or description, telling a translator that some content should not be translated, or should be, well such approaches just ain’t reliable or scalable, are they?

Now, there is a clear best practice to follow (and adapt for other formats). The HTML5 translate attribute educates content developers that the best practice for indicating whether content should be translated or not is through the use of markup (or metadata), and not through how the content is written. Translation tools should update to the HTML5 spec requirements and process this attribute asap.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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The Berlin Wall of Code

Language in the News, Translation Technology

Too soon?

Google Developer Day Berlin 2011 Code Wall of Fame

Google Developer Day Berlin 2011 Code Wall of Fame

Hardly. I took that photograph at the Google Developer Day in Berlin in November 2011. Google runs these events globally. The event itself was very well attended with some excellent presentations on Android, Google TV, App Engine, and a tonne more. Coloured me excited by those Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich user experience guidance sessions aimed at developers, too.

All serious tech players run such events and a lot of them are free to attend provided that you apply in time and your credentials are even reasonably credible. So, why not add some of these events to your conference calendar?

The point of all this is that as language industry professionals you can steal a march on localizing emerging technology and new interactions by attending such events. Start your research into terminology, style, cultural differences, and so on, before anyone even thinks about approaching you for your services.

Watch out for sessions on user experience and design guidance in particular. You could even influence matters in the right direction before it’s too late.

Remember this: In the global mobile app development space it’s increasingly likely that it’s just going to be you, the translator, and the app developer sitting at his or her kitchen table. Understanding this tech stuff and how it’s developed is important.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Ethnography in User Experience, the African Angle

Blogos, Language in Business, Localization Culture

I get to advise on global user experience (UX) stuff for Oracle applications, so I am always on the lookout for research opportunities in local markets and for information that might lead us there.

The Everyone Speaks Text Message article in the New York Times (a surprisingly great source of articles on translation, language and cultural issues, by the way) is very revealing about the importance of knowing local users and how they use their technology in work and everyday life: their user experience, if you like.

N'Ko script image available from WikiPedia. Public domain.

Sure, that’s one great message there about how technology (and conventions such as Unicode) is helping the N’Ko language thrive, but read on and you come across information about how that technology needs to be designed to take into account other local usage factors:

Dabo says it’s possible to build a cheap cellphone with N’Ko as its language, a camera and slots for two SIM cards — a necessity in Africa, where reception is often spotty.

From a UX perspective, nothing can beat researching a local market like getting out there and living and working with real users for a while and understanding the context of use, and mobile phone-based usage is no different: ethnography.

For example, did you know that M-Pesa (pesa is Swahili for money), a mobile money transfer app that made the mobile money market in Kenya so exciting and innovative, is now the most used app in the world, with 200 transactions per second? You can read more about mobile ethnographic methodology done by Oracle on the Usable Apps website.

With over 620 million mobile connections as of September 2011, Africa has overtaken Latin America to become the second largest mobile market in the world, after Asia. Mobile usage in Africa has important developmental consequences too, and mobile computing reflects that. Check out iCow for example.  But that’s not all.  Just as accessibility requirements make life better for everyone so too can the needs of developing markets result in user experience improvements in more fortunate regions. M-Pesa in this case making mobile payments–through Near Field Communication (NFC)–seem all the more natural.

We must be wary of treating Africa as one homogenous economic market too, as this excellent GMS World report illustrates, remembering the range of languages and complex political and cultural dynamics at work there.

On a UX level, is no single user profile for mobile phones and apps in Africa anymore than there is in any other region either. For some interesting mobile personas for the region, and the requirements for the phones themselves, see the excellent Foolproof UX report Mobile and Africa: Are Smartphones Really Smart? by Souleymane Camara.

Said it before, but we don’t hear enough about the need for UX in our industry, or about cultural, localization or translation (or indeed UX) issues in Africa.  Our loss. Mobile phone usage and how it is revolutionizing lives in Africa is one of the big stories for 2011 (and 2012).

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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