Localization Isn’t as Simple as it Seems
More than 7,100 languages are used in the world today and while English is the most spoken language in the world, it’s closely followed by Mandarin Chinese. Hindi, Spanish, and French are also commonly spoken languages, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Don’t Rely On Geolocation
A lot of developers are quick to assume that the person using their app speaks the language of the country they’re currently in. But that doesn’t always have to be the case. Sometimes, the user could be traveling or using a proxy server.
And let’s not forget that there are multiple countries such as Switzerland, Canada, and India that have multiple official languages. You can’t simply assume what language the user speaks from their location because there is a big chance you will be wrong in your assumption.
Try to use icons whenever you can
Localizing an app should be much simpler than localizing a website for one main reason, and that is because apps generally use less text. But if you use icons, you can ensure there is even less text to translate.
Icons and symbols are very common in apps because their meaning is widely understood by people of all nationalities. For example, if you want someone to rate your app, you can present them with star icons. This is something everyone can understand, regardless of their native language.
If you know any other language other than English, you know how difficult it can be to pluralize a word. And while it’s simple in English where you would usually just add an “s” at the end of the word, it’s much different in other languages, and usually more complicated.
While you could learn language plural rules, it would be simpler to just work around plurals wherever you can. Let’s say for example users order groceries by using your app. Instead of saying “You purchased an order of 3 bags of flour” you can work around it and say “Bag of flour ordered: 3”.
Dates are Written Differently Around the World
When people think about localization, they mostly focus on translating the text or even currencies, but they rarely remember that dates are seen differently across the world.
A simple date such as 10/8/22 would be interpreted differently across the world. The existing formats are MM/DD/YYYY, DD/MM/YYYY, and even YYYY/MM/DD. So if you don’t want to confuse your users, write your dates in words, not letters.
Don’t Forget about Alternative Text Orientations
In English and most other languages, the text goes from left to right, but that is not the case for some languages.
For example, in Arabic, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Kurdish, the text is read from right to left. And in Asian languages such as Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, and Korean, the text is read from top to bottom. You need to be prepared to adjust your app for that.
Luckily, there are newer CSS properties that can help with that such as writing-mode, text-combine-upright, direction, and logical block. However, it’s a much more difficult process if you want to design a flexible UI that can work in all directions.