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Localization vs. Localization

By Kee Nethery — January 5, 2016

Localization vs. Localization

The word “localization” gets tossed around in the smart phone app world and it has two quite different meanings. Let’s start with the dictionary definition. According to Merriam-Webster, “localize” is defined as:


verb | lo·cal·ize | \ˈlō-kə-ˌlīz\

  • 1. to make local : orient locally

  • 2. to assign to or keep within a definite locality


For smart phones, both distinctly different usages of “localization” fit the definition shown above. That is why I use the modifiers “language” localization and “geographical” localization.

Geographical Localization

Geographical localization is when a smart phone knows where it is on the globe via; GPS data, cell tower identifiers and a cell tower location database, or wi-fi station names and a wi-fi station location database. The phone can display location specific data to the user (nearby restaurants, hotels, etc).

The standard way to obtain the location of an iOS device is to use the “Core Location” framework.

Language Localization

Language localization is when a smart phone app is available in multiple languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, etc.). The same app binary is downloaded by all global users and contains all the language translations. The app displays text according to the users’ language priority preferences.
iOS Settings: General / Language & Region / iPhone Language

Cultural Adaptations

Software developers discussing “localization” frequently are referring to cultural adaptations, and most commonly, language translations.

Basic adaptation concerns the display of; numbers, dates, times, currency, symbols, icons, colors, etc. The OS handles these variations.

The sophisticated adaptations involve; cultural references, objects, actions, or ideas that might be viewed as insensitive or confusing in a specific culture. And, of course, don’t forget legal restrictions for specific locations. These are things your translator should mention if your app sales will suffer because of them.

In between these two is the most common usage of localization, language translations, adding additional languages into your app (Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Malay, etc.).

El Loco Is Here For You

El Loco sits between the developer and their chosen translators so that each can be as effective as possible. We automate everything except for the human translator. From the developer’s viewpoint, we make localization fun.

Really? Easy App Localization?

By Kee Nethery — December 22, 2015

Really? Easy App Localization?

Congratulations. When your app has more than two languages you are in a select group of developers. Roughly 65% of apps are single language, another 15% have two (typically English and the native language of the developer). Three or more languages means you have a localization strategy, it also means you’ve gone through the pain of localization; taking and managing app screen shots in all the languages, coordinating string exports and imports from translators, screen by screen reviews looking for strings too long for their display location, wondering if your translations are going to embarrass you, etc.

El Loco takes away most of these localization hassles. We fit between you and your translators, making the localization process insanely easy. Without El Loco, the typical localization has two, three, sometimes four round trips between the developer and each translator because the translator cannot see or edit the app in context. With El Loco tools, your translators can translate correctly the first time.

Have Existing Localizations?

With existing localizations, you probably won’t need it, but our Mac OS X tool analyzes your code to make sure everything is consistent for localization, and corrects inconsistencies for you if you wish. It also finds all your un-localized strings and presents them to you in a list. You can quickly choose to localize them or not. It is not uncommon for our tool to find a source file with strings to be localized that were previously missed.

Really! Easy App Localization!

Next is the fun part. Without El Loco there is the hassle of: taking screen shots, exporting strings, trying to answer translator questions, importing strings, reviewing every screen in every language to find text overruns, and repeat until everything is correct. El Loco simplifies all those tasks making it actually fun to deal with translators.

As you develop your app and run it in the Simulator, we extract all the screen definitions and the strings. We display the strings that have not yet appeared on a screen so that you can hunt them down so that translators will be able to see where they are used. Then upload your screens and strings to our servers. Instead of static screen shots, we recreate your app in HTML. Translators page through the screens in their web browser, gain an understanding of the context behind the translation, edit in the app screens, and immediately see if a translation fits.

If after seeing the strings in context, there is still uncertainty as to how to translate something, each string has an ElLocoTalk messaging button next to it. The translator can ask clarifying questions tied directly to the specific string on the specific screen. The developer quickly answers translator questions by seeing the question with the string/screen. Every translator working on the app then has access to the clarifying information. With all of this, one translation round trip is typically all that is necessary for a full and complete translation of all the languages your app supports.

Once a translation is complete, import it back into your app and it’s ready to upload to the AppStore, or you can keep working on it.

Rinse & Repeat

Our system tracks changes to your source strings and screens. Translate your app before it is code complete and then every so often get a quick update of the strings you’ve changed. When you are code complete, your app will already be translated. No more rushing to get translations after you are code complete.

One App Per Language or One App With All Languages?

By Kee Nethery — September 29, 2015

One App Per Language or One App With All Languages?

Because iOS and Android both display in the language selected by the user, it is preferable – and easier – to create one app with multiple language translations. Since the OS selects the display language automatically, a language selector in your app is also unnecessary.

This choice of one app with multiple languages does assume that your app functions the same way no matter the language or market; so that the only difference are the items that you can group by language – text strings and possibly images.

Only when you need to change the functionality of your app for a specific language market do you want to create a separate app; you may want to consider giving it a different name.

The El Loco XTractor tool will examines the architecture of your iOS app and, if you desire, can re-arrange the code to meet the iOS rules for automatic language selection.

Which Languages Should I Start With?

By Kee Nethery — September 15, 2015

Which Languages Should I Start With?

The English market is the largest, supporting it first is smart.

The next languages you should support are those known by you and your co-workers. Because the cost of translating to those internally known languages is close to zero, those are good languages to use as you learn about app localization.

After those, the language choices depend upon your objectives.

Enterprise apps that support a business are typically looking to reach more of their potential customers and those customers are typically in specific geographical regions. For example, an app for a US bank should strongly consider a translation into Spanish. After Spanish, the third most common language varies by state. This article on gizmodo.com provides a simple graphic of what the next predominate language is for each state. Prepare to be surprised by the trends…

Commercial apps looking to make money should prioritize based upon potential markets. Look for non-English language markets where your app is popular and consider providing localized versions in those countries.

When you really have no idea which languages to choose, you could use the language chart in this TechCrunch article based upon Wall Street Journal data showing the languages selected by highly successful companies. From that chart, the top languages, in order are:

  1. English
  2. French
  3. German
  4. Japanese
  5. Spanish
  6. Portuguese
  7. Russian
  8. Italian
  9. Korean
  10. Chinese (simplified)
  11. Dutch
  12. Chinese (traditional)

Happy localizing!

Why Localize My App?

By Kee Nethery — September 1, 2015

Why Localize My App?

If you find yourself asking “why localize my app,” know that the answer depends on your app objectives.

When your app is a revenue source, you localize it to make more money.

Localizing your app increases your marketplace. When you increase your marketplace, you increase the number of people who will see and possibly buy your app. The question is whether the increased sales will pay for the increased cost. There are multiple free options for localization (check some out here), so if it is possible to localize for free, the only cost is your time. The alternative Mac app store, Kagi.com, looked at ten Mac apps available in five different languages. Adding 5 languages to an English only app increased sales by 15% to 49%!

When your app supports existing offline business customers, you localize to increase customer satisfaction and decrease customer support costs.

Many businesses (banks, stores, doctors, governments, etc.) deploy a free app to make it easy for their customers to use their services. The USA and many other countries have people for whom the main language of the country is not their native language. Translating a business app into secondary languages makes it easier for these people to utilize business services and more likely to remain loyal customers as they learn the primary language of the country.

What should you do?

The El Loco localization tool will manage localization of your app into two languages at no cost and there are ways you can get free translations of your app. Add two languages to your app and see what happens. The increased market could have dramatic results for your sales, customer satisfaction, and customer retention.

Which Language(s) Should You Begin With?

There are a number of factors to take into account when considering which language(s) to translate your app(s) into. This post will help you evaluate languages and make decisions about where to begin.

How Do I Translate My Non-English App?

By Kee Nethery — August 19, 2015

How Do I Translate My Non-English App?

Not all iOS developers are fluent in English, and thus not all developers deploy their apps in English. For example, many Asian countries produce apps that are only available in their native language. So then, how do you go about getting your app translated from your native language into all of the other possible App Store languages?

While there are professional and contract translators who can translate from one non-English language to another, they are less common and are thus significantly more expensive. Despite the fact that it may seem like extra work, it is currently easier – and cheaper – to translate a non-English app into English before changing it into other languages.

You probably already know people who can translate your app into English and it is a good idea to use them for the initial first draft translation. However, for an accurate “American English” translation, you will also want to hire someone who is a native “American English” speaker. The English language, especially the US version, can be confusing and inconsistent with other variations.

Have a native American English speaker convert your translated English into American English, then take advantage of the thousands of native speakers who can localize apps from English into other, non-English languages.

An additional benefit of translating your app into English first is the English app market is very large and offers a larger pool of new potential users. Once you have your app translated into English, adding other languages will also cost less.

Need A Translator?

Finding high-quality, professional translators may seem like a daunting task. Luckily, this post provides some helpful insight into translator wrangling.

Looking For Free?

Yeah… We’ve got free too. Discover 5 Ways to Localize Your iOS App for Free and you’ll see that app translation doesn’t need to be expensive.

Why is my iOS Localization Not Working?

By Kee Nethery — August 4, 2015

infographic - A world of languages - and how many speak themLearning how to create an iOS application can be difficult and for most programmers, preparing the code for localization is not a high priority. Like everything else programming related, iOS app localization can be very finicky and therefore it can require more time than a developer has to give. Everything must be done just right for it to work properly, and oftentimes, the reason localization does not work is something as simple as misnaming or data residing in an incorrect directory.

Fortunately, iOS requirements are uniform for all apps and a tool is available to walk you through preparing your code to meet localization needs.

The El Loco app can analyze your Xcode project and help you prepare your translation project and code correctly. The app is free to use and once your app is prepared for localization, you can upload the necessary information to the El Loco web interface for your translators.

In general, the localizable portions of your app should go into lproj folders for each language your app supports. For example, en.lproj stands for English, de.lprog for German, en-GB.lproj for British English, zh-Hans.lproj for Simplified Chinese, and zh-Hant.lproj for Traditional Chinese. Each of these folders should contain a copy of the .xib and .strings files, as well as any images that are language specific, like banners containing text. Each lproj folder contains a set of files with the exact same names. When activated in region, the app looks at the user language and pulls resources from the appropriate folder. Essentially, each folder has to have the same resources just with different translations.

Building an app is quite an accomplishment, but English-only iOS apps sell to just 8% of the world. Let the El Loco app from El Loco help you prepare your app for localization so that you can reach the other 92%.

Learn more about our tools here.

How Do I Hire A Translator For My iOS App?

By Kee Nethery — July 7, 2015

The process of localizing a mobile app depends largely on the company and the scope of the job at hand. Due to their size and project complexity, Enterprises and larger corporations tend to go with professional translation companies to tackle the challenge of localizing apps. Translation houses have trained translators perform the initial translation, additional translators to review the work, and project managers to oversee the entire process. This extreme attention to detail comes at a higher cost—one deemed worthy by many global businesses with a reputation and brand to protect.

On the other hand, newer companies branching out into the global market oftentimes have less available budget to spend on pricy translation companies, and instead tend to contract directly with native speakers through freelance translation sites. As a cash-strapped business, this method is a reliable option at an affordable price.

However, in many cases the people doing the translation work for large corporations and newer companies are the exact same. There are thousands of translators for each language locally and abroad, offering businesses a wide array of translation options at every price point. Below is a breakdown of the major types of translation services available and the benefits of each.

Native speaker contractors

https://www.freelancer.com – Writer – Translate Something



When working through a contractor site like those above, you gain access to thousands of well educated professionals who can translate your app into their local language. They can do an extremely professional job for a fixed amount of money. Another benefit of working through a contractor site is that they manage the commercial aspects between you and the translators – a value easily overlooked. They protect the translator by making sure you have the funds for the job before work begins. They protect you by making sure you accept the work before you pay for it. Most importantly, they make sure the contract is legal and covers all ownership issues.

To ensure the best work possible, create a separate job for each translation.

Native speakers are going to be looking at how much time it will take and how much they want to make per hour; so that you receive accurate bids for great translations, include:

  • Word count, the string count, and the screen count so that they have some idea of how much work there is.
  • When using El Loco as your translation management tool, specify that they will be translating in a web based environment where they can see the app screens..
  • A description of what the app does will screen out translators without the needed vocabulary.

Additionally, for a better final product, limit who can bid on the job to people who are actually located in the country that you are targeting – get a true native speaker – for each language/job posting. Finally, consider hiring two translators, one to do the initial translation, and one to double check the product.

Professional translators



There are also thousands of professional translators available to businesses for app localization. Unlike their contractor counterparts, professional translators often offer higher standards of translation as they typically work as translators full-time, rather than part-time or on a contract basis. With these advanced professionals, their location is not as important in terms of native-speaking proficiency – meaning you have the ability to hire someone local and possibly even meet with them face-to-face. While the contracting services can act a valuable go-between, you can save costs upfront by going with an independent professional translator instead, and still receive exemplary service—this is their livelihood after all, and they have a reputation to maintain.

Professional translation companies

While some professional translators opt to work for themselves, others choose to join a professional translation company. Search “translation companies” in Google and you’ll surely find more choices than you can realistically manage. Aside from the wealth of options, the main advantage of using a professional translation company is that you deal with a project manager instead of a specific translators for each language you are going with. Additionally, project managers will always check the work to ensure that everything is done properly, as well as be responsive and timely with delivery. Another advantage is that instead of a separate job posting per language, one translation company can manage all of the language translations simultaneously.

Despite the higher level of service, you will still need to provide them with information on words, strings, and screens, in addition to letting them know translators will need to be using a web-based environment. Although the overall cost may be more than dealing with separate professional translators or contractors, the reduced stress of only dealing with one account contact can be worth the cost.

Professional iOS translation companies


Finally, beyond standard translation companies, there are also companies that specialize in translations for iOS apps. These specialized businesses combine the ease of dealing with one project manager (professional translation companies) with specialized knowledge about iOS apps. They provide the advantage of managing a group of translators already familiar with iOS specific phrasing and translation.

About El Loco

El Loco falls into the professional iOS translation company category. As an iOS app localization management tool, we not only offer project managers to ensure that all your translations are accurate, but also run all projects through a second translator for accuracy. While we do not have translators on staff, we contract out to professional translation companies.

After your initial app translation to a second language, El Loco offers translation bundling services to help you keep costs down and progress manageable as you continue to develop your app. Incremental changes are not sufficient to justify the minimum costs when engaging with a translator independently, nor will most translators be willing to take on such small projects.

Our team offers a wealth of knowledge about iOS apps and the localization issues they can create—it’s why we exist.

How El Loco Helps Translators

There are two big issues specific to mobile phone app localization: context and overruns.


Short single word strings common in iOS apps do not provide enough context for accurate translation. When just the word “display” is used, is it a noun or a verb? How many different definitions can you imagine for “hot” as a single word on a screen? Is “Menu” food related or something to do with navigation?

Translators need to see app words in the correct context to create an accurate translation. El Loco displays the strings as they appear in your app – providing context to translators. If there are still questions, the translator can message you directly for clarification on each specific string.


The second big issue for apps is the lack of space for translations on a mobile device.  A “text overrun” is when the translated text is too long to fit within the space allotted on screen. The El Loco interface allows translators to type directly into the window for a string and receive an indication when the string exceeds the space available, even if by just one pixel. For overruns, translators can attempt a shorter translation, use an abbreviation, or if the interface obviously can support a longer field, message you to request an increase to the field size.

Because it is web-based, any translator can use the El Loco service and there is no cost to try it with your app.


We don’t have a preference for which path you choose to hire a translator, we just want you to get your awesome app localized so that you can provide it to the parts of the world that want it, sell it to a wider market, and earn more money!

5 Ways to Localize Your iOS App for Free

By Kee Nethery — June 25, 2015

5 Ways to Localize Your iOS App for Free

Did you know that English-only iOS apps reach just 8% of the world? There are 4.1 billion people speaking the top 23 languages globally, and out of that 4.1 billion, only 335 million people speak English.

You can gain significantly more users and earn more revenue by translating your app into other languages—and it doesn’t even have to cost anything for the first two languages.

Below are some free ways to translate your app into another language.

1. Self-Translation

You may be the untapped translation resource you’ve been looking for! Start with languages you know beyond English, regardless of how profitable the markets. Localization at no initial cost to you will most likely result in some extra revenue.

El Loco visual context makes it very easy for you to go through your app and add in the languages you know. Be sure to translate the App Store marketing information and keywords so that people can find your app in their local language App Store.

2. People You Know

The odds are high that someone you know, or someone in your extended social circle, is multi-lingual and would be open to doing some volunteer translation.

Your volunteer translators can log into El Loco and quickly navigate through the app screens to check, edit, and approve translations. To make your connections the most effective, offer to sit with them while they do the translation. Oh, and you know, lunch is always a nice treat for someone doing you a huge favor!

3. Your Users

Because of the design of the App Store, most developers have very little connection to their customers, but that doesn’t mean they are not a viable translation option. The easiest way to request translation assistance from users is to post a request on your website or in the App Store product description.

Best practice would be to get two or three volunteers per language; one to do the translation and the others to review it. Remove your posted request once you have acquired volunteers for a specific language. It is also nice to publicly thank your volunteers, as long as you get their approval beforehand.

4. Machine language translation

Typically, machine language translation works best with documents versus apps. Documents provide plenty of context, the words in apps do not. A single word, for example “hot,” has many different meanings and a machine translation is going to pick one, and most likely it will be the wrong one.

However, while some people recommend no translation over machine language translation, at El Loco we use machine language translation as a default starter set so that you can see how your app will look in another language. It is HIGHLY recommended that you also have a human review and correct all of the default translations El Loco provides, as we only put them in to be visual placeholders.

5. El Loco

You can use our free localization tool to translate your app into two different languages. The El Loco app examines your iOS app Xcode source and prepares it for localization, if it needs it. Use the El Loco app to upload your app screen images and strings to the El Loco website where translators use a web browser to view your app screens and provide translations. Once translated, the El Loco app inserts the translations into your app.

Need A Translator?

If you’re looking for a professional take on things, check out this post which provides some helpful insight into finding experienced translators.


It’s a big world out there and many developers make the mistake of keeping their app English only. The English language App Store probably has several other apps that appear to be similar to yours. Localize your app into another language and odds are your app will have much less competition. It doesn’t have to cost anything to expand your market into another language and potentially increase your sales.

Learn more about how it’s crazy easy to localize your iOS app with El Loco here.