Home > Uncategorized > Deciding which languages to localise an app or website to.

Deciding which languages to localise an app or website to.

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In the past, selling your services internationally was a logistically difficult task, however, with many IT products, you could just as easily find customers in Azerbaijan as you would in the USA. However, nobody in their right mind would consider localising to Azerbaijani before English. But, is Japanese more important than Spanish? for example.

So, lets get some caveats out of the way. This article assumes there is zero logistical, legal or technical boundaries between selling your app or website in any country worldwide. An app that gambles with real money will require country-specific licenses. It also assumes that your App is not culturally biased, few people in Japan will be interested in a weather app for Sweden.

So, do you focus on the richest countries, and target your app at Luxembourg, or the most populous countries, and go for Nigeria?, neither is a good choice, since one is too small, and the other is too poor. So, by going by total GDP you get US, China, Japan, Germany – the full list is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

Now, this does not take into account the idea that an App in Spanish not only is applicable to Spanish users, but is also usable by Mexicans, Argentinians, Colombians etc. So, to combine GDP by Language, you get the following:

Rank Language Percentage of world GDP
1 English 29.3%
2 Chinese 12.5%
3 Japanese 7%
4 Spanish 6.5%
5 German 5.5%
6 French 4.6%
7 Portuguese 3.3%
8 Italian 3.2%
9 Russian 2.6%
10 Arabic 2.5%
11 Hindi 2.3%
12 Korean 1.7%
13 Indonesian 1.4%
14 Dutch 1.3%
15 Bengali 1%
16 Turkish 0.9%
17 Thai 0.9%
18 Polish 0.9%
N/A Other 12.5%

This list was compiled by Unicode.org.

So, in short, English is the obvious first language – and if you’re reading this, then your app is probably already in English. Chinese and Japanese come second, but Spanish comes before German – Even though Germany has higher GDP than Spain.

The next issue, is that you may need to take into account disposable income when planning your expansion. You have to discount the part of the population who are living in poverty, and thus will not buy anything outside their immediate needs. In china, the rate of poverty (i.e. <$5.50 a day), is 31.5%, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_percentage_of_population_living_in_poverty), so its relative importance is 8.5% , still above Spanish.

Of course, if you’re reading this, and you’re a translator – please feel free to register on OutsourceTranslation.com

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