Apps Localisation: No QA/Localisation testing
Thread poster: Ayano Murofushi-Arno

Ayano Murofushi-Arno  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:05
Member (2016)
English to Japanese
Aug 7, 2013

I am a EN>JP translator mainly working with the game industry. Up until a couple of years ago, most of my work was related to console games. However, in recent years, I have been getting more and more work translating for mobile games (game apps) and non-gaming apps.

What I have noticed is that app developers do not do any kind of localisation testing. They get the text translated into different languages, dump it into the game/app, and then release it without any testing! I sometimes download the apps that I have translated, and quite often, it is of quite poor quality. I am, of course, not saying that the translation that I provided was of poor quality - I always try my best to provide quality translation using all the information provided by the client - but it is the nature of this type of work that you simply don't know until the text is implemented if your translation works in a given situation, and that's why QA/localisation testing is a very important aspect of game development. I used to work for a major game publisher, and we drove every one of our localised games through vigorous testing to make sure localised versions are as good as the original version.

The kind of problems I see in these localised apps are: text cut-offs/bleeding out of the box (the client should have provided character restrictions in the first place, but if not, they should check and correct later on!), and also translations that are out of context (could be tackled by asking questions during the translation phase, but it's not always possible to get everything 100% right unless you have the game right in front of you).

I am not so sure if this is something that's particularly bad for apps/games localised into Japanese - are there any colleagues out there who have noticed similar things in other languages? And if so, is there anything we could do as freelancers??


Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:05
English to Dutch
+ ...
Not just Japanese... Aug 7, 2013

...many apps that I have on my smartphone, and lots of shareware on my pc, have Dutch translations that are so bad, that I set them to use English instead in order to make sense of them. I strongly suspect these are translated by amateurs for free, or by students for peanuts. No money has been spent on QA, that's for sure.
It seems that many smaller app and shareware developers think a bad translation is better than no translation.


Nicole Rodrigues  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
+ ...
Client's education Aug 7, 2013

Dear Ayano,

It is great to read a topic about this subject here on Proz!

I have been through exactly the same challenges and obstacles as you have, while translating mobile content, which now is one of my expertise areas.

The first time I was hired to localize a mobile app to Brazilian Portuguese I was lucky to collaborate with one of the most professional and experienced companies in the market, when it comes to localization. They had localized their app to 10 other languages, always very successfully. So, from the beginning, I was instructed to localize and test at all times. This process was then repeated again and again and perfected through months of collaboration by both parts. The result was a very fluent and sharp localization that was allowed to shine, due to the exhausting testing phase.

Later on, while already working for another client, things went the other way. There was this much smaller company interested in localizing its mobile app with the best possible quality and willing to do all it could to allow me to do my work well (which is great!), but the company lacked in experience in localization itself. For this company, translation and localization were the same thing. So I had to provide the client with guidelines (that sounded like suggestions) for the localization process of their mobile app.

My first suggestion/demand: was to be able to ask them about context as many times as necessary. Even when sentences seem to be quite obvious (and these are usually the tricky ones. e.g: post (in this specific button (context) is this a verb or a noun?). They agreed. Then it was my turn to make things easier for them. Instead of filling their inbox with emails all the time, I would compile dozens of questions and send one email with questions a day or every 2 days. Always mentioning the string number, the text and the doubt.

Another issue I had to resolve was related to the “proofreader” they kept saying they had. They had a Brazilian Portuguese native working in-house, which is great, but he was not a translator, not even a professional proofreader. So how could they rely solely on this employee input to make changes in my version of their mobile app text. How about linguistic experience? Excellent writing skills in the target language? Knowledge about the target market? Precision and consistency of the terminology chosen? Layout issues when the BR version is inserted into the mobile app interface? They simply thought my work would be done the minute I delivered the translated file to them by email.

I had to make very clear that no matter how huge my effort to make this translation perfect, still it would be advisable to have it proofread by a professional proofreader and absolutely necessary to have it tested, preferably by me (and by other as well, of course, if possible).

I told them that my translation could be proofread by their “proofreaders” 100 times in paper or in the excel file they had sent me with the original text, but nothing could substitute the experience of the localizer actually navigating the PT-BR version of the app.

At first they might have thought I was just trying to cash some more money, as the hours I would spend testing would have to be charged for, in addition to the per rate hours for localizing the text. But this is precisely what makes translation and localization different things and, sometimes, it is our job, as experts in this area and professional language providers, to inform the client about these different processes and requirements within the language services range.

I gradually succeeded in informing and convincing this client why testing was so important for the service he was paying for - giving examples, sending screenshot, etc… I also felt I had to offer friendly prices and discounts for the testing phase as it was in my own interest to be part of the process from beginning to end in order to guarantee that the final quality of my work would not be compromised by layout, context and space issues in the mobile app.

Again, it turned out well. But it did take a lot more work and patience than working with companies that had previous (good) experience with localizing apps.

Like so many other issues pertaining language services, I would say that ultimately it is our job to educate our clients about the conditions we want to work in, and that we absolutely need in order to offer them great services. As long as we can explain and justify why more of this and less of that would help us, I think we can score a few extra points and set the bar higher project after project.

Hope this helps.

Kind regards,


[Edited at 2013-08-07 15:46 GMT]


Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Get a copy Aug 8, 2013

We translate a lot of games and apps here as well. One thing that we try do to as often as we can is get a copy of the game or app in the source language, so that we at least have some idea of context. Most developers don't know much about translation or localization, so it helps to be able to educate them as much as possible and to be able to glean as much information as possible from the original.

This is a great field to work in and I personally love working on these projects (especially playing the game for... context research...).


Ayano Murofushi-Arno  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:05
Member (2016)
English to Japanese
Thanks for the feedback Aug 8, 2013

Just wanted to say thanks for all of your feedback!
I have a deadline today and things are a bit crazy here, but I will post a reply once things calm downicon_smile.gif


Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Recent post about a "localization" Aug 8, 2013

There was a recent post about a web-based service called something with localize in their name where it seemed that they were basically offering machine translation specifically for apps and charging for it AND calling it localization.
They also had another service claiming to offer human localization for some ridiculous rate like $0,04 per word and claiming to have "translators" all over the world to accommodate any language choice for people wanting to localize apps.
This led some translators to query the logic behind charging for something that anyone can essentially get for free as well as the logic behind the rates they were charging the end client for localization and the subsequent quality implications.
This led to someone from the company itself answering that they did something crafty with strings and whatnot (I can't remember) to justify the charge for machine translation. However this person kept calling it localization.

I pointed out that localization was much more intricate than translation and in fact entailed much more work and expertise than google could offer (which is incidentally why google themselves call their machine-based tool "translate" and not "localize" and why there is no such thing as machine localization) and I asked the chap from the company to kindly refrain from calling something which isn't localization localization, to which there was no response.

I can't find the thread again now.

I'm saying this because this may be one of the major things that's wrong. I know nothing about the gaming industry myself but I was aghast that a company claiming to be offering to localize apps was actually using machine translation to do so.
I'm not surprised if that's the case that apps are so badly translated most of the time.
Apps developers probably hear the term "localization" bandied about and know enough to know that this is what they need and then they go to a company that claims to localize, which just passes their apps through google translation, with often disastrous results that the apps developer is unable to identify.


Martina Fink  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 07:05
German to English
Link Aug 8, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

There was a recent post about a web-based service called something with localize in their name where it seemed that they were basically offering machine translation specifically for apps and charging for it AND calling it localization.

This is the thread.

I also work in this field, but so far I've been lucky enough to only work with companies that seem to understand the localisation process!


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