Best tools to translate mobile apps?
Thread poster: Marco D'Andrea

Marco D'Andrea  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:45
Member (2014)
English to Italian
Aug 6, 2014

Whenever I'm asked to translate an application for Android or iOS, what I'll typically get is an Excel spreadsheet or an .xml file. Either way, all I have to work is a list of text strings to translate, many of which are simple one-word strings, e.g. "on". Even with longer strings, it's not unusual to get it wrong, due to lack of context. This is extremely frustrating and hard. Of course, you can a. ask the client; b. test the application after the translation is implemented. But this isn't always possible and anyway it's all very slow and poorly streamlined.

So I was wondering how to make the process smoother and more linear. Is there any such thing as a tool that allows you to edit a string while you simultaneously see the results on an Android/iOS emulator or something like that?

Those of you who work in mobile app localization, how do you do it? What's your approach? What tools do you use? Thank you!


Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:45
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
... Aug 6, 2014

Ask for screenshots in the source language.
Ask to compile a beta-version and check it on your device afterwards. Then, amend the translation.


Marco D'Andrea  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:45
Member (2014)
English to Italian
Thank you Sergei, but... Aug 7, 2014

I was looking for something like a Passolo for mobile apps, if that makes sense. A kind of WYSIWYG interface where I can visualize what I'm translating and then verify the results immediately.

This is a bit frustrating: I've been asking around for a while about this but it seems the whole area of mobile app localization is still something of a grey area.

Even the official guidelines of Android on app localization ( suggests little more than moving all strings into a 'strings.xml' file and then to provide sufficient 'context' for the translator (how is the developer supposed to know what kind of context the translator need? Or what kind of ambiguities can be created in this or that language?) Am I the only one who sees how this is not efficient? With a tool like the one I'm describing I would be able to do everything much better and in half the time...


Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
Japanese to English
+ ...
It sucks Aug 7, 2014

I stopped doing these kinds of translations for exactly the reason you mentioned. If I can't see what they are talking about, it is very hard to guess the most natural translation for single words and short phrases that aren't sentences.

It is also annoying when the programmers decide to use multiple words to refer to the same thing in various places. Again, if you can't see it, you can't really imagine it in most cases.

Another downside is that voice recognition really loses a lot of its greatness when translating very short segments or segments that have a lot of code tags and whatnot interspersed throughout. Hello RSI.

I was recently asked to translate something using this free tool called Poedit ( ). It is not bad as far as free tools go, I suppose, and it apparently has some features that help in the software translation process. But like I said, I don't do these jobs anymore, so I turned it down. Plus, I don't think Poedit can do what you are talking about...I don't know if anything out there can.

But if you created something that could do it would probably be rich and not have to translate anymore.


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