We constantly talk about how much work needs to go into proper localization testing. L10N is more than just translating text from one language to another. You need to properly localize and test things like:
Dates – Is the date January 1 or 1 January?
Characters – Différent länguages have ðifferent set∫ θf characters
Postal codes – In some countries, postal codes contain letters
Phone numbers – Different formats for different markets
Direction – Some languages are written left to right, others are right to left:
This all boils down to the simple fact that to truly localize something you need to make sure it makes sense to the end users on a cultural level. Translating a date word for word won’t make sense if the target culture uses a different day-month format. Sure, users may be able to understand an application even if it’s not a perfect cultural fit – but they won’t be happy with the app.
Don’t believe me? Check out the grumblings Apple is facing for not properly respecting the culture of Hong Kong. From The Wall Street Journal:
When Apple launched its iTunes online store for Hong Kong last week, making it easier for locals to buy and download music and videos, some of its efforts got lost in translation.
On accessing the iTunes store for the first time, some Hong Kong users were irritated to find that the store was listing a number of song titles by the city’s popstars in Mandarin pinyin, a system that transcribes Chinese characters into phonetic Latin script, instead of displaying titles transliterated for the Cantonese language, which is spoken by the majority of the population.
For example, the popular Cantonese pop song titled “Autumn Wind, Autumn Rain” would be written and pronounced as qiu feng qiu yu using Mandarin pinyin. Though there is no broadly accepted official system for rendering Cantonese using the Roman alphabet, a transliteration for Cantonese speakers would be closer to cou feng cou yu.
“Those are CANTO pop [songs],” wrote one Hong Kong-based user on Twitter. “Use cantonese [sic] phonetics.”
So Apple took Hong Kong’s own most popular musicians and instead of displaying them in the predominant language chose to translate the artists and songs into Latin-based script. It was probably much easier to do, but it is not what Hong Kong iTunes users are used to or were expecting. It makes iTunes feel foreign and separate when it could (and should) have been seamlessly woven into everyday life. And, as it turns out, some users don’t even know what the songs are based on the Mandarin pinyin titles (which clearly is a giant usability issue):
Some responding to Hong Kong’s iTunes store launch mixed praise with criticism. “I thought iTunes wouldn’t have many good Cantonese songs, but they even have [Cantopop singer] Paula Tsui,” wrote one Hong Kong user on Twitter. “Still, they’re all in Mandarin pinyin. Unless you actually listened to them, you wouldn’t know what songs they were.”
Read the full article at WSJ.com >>>
People don’t want to feel like they’re playing second fiddle when using your software, they want it to be intuitive, useful and easy for them to understand. They are your new target market and their wants and needs are just as important as those of your initial audience. So if you want your application to be successful across the globe, start treating each market with equal importance and take the extra time to make sure the app is fully localized.