How to Choose the Best Language to Localize an Android/iOS App

Every online business that has a mobile app thinks of localizing it at some point. Being present on mobile devices opens up an avenue to the international market. Irrespective of the service, it is easy to penetrate the global marketplace if your app is available in several languages.

Following are the top 10 languages to translate your English mobile app into:

  1. Spanish
  2. German
  3. French
  4. Portuguese
  5. Italian
  6. Japanese
  7. Chinese
  8. Hindi
  9. Russian
  10. Indonesian

So, does this mean that every mobile app has to have a localized copy in the above 10 languages? Of course, NOT.

Every online business is distinctive and has a unique clientele. For example, for a food delivery business based only in India, the app should be localized with a focus on the states and their official languages. Translating it into Indonesian or Spanish language wouldn’t help.

Let’s dive deeper and understand how to optimize the process of selecting the perfect language to localize your app.

How to Choose Languages to Localize a Mobile App?

If done correctly, this teeny investment can help you reach all corners of the world. The story of How Localization Increased an App’s Visibility by 74% and Got 38% More Downloads[1] proves it.

In addition, a study conducted by Distomo[2] shows that:

“Localizing iPhone app text resulted in significantly more downloads — 128% more per country, in fact. Additionally, companies saw a 26% increase in revenue for each country added via app localization.”

So, it is a proven fact that localization helps! But there is no cookie-cutter solution as to how to optimize it. Every app is unique, and so are its deliverables. Before investing in localization, it is important to have a thoughtful strategy in place.

As we mentioned earlier, there are a few crucial factors that go into this decision.

1)    English Language Gets the Highest Priority.

If your mobile app is not in English already, the first advice is to make it available in English. The Google Play Store and the iPhone app store are available in English all over the world, and your app should also be (unless there are any geo-restrictions). English is the most prominent language[3] on the internet, so your app will get in front of a much larger population.

Even if your app MUST BE only in a non-English language, translate the product description into English to boost its ranking.

2)    Languages of the Internet

More than 50% of index pages on the Internet are in English. According to the data published by[4], the Top 10 languages used on the internet are:  English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Indonesian/ Malaysian, French, Japanese, Russian, German.

This plays a major role in deciding whether or not a language is appropriate for localization. If you choose a language that no one uses online to search[5], it will not benefit you.

3)    Where are your Customers Located?

Answer this question before you start thinking about localization! For example, you are a local restaurant owner in Miami, Florida, your restaurant provides home deliveries by accepting orders on your mobile app. You know that your target audience resides in your neighborhood. The two major languages spoken in Miami are English and Spanish. So, those are your bang-on languages!

4)    Who is your Audience?

It is critical for you to identify who your target audience is that will be interested in using your app. For example, if you provide local services such as plumbing repair and maintenance in the countries where English is not spoken abundantly[6] then,:-

  1. Your prospective clients are the local language speakers such as housewives, homemakers, senior citizens, grad students, etc.
    1. They will prefer the applications in the local languages over the ones available only in English.

There is one more factor associated with the type of customers. It is called the Rate of E-commerce Sales[7]. It is good to know beforehand that the people in your target area are willing to pay for your app.

5)    Where is your App Getting Popular?

After you launch your app, give it some time, and analyze where the most downloads are from. For example, the application Truecaller was developed by a private company in Sweden. However, it became the 4th most downloaded app in India[8] surpassing Facebook.

6)    Analyse your Competition

This is probably the most obvious factor, but it is just as easy to overlook it. Even if you have a better service than your competitor, their app, being multilingual, will be more accessible to the public. So, keep an eye on what your competitor is doing, so you’ll get an idea of the latest market trends. But don’t copy it!

The story of Angry Birds is famous for its localization success. Escaping the fierce battleground of gaming apps, Angry Birds entered the less-competitive language market. They were able to move up in the rungs of popularity by accessing niche target audiences via their localizations.

7)    Popularities of the Mobile OS

According to the latest statistics posted by, the following map shows the country-wise popularity of IOS versus Android operating systems. 

(Image Source)

This factor contributes to an important insight. If your app is only for iOS, you will, naturally, have to consider the countries with the most iOS users.

8)    Linguistic and Spatial Proximity

As per the recent report published by Mozilla On the Global App Economy,

“Regional and international trade in apps shows patterns of influence by spatial proximity (e.g., Chinese apps are more popular in South Asia than in Latin America), though language may be more important (e.g., Spanish apps are more popular in Latin America than in Western Europe). ”

9)    Language Support by the Operating Systems

Before finalizing your target language, ensure that the app store supports it. As the newer versions of both Android and iOS are being released frequently, it is a good idea to keep yourself updated. You can check the localization support for Android and for iOS on their websites[9] [10].

10) What Is Your Goal?

If you are a service provider or a product supplier, your goal is to generate leads and help the existing users. Therefore, you will primarily go where the users are.

If your goal is to monetize the application, you will perhaps explore areas that can increase your MAU (Monthly Active Users).

Best Languages to Localize your iPhone & Android App – a BONUS STRATEGY!

After analyzing the data and the above factors, we have devised a definite strategy to help you choose the perfect language.

Answer the following questions:

Question 1What is your target audience? Where does it reside –   
● country,
● state,  
● city
Question 2Which local languages does your target audience speak?
Question 3What are the most popular areas in your niche? (France for fragrances, India for condiments, Scotland for farmed salmon, etc.)
Question 4What languages are spoken in those niche areas?
Question 5Which areas have shown the most downloads and/or purchases?
Question 6What are the languages spoken in those areas from the previous question?
Question 7Which are your neighborhood countries?
Question 8What languages are spoken in your neighborhood countries?
Question 9Which internet languages resemble the language that your target audience speaks?
Question 10What languages are most popular on the mobile OS platform you’re using?

Translate into all Languages at Once? or, Keep Launching One Language at a Time?

As a mobile app marketer, your end goal will be to increase visibility and drive more traffic to your app. For expanding the reach, you will want to serve your potential customers in a more personal and tailor-made way. More traffic & higher reach means an increase in the number of MAU and greater revenue.

For a small business, it is not practical [or advisable] to translate the app into a language only because it is popular and widely spoken. On the other hand, it is an apt choice for a multinational company to provide multilingual services to the end-user directly.

Deciding which languages you want to target first or if you want to target all of them at once, depends totally on your company’s capacity.

Answer the following questions, to help with your decision: –

  1. Are your developers all set to translate your app and balance the code with a multilingual interface?
  2. Is your customer support prepared for localized customer service and forum discussions?
  3. Are your sales professionals and marketing team prepared to build the localized community around your brand in the target language?
  4. Is your operation team prepared enough to collaborate with the local businesses, suppliers, and distributors?
  5. Do you have the user documentation and FAQs ready in the target language?
  6. Do you have the authority to sell in the targeted area?

Final Thoughts

There is a large marketplace available that could be tapped into by making your app available in local languages. According to an article written by Judd Marcello, Smartling[11], Even translating the app description in the App/Play Store can improve the ranking.

Something that cannot be neglected while leveraging app localization is – QUALITY OF TRANSLATION! Unlike web search results that are ranked using crawlers, app descriptions are reviewed by humans. So, for maximum benefits, go for a human translator not a machine.

About Us:

Art of Translation are your language and translation experts and can assist you with the decisions on which languages to choose and the actual translation process. The most common process for translating an app is that the client extracts the text from the software and provides a Word or Excel file containing all the text (aka strings) for translation.

We only use human translators, the best quality translations by far compared to machine translation. Once translated, the client imports the text back into the software and provides us screenshots for our linguist to proofread. If the app is a game, the client will provide a build for downloading. Our linguist will play the game, then provide screenshots and notes for any bugs (i.e. things that don’t work or text that is untranslated).

Contact us for more information or if you have any questions.













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