Applingua Speaks at Newcastle University

Applingua Speaks at Newcastle University

At Applingua we’re big believers in the role education and training play in the localization industry. As part of our drive to raise standards, we’ve started offering guest lectures at universities to graduates on MA translation courses, specialist localization courses and computer sciences programmes, including games design.

Last week we spoke at Newcastle University in the School of Modern Languages. Around 100 students attended the guest lecture. The students were predominantly from the Translation Studies MA programme, with some from other programmes and even undergraduate courses.

As the programme covers all aspects of translation, including the fundamentals of localization, we decided to give the students a talk which gives them invaluable insight into the essentials of app translation.

Being an app translator

Translating documents isn’t the same as translating an app. To work in app localization, you need to understand this, especially if you’re going to tackle some of the challenges head-on. One way you can prepare yourself for the world of app translation is by getting acquainted with smartphones, tablets and apps. You’d be amazed how translators come to us who don’t own a smartphone and never use apps.

Lack of context

One of the biggest challenges working in this industry is the lack of context given when translating. Unlike when translating a book or a document, apps aren’t translated inside the app: you don’t get to see what surrounds a word or phrase. This is because the developers have had to extract all the words displayed to the user from the code of the app and then give them to the translator to translate. So, for example, image you’ve been given the word print to translate. There’s nothing else, just this single word. You have to determine whether it means the verb to print, a command like print! or the noun a print as in a photo. The first step to figuring this out is understanding what the app does and knowing how such apps work. For example, if it is an instagram-like app, then print will probably be the noun.

Educated guessing

In app development, software engineers don’t write out every possible line of text the end user will see – that would take up too much time. Instead, they write out chunks of text and then use code to bring them together. The following is a common example:

from %@ to %@

The symbols just mean something else can go in that place. The question you have to ask yourself is what could it be? You probably won’t know the answer until you see the finished product, but you can use your knowledge about the app to make an educated guess. If it’s a travel app, could these placeholders be destinations, airports, train stations or even dates?

Other essentials

Alongside the 3 areas above, the talk introduced the students to a wide variety of essentials when localizing an app. This included:

  • Numbers, times and dates
  • Cultural considerations, colours and gestures
  • Technical issues, screen size and line division
  • Tone, register and voice

Would you like us to speak?

Whether you run university courses in games design, localization engineering or translation studies, or you run Professional Development courses for an organization, we’re happy to help in any way we can. If you’d like us to come and speak at your institution, drop us a line on [email protected]


Anthony Ash

A lover of language, Anthony speaks several and is particularly interested in historical linguistics. With an MA in Linguistics and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, he is our Chief Language Expert and Director of Training.