Localising mobile applications and web services for different markets isn’t easy as linguistic and technical limitations can impact how people receive the information, writes Ian Henderson.
AccuWeather, one of the world’s leading weather forecasting services, discovered this first-hand through its global expansion efforts that includes delivering weather reports through a number of mediums, from TV to the Web to mobile applications.
Even though anyone can experience the sensation of falling rain or a blazing sun, the terms people across the world use to describe these events vary greatly. With weather transcending physical and cultural borders to affect business, commerce and everyday life in all corners of the world, AccuWeather had to get it right.
Many different words for ‘high’
Simple translations don’t always work, because many English weather terms don’t have one-to-one counterparts in other tongues. For example the word ‘high’ in English is used to describe many things – high wind, high precipitation rate, high precipitation amount. But in Japanese, they have a different version of ‘high’ depending on what it is measuring (強 wind, 高 precipitation rate, 大 precipitation amount). The context determines the choice.
This level of variation is not uncommon across languages, and it can complicate matters for companies that don’t consider context in the localisation process.
Expressions in English – “It’s hot out today,” for example – also suddenly become much more complicated in, say, Arabic, where hot weather is clarified by factors like humidity. It’s also not so easy to say that there will be a “Chance for a flurry” in Polish, because the translated term – “Prawdopodobieństwo lekkich opadów śniegu” – might be too long to conveniently display on a mobile app.
Localising content, user interfaces and sourcing
AccuWeather needed a way to communicate local weather to users, while accounting for regional and cultural differences as well as the design restrictions of each digital platform.
To reach new users in 56 different languages, the company had to apply contextually relevant translations to every part of its project workflow – from software development to copy writing.
AccuWeather turned to global language service provider Rubric for localisation services that could be customised to fit its workflow. Rubric collaborated with business units across the company to define localisation goals, strategy and an optimised user interface. Rubric also guided AccuWeather through the multilingual design process to ensure that the source code, interfaces and copy used across each digital property was accurately localised.
The joint efforts to review existing translations and develop a glossary of terms has helped catch a lot of the errors that previously existed with certain integrated machine translation. Combined with Rubric’s quality screening of linguists for new work, the quality of the translations has increased significantly.
Think global, act local
With localised user interfaces and copy that reflects cultural nuances, AccuWeather.com classic web, mobile web, and app users are more engaged than ever before, setting new records in international digital traffic for the company’s digital properties.
As the world’s weather leader, AccuWeather can continue to think global first and build out from there with the help of key strategic partners. Expanding into new parts of the world will now be so much easier with the process and partnership in place.
Ian Henderson is CTO of Rubric, which provides language services that helps companies speak directly to the hearts of their customers
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.