Top 5 Languages Your App Should be Translated to

9 min read
Updated: Oct 25, 2019

The international mobile app market is growing larger and larger every single day. Mobile app developers have more than enough reason to expand the reach of their mobile app and gain a bigger slice of the pie of the enormous international mobile app market. 

However, overcoming linguistic barriers through translation is just part of developing a multilingual app and enhancing the entire mobile app user experience for the multilingual mobile user.  If you need a head start, then here’s a helpful resource for you to know where to begin in your mobile app translation. 

Why Should You Translate Your App? 

The simple fact is that foreign audiences tend to prefer products that are available in their native language. That being said, apps are not exempted from that norm in whichever part of the world. Having an app translated to the language of your chosen market means you have the capacity to reach out a multilingual audience and of course, gain more app market share. 

But is it worth the resources and time to do mobile app translation? Actually, the numbers don’t lie. Since there has been an explosion of smartphone and tablet ownership all over the world, that also means that there is a rise of non-English apps and non-English app users. 

Hiring a Translation Agency 

When developing something as complex and resource-intensive as an app, then try not to rely on simply online translation tools such as Google Translate for your mobile app translation. The smart thing to do is to hire a professional translation agency. 

Professional translation agencies connect with translators with native-speaker skills worldwide to ensure quality and contextually accurate translations. They also cater to a wide variety of industries including the mobile app market. In reality, mobile app translation translation services is just part of the services they provide to the mobile app market. 

They also provide services such as video and audio transcription, but most importantly, mobile app localization services. Read further to know more about localization and how important it is to not only the mobile app industry, but to all industries in general that plan to go global. 

Localization In Mobile App Translation 

Localization is essentially the process of adapting your content to the point that it highly suits the intended target audience/market. Similar to how you need to tailor your resume to a specific employer and not sending one general untailored version to different employers. 

If you’re worried about complicating your app development process by hiring one more service, in this case, a localization company, you actually don’t need to. As mentioned earlier, many translation companies already provide localization services. 

In essence, localization is about breaching barriers that goes beyond language barriers. In order for your mobile app to have higher chances of market penetration, then it has to be specifically tailored to the market in many ways;

  1. Linguistic Nuances

Here’s just a little extra but useful info on breaking down language barriers. Part of it involves adjusting to your market’s writing system. There are some writing systems that are read from right-to-left instead of the usual left-to-right configuration. 

Notable language markets that are read from right-to-left are Arabic and Hebrew. In this case, consult with your translation agency and your app development team to make the necessary software and coding adjustments to allow for right-to-left scripts.  

  1. Cultural Preferences

During your market research process with your translation company, do further research on the prevailing cultural fads including pop and traditional references, and even aesthetic (colors, images, illustrations). 

Adhering to your audience’s cultural preferences allows your app to capture your audience’s attention. This creates a targeted and tailored experience for each of your mobile app market’ audience and allows your app to resonate well among them.

  1. Social Norms

This is more of a proactive approach under the umbrella of localization. This involves taking into serious consideration the prevailing social, political, and even religious norms and taboos. 

While cultural preferences is more concerned with what to do right, adjusting to social norms is more about what not to do. The consequences of treading on social norms varying depending on the context, but you don’t need to take these kinds of risks. You’re better off by avoiding them from the start. 

  1. Local Laws 

While cultural preferences and social norms is more of the ‘unwritten’ law of the land that is enforced by the people, you also can’t forget the actual law of the land. There are some countries that enforce total bans on the display on certain images, illustrations, and other types of messages. 

Indeed, there is a lot to pay attention to when it comes to localization, but you also have to keep in mind about something called transcreation. No matter what variation your app will transform into, try not to allow it to stray too far away from your app’s original essence and your brand’s image. 

Top 5 In-Demand Languages For Mobile App Translation 

Note that this list may not be applicable in the near future due to the rising emergence of other countries with strong mobile app markets. More of this will be talked about further down below. Nevertheless, here are the top 5 in-demand languages for mobile app translation as of now. 

1. Chinese (Mandarin)

The Chinese market is unequivocally the largest mobile app market in the world and easily overtakes the English market. Although the spread of Chinese mobile users is mostly concentrated in Mainland China, there are an enormous Chinese diaspora population worldwide from America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. 

Even though China has an immense variety of dialects, you don’t need to adjust to each one. You can simply use Simplified Chinese as your chosen writing system and standard Mandarin as your default Chinese translation. Mandarin and Simplified Chinese is the default choice for all industries that request English to Chinese translation services unless specified otherwise. 

2. English

English is considered the lingua franca in the technology industry. The prime markets for the English language is of course America, UK, and Australia. However, there are also English speakers in emerging mobile app markets such as the Philippines, India, and South Africa to name a few.

3. Spanish 

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, and one of the largest language markets in the world in general. The Hispanosphere extends from Spain, Latin America, the Caribbean, and including the widespread and numerous Spanish diaspora in America.

Mind you that there are some localization and even translation challenges since each Hispanic country is unique. You can’t simply translate to Spanish and not worry about localization and the various linguistic nuances of each Spanish-speaking country. 

When you’re translating your app from English to Spanish, you have to decide which country is your intended market to pinpoint the exact vernacular you’ll be using and localize your Spanish translation. 

Simply put, your app’s particular English to Spanish translation might work in Spain but it won’t resonate as well in Mexico. Even in the same region,what might work in Mexico might not work in Argentina or Colombia. 

4. German

If you’re planning to enter the mobile app market in continental Europe, it’s best to start off with German translation. Other than Germany being the economic center of Europe which makes it a prime European market, there are also many German speakers in adjacent countries so translating your app from English to German is a logical decision. 

The countries with a large number of German-speakers are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. If you’re a business owner and you want to know the most common languages in the European market, then take a look at this piece to help you. 

5. Japanese

Aside from its large population of over 120 million, Japan has a unique and very strong mobile gaming culture. The Japanese mobile app consumer, particularly the Japanese mobile-app gamer,  is more than willing to spend more money on in-app purchases compared to other mobile app users from other countries. 

However, you need to know more than a few things when marketing as an outsider to the Japanese market for not just mobile apps, but for any product in general. The Japanese market presents many difficult localization challenges since it exhibits unique social, cultural, and linguistic characteristics compared to other countries. 

Even successfully translating your app from English to Japanese doesn’t give you a guaranteed chance of penetrating the Japanese app market. Generally speaking, the Japanese consumer is known for their strong consumer loyalty to local products. Not only that, local industries of all kinds have an established a footland in the Japanese market for many decades and have connections that international businesses don’t enjoy. 

Emerging Languages in Emerging Mobile App Markets 

Note that the languages listed above are just the top five languages in terms of the number of speakers, their spread worldwide, and the strength of their mobile app market.

There are still more languages that exhibit strong mobile app market figures namely Portugese (Brazil) Hindi (India), Korean, Indonesian, French (including the Francophone countries in Africa), Russian, and Arabic. 

Things To Consider Before Launching Your Multilingual App:  Final Takeaway

Before launching your app, especially a multilingual app, it’s necessary to get as much feedback as you can from native speakers during the testing phase. They’ll be able to provide you with nuanced critiques on the app’s functionality, user experience, and opinions on areas that your team might have missed. 

Indeed, there’s no sugar coating the fact that mobile app translation will add more costs and time to your entire app development process. However, think of it as an investment with a high ROI. Mobile app translation is necessary for your app to compete in the international market and to succeed. 


Sophia Rodreguaze


Sophia is the contributing editor at She writes about anything and everything related to technology.

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