Previously almost all software was available only in English because the main user group, the technology geeks, were used to work with English speaking computers. It may have something to do with the fact that computing and software development has its roots deep in the English world, and most industry terms and vocabulary were originally invented in English. Even today the most hard-core nerds won’t voluntarily choose another language over the English version of the software.
However, today there are more and more ordinary people who use technology regularly but who don’t feel comfortable visiting or using English speaking web pages or software. The success of those services and products which have been localized proof that people prefer their own language. The extra time and effort needed for an adoption of any foreign language software, application or widget is too high for many. While a person might be able to overcome with English, it doesn’t mean that English is in his comfort zone. And we all know how laborious it is to step over the line into the discomfort zone.
The problem is that software developers are not always aware of the false dominance of English. Active software users (like software developers) tend to see things differently than occasional software users. Any group of highly devoted people has own custom with certain vocabulary, habits and processes, and English has indeed stabilized its position as the technical language. For those inside this technical group English makes it easier to work, while the outsiders struggle using software with strange words in English.
The issue isn’t related only to the world of software. Similarly, professional translators often cannot understand why someone uses machine translation, or tea enthusiasts don’t recognize tea bags as real tea. It is hard to view situations from another perspective, and see that for somebody machine translation is the only way to understand a piece of any foreign language text or tea bags are a key to a quick and relaxing tea break in the middle of a stressful day. The same means can be used for different goals.
The size of the localization project shouldn’t dominate your decision on whether to localize your software or not. Software localization is not about you and your workload. It’s about making your customers’ lives easier. A closer look at the target segment can help in finding a solution. If your customers’ gain exceeds your cost, the project is profitable. Satisfied customers will earn the costs of the project back to you through longer customer relationships and increased purchases.
So, if your customers refuse to use localized software, there’s no point to localize. However, if your current and potential customers value highly the possibility to use your software in their native language, make sure to offer them the possibility.
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