15.05.2014

The language in the interface: pay for a short-long one!

Alconost Translations

Alconost Translations shared with App2Top.ru the way, on average, the volume of text in gaming products changes depending on the language into which they are translated. The buden material is very useful for those who do not want to redraw the size of the buttons in the game for each region.

We at Alconost Translations noticed that developers localizing their product often face such a problem: the new language version does not fit well into the existing interface. Simply put, the buttons are too short for English text, and too long for Chinese. The reason for this is the difference in volume between the texts in the original language and in the localization language.

The same text occupies a different volume depending on the language, and this is a well-known fact. But what is this difference in numerical terms for certain language pairs?

We had enough “live” empirical material and we conducted a small study, the results of which we want to present. Our research is of an applied nature; we hope it will “lay the straw” for developers and help them in creating the correct interface of software products.

Longer than in English

When translated from English to French or Spanish, the text becomes longer by an average of 20.3%. Localization from English to Italian or German increases the volume of text by an average of 17.3%. In Dutch, the text will take up 13.8% more space than in English.

If it is necessary to make a translation from English into Portuguese, it should be noted that localization to “Portuguese Portuguese” will increase the volume of the text by 14.3%, and to “Brazilian Portuguese” — by slightly less than 13%.

Translating an English—language product into Polish or Russian will increase the volume of the text by an average of 9.2%. Curiously, the Czech language is closest in volume to the English original (it will take only 3.7% more space).

Shorter than in English

It is obvious that hieroglyphic writing prevails in this section. Translation from English into traditional Chinese will reduce the volume of text by 63.8%, and into Simplified Chinese — by almost 62%. Localization to Korean will reduce the volume of string resources by a little more than 44%, and to Japanese — by almost 40%.

Not much, but still shorter than in English, the text in Arabic will also turn out: we save 6.25% of the volume.

It is worth noting that hieroglyphs or Arabic letters will not be easy enough to read if you type them in small size. Therefore, despite the reduction in the volume of texts, you should take care of a large enough font to display them.

Longer than in Russian

It is curious that the translation from Russian to English does not significantly affect the length of the text: it increases in volume by slightly less than 1.4%. Russian Russian translation into Italian, Spanish or French already requires additional space: on average, by 13.5%. (In parentheses, we note that the translation from Italian to Russian increases the volume of the text slightly — by less than 3.6%.)

The French translation is leading in the rating “longer than in Russian”: the text becomes a little more voluminous by more than 16%.

How did we calculate it?

This study is based on data from the live online translator Nitro. The most popular language pairs were selected for the study (from which language and into which language) and one thousand orders were analyzed for each of the translation directions. For each of the orders, the ratio of the volume of text in the target language (into which we translate) to the volume of text in the source language (from which we translate) was calculated. After sorting the results, we calculated the average value.

What follows from this?

After analyzing the results, we came to at least three interesting conclusions.

Firstly, after translating the text from English to German, its volume does not grow by 30% at all (this is the indicator that can be found, in particular, in Microsoft documentation for software developers), but by 16.67%. And this is good news for developers, because it simplifies the intervention in the interface in order to optimize for the German version.

Secondly, a significant reduction in the volume of text after translation from English to Chinese is a “red light” for developers of applications and games for mobile platforms, in particular for iOS. Developers work very painstakingly on mobile application interfaces, and in order for the UI to not lose its elegance in the Chinese version of the product, they will have to try twice.

Thirdly, the pattern is obvious: when translating back (from the target language — again to the source), the volume of the new version will not necessarily correspond to the volume of the original. Russian Russian localization adds 9.1% in volume, but the translation of the Russian version back into English does not reduce the volume of the text by the same 9.1%. On the contrary: the volume increases again, albeit insignificantly — a little less than 1.4%.

About the company: Alconost Translations is a Russian company engaged in the translation and localization of software, games and much more. Founded in 2006. 

About the service: the data given in the article was collected by the company with the help of its own professional translation service into foreign languages Nitro.

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