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Recently, the local press has reported that the Slovene government is in talks with Apple to convince them to include the Slovene language on their devices. This is not the first time the issue has been brought up and also not unique to Slovenia, although certainly more commonly observed in countries with a comparably small market. Even though globalisation and the internet have dramatically increased English proficiency among users of smartphones and other electronic devices, user interface (UI) localisation is still a worthy investment. Let us see why.
Avoid a (gentle) push from the authorities
The Slovene Ministry of Culture seeks to give all Slovene speakers access to the digital space in their native language. It intends to do so by amending the existing Public Use of the Slovene Language Act to include operating systems and voice user interfaces. Slovenia is not the only country to introduce regulation in this area – the French are famously protective of their language and have had a similar law in force since 1994. It is also common practice in most countries to enforce translations of information about food products, instructions for use, pharmaceutical products, entertainment media and even UIs of at least certain subsets of products (e.g. medical devices) into the official language. These regulations also exist on a broader European Union level – for example, if a producer wishes to obtain an EU declaration of conformity or market medicinal products and medical devices, it is required by law to provide translations into all EU languages.
However, these laws do not equally apply to all products or services and language use in most consumer electronics is not typically regulated. The reason why certain tech giants do not offer translations of their UI into some languages may simply be that the local market is too small to incentivise them to do so – at least not without a gentle push from the government. So, why not get ahead of regulation and lead the way?
Discover the local market’s untapped potential
Users of devices with no localised UI might settle with another language they speak; in Slovenia this will most likely be English or Croatian, as well as German or Italian. However, people who are not proficient in foreign languages are not the only ones who may be excluded from using these devices.
Smart devices are nowadays indispensable in many educational institutions, healthcare facilities, administrative and judicial offices, public libraries, even nursing homes. All public institutions must ensure that the systems they use are available in the country’s official language(s) to avoid misunderstandings and make them accessible to staff and the general public. This means that they will refrain from purchasing devices with no language support. If people are unable to familiarise themselves with the maker’s ecosystem at work or in public spaces, they are also less likely to purchase those devices for personal use.
Apple’s smartphone market share in Slovenia is only 22% with the dominate operating system being Android (that is available in Slovene). It would of course be an oversimplification to attribute these results to the lack of UI translation, but increasing the accessibility of any company’s digital ecosystem certainly opens up new markets.
Gain the favour of the people
Translating user interfaces thus has a number of practical advantages. A less tangible – but far from insignificant – positive outcome may lie in the public perception of your company. By offering products and services in the local language, a company will send a signal that the regional market, however small, is important to them – and with it, its people. Although this is true for all kinds of translations, not just UIs, most correspondence today is conducted in digital environments and being able to understand the UI is a prerequisite for using these communication tools.
Several surveys indicate that consumers gravitate to content in their own language and appreciate brands and companies that make the localisation effort. In today’s saturated market, it is vital to stand out and one way to do that is to make the customer feel seen and appreciated. Just imagine how good it feels, for instance, to hear your own language spoken when travelling abroad.
Impress with a quality translation
Once you have decided to localise your interface, it is important that you obtain a good quality translation. Anything less may have the opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve and alienate users, rather than attract them. Translating UIs is a unique undertaking: since most of the text consists of short action phrases and precise instructions, it is important to provide relevant context to the translator or language service provider, so as to avoid ambiguities or mistranslations. You can find useful tips in our article on how to ensure UI translation success.
Starting the translation process can be daunting, especially if your ecosystem is vast and complicated, and to be fair, the initial investment may be high. Once the first hurdle is overcome, however, you will only have to tweak or expand the existing translations. This also means that your best bet is to regularly work with a single reliable language service provider who will help you organise your project, capture your tone of voice, and ensure consistency in translation.
Every company’s objective is to grow its market share and influence, so why not get ahead of the curve and show care for your users by talking to them in their native tongue – even Apple is now working on expanding its language selection to include Slovene. If you need a reliable translation partner to help you with UI or any other translation needs, look no further! Get in touch and tell us how we can help you achieve your goals.