Content Strategy

Localization: The Space Game

Posted by Marcelle Amelia on Dec 5, 2017 11:11:57 AM

ID-100188377.jpgSuppose you need to localize or translate your user interface or marketing content from English to another language. Did you know there might not be enough space on your UI or in your content template for text in other languages?

Some languages require more space—whereas others need less. For example, content translated from English to French occupies 20-30% more space. But translating from English into Japanese can take as much as 50% less space.

Why some languages take more—or less—space

The ratio between the length of the source content and translated content is called the expansion rate—or contraction rate if the text shrinks.

A few factors that account for this difference include:

  • Word length. Average word length varies greatly between languages. German has over 11 characters per word, English has only 8, and Italian about 9, for example.
  • Script type. Japanese Kanji takes less space than English because the characters are tight.
  • Grammar. An English sentence might not need prepositions, pronouns, or definite articles, but those might be required in another language.
  • Content intention. Abbreviations, short words, and idioms in English can require more letters or words to express in another language.

Design for text expansion from the beginning

If the translated text doesn’t fit in the allocated space, you’ll need to reword, redesign, or reformat. Because this rework increases cost, time, and effort, allow for text expansion from the start.

If you are localizing into quite a few languages at the same time, translation companies recommend designing for a 30% expansion, which is the average rate across languages.

Localization expansion and contraction rates

While context is everything, the following are some examples of how much more or less space translated content will use, compared to English.

Language Table.jpg

More information and visuals about language word and script lengths:

See also: