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As most of you are hopefully aware, we've launched both Android and iOS apps this year. One recurring subject that's come up each time I talk to another big-scale mobile developer or person in the know is localization.

Most big applications are localized, meaning if you view them in a different locale or in a different country, all the text in them is in a different language. The Stack Exchange sites are for the most part, not. However, it's something we're actively working on with pt.so and whatever other localized sites are later down the pipeline.

Each time someone's asked me how we handle localization for text in our apps, that's been my response. "Well our sites aren't localized so it doesn't make much sense to localize the app". If I was reading questions & answers in English and all the UI was in my other language, it would be a huge context switch and a burden. And since the app is for the entire network, not just on a site by site basis, we can't simply localize only pt.so's view in the app and leave everything else in english, so no localization at all made the most sense.

However, I've realized that I've never asked anyone else this and just decided upon it on my self. So, my question is:

  • For those of you that use pt.so, would you prefer if the entire Android or iOS apps were in Portuguese?
  • For those of you that use the specific english sites, would you prefer if the entire Android or iOS app were in your phone's set language? (E.g. French if you live in France or have manually set your phone to French)
  • Is it fine to leave the apps as they are, with English text everywhere? We get the reverse of the situation I described earlier here when we do this and someone looks at a question on a site where all text are in a different language.
  • I'm a English speaker, so my opinion should be taken lightly. But are the sites going to be localized as well? It seems weird that the apps would be localized but the main sites that the app is trying to work with (or replace) isn't localized. – Steven V Jun 13 '14 at 17:18
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    @StevenV pt.so is localized all the way - interface, etc. Beta sites about other languages are using our regular English UI and we currently have no plans to translate them fully since their intended audience is primarily still English speakers who are learning another language. – Adam Lear Jun 13 '14 at 17:40
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    I think it will be better to follow the phone's set language, rather than the site language. If a user uses a site that is in a particular language, it shouldn't bother the user that the site content is in that language, while the app controls are in the user's chosen phone language setting. In fact, it is expected. If a user sets the phone language to French, ideally all apps should use French for their interfaces (similar to the date format phone setting that would reflect in all app interfaces). But understandably, content cannot be localized (for both languages and dates). – ADTC Jun 27 '14 at 9:01
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    It can't be the other way around (app interface following site language) because it can create confusion. Going to a Portuguese site by mistake, if a French user finds the content unreadable that is okay, because the app interface is still in French, and the French user can find a way to go somewhere else. But if the app interface switched to Portuguese, this can confuse the user as he/she has to rely on muscle memory, familiarity or random guess to navigate away from the Portuguese site and get back to the familiar French. It's like FF/Chrome switching to Portuguese when visiting pt.so... – ADTC Jun 27 '14 at 9:05

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