A Directory of Welsh Apps – An Interview with Applingua

( Post 26 – * Bonus Post * )

Remember that time we published 25 posts in one month? We decided that we’d return with another one-off post (not another 25 – don’t worry!) for January 2016, marking Computer Recruiter‘s 26th anniversary. So, without further ado, we present to you another interview, this time with a South Wales-based business that has both tech and Wales at its core…

Applingua logoHi, Team Applingua. Please introduce yourself! What do you do?

Hi! Applingua is a hassle-free translation agency, specialising in translating and localising iOS and OS X apps. Rob started Applingua over five years ago and has been helping developers around the world bring their apps to international markets ever since. With a base in Cardiff, Sarah joined a couple of years later and we’ve gone from strength to strength.

Team Applingua screenshot

Apps in Welsh logoWhat is Apps in Welsh?

Apps in Welsh is a directory of all apps available to use in Welsh, created by Applingua in collaboration with the Welsh Government. It’s designed to help people find apps available in Welsh, as at the moment trying to find out which apps are available in other languages is quite hard via the official app stores. We wanted to make it easy for people to find apps to use in their native language.

What benefits are there to people who use the directory? We previously reported how there have been initiatives to try and improve IT/computing/coding in Welsh primary and secondary schools… Do you think that schools could benefit by using the directory?

No matter what language you speak, it’s always nice to be able to use technology in your native tongue. However, finding apps that speak your language isn’t always easy, so we’re hoping that the directory will be that bridge for people, to make it simple to find apps they know will be in Welsh.

We also think it’ll be a useful site for schools as there are (at current count) 54 education apps available in Welsh, but teachers don’t always have time to search for them. We’re hoping that as more people use the directory and the apps, more developers will see the benefits of translating their apps into Welsh.

Apps in Welsh homepage screenshot

It’s also possible to change your iPhone/iPad’s language settings into Welsh – isn’t that right?

Absolutely! A couple of years ago, Apple opened up the operating system found on Apple’s iPads and iPhones allowing your device to run in almost any language. Unfortunately it isn’t feasible for them to translate the system into every language but it does allow developers to natively support languages like Welsh, which is exactly what we’ve been doing with the Apps in Welsh project.

Check out our video here for instructions on how to change your device into Welsh – or watch below:

Let’s talk more about your arrangement with Welsh Government that you’ve mentioned above, whereby you can offer fully funded app translation/localisation into Welsh – so essentially for free… Could you elaborate?

Back in late 2014, I approached Welsh Government with a small project plan to increase the number of apps available on the App Store in the Welsh language. We thought we could leverage our contacts and existing clients at Applingua and offer them Welsh translation at no cost to themselves.

There are now hundreds(!!) of apps available in Welsh compared to just a handful 18 months ago.

Over the last year we’ve flipped the type of apps available for Welsh speakers and learners around. In the past, apps available in Welsh were often purpose built for the Welsh market. Now, apps, games, utilities of all different types are available – including some of the App Store’s biggest names. We’ve targeted apps that people already use on a day to day basis and tacked the Welsh interface on top, requiring very little effort for end-users to get the content they want in their own language.

We’re extremely grateful for Welsh Government’s support and I know our developers are too. There are now hundreds(!!) of apps available in Welsh compared to just a handful 18 months ago.

What is the difference between translation and localisation, in terms of what you do? Why is the difference important to distinguish?

This is a very good question! The difference is subtle, but extremely important. Translation is the process of taking text in one language and converting it to another. A good translator will be aware of the idiosyncrasies of each language and ensure that the final translation is as good as the original in every sense, conceptually, idiomatically and in fluency.

Localization is the process of adapting a product or service from one locale to another. It’s better to explain this with an example. Imagine we run a food delivery website in the UK. Translating the site into Italian would only be useful for native Italian speakers living in the UK. However, localizing the site for Italy would involve not only translating the site, but finding and listing Italian restaurants in Italy. You’re not just translating, you’re making it feel like this is an Italian service.

It’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve from the outset. The reality is, most software localizations are actually good translations, not localizations.

What benefits are there for national/global companies to get their apps localised and translated into Welsh?

If you’re trying to sell your software solution to the Public Sector in Wales, having your app already translated into Welsh is going to give you a big step up.

We are not under any illusions here. For most companies, translating your app into Welsh isn’t going to make you rich overnight. However Welsh speakers are a very close-knit community who often share ideas (check them out on Twitter). Don’t underestimate the power of local PR and loyalty among Welsh speakers.

However this is only minor compared to Public Sector procurement requirements in Wales. If you’re trying to sell your software solution to the Public Sector in Wales, having your app already translated into Welsh is going to give you a big step up. This is a huge potential market for global companies producing capable software solutions for larger companies and the public sector.

At the risk of causing a debate(!), what would you say to naysayers (Welsh or not) who might claim that the Welsh language is dying out?

I’ll be honest, several years ago I was probably saying the same thing. The truth is, I don’t think we really know what’s happening with the language, but the idea that the language will die out is as laughable as saying it will be the nation’s first language sometime soon.

So why do we bother translating apps into Welsh at all? Despite what naysayers think, adult education Welsh classes are popular and children in Wales learn Welsh almost on a daily basis. Qualitatively I have noticed demand among adults to incorporate some Welsh into their routine, even if it’s just the basics.

Giving these groups access to apps in Welsh allows them to incorporate, use and learn from the tools they use every day. It allows first language Welsh users to enjoy their phones as much as first language English users. It also keeps the language fresh, as we think hard about how to translate new terminology into Welsh.

If another Welsh tech company was hoping to do something similar – e.g. something that would promote the Welsh language, but would ideally require funding from Welsh Government to help facilitate it – then what would you recommend that they do?

Funding of these types of projects changes constantly. I would keep an eye on the public Cardiff Start Facebook group, where updates are often posted. You can also check out the S4C Digital Fund.

What do you think of Wales’ tech scene as a whole?

It’s certainly changed a lot in the last five years! When I moved back to Cardiff in December 2010, the tech scene was almost non-existent. Then slowly and surely events started popping up around the city, events like Cardiff Blogs, Unified Diff, Cardiff Tweetup. People began talking, and it was great.

By late 2013 conversation was buzzing. Events started. Communities started in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and local government started getting interested in our exciting industry.

While it’ll be a long time before we challenge London, Berlin or Tel Aviv, the tides are turning. I’ve noticed many new faces in the community and Welsh companies are finally attracting skilled workers from around the UK and Europe. If Wales is ever going to reverse the brain drain, it’s going to be lead by tech. It’s an exciting time to be around.

What’s your favourite thing about South Wales – tech-related or not?

The best thing about Wales will always be its people. Most people are approachable and always willing to give advice or offer help if it’s needed. So while this is a great thing socially, it’s also extremely helpful if you are a startup in the tech industry.

Applingua is an app translation and localisation company based in Cardiff, who also manage the Apps in Welsh directory. Follow them on Twitter: @applingua & @WelshApps, respectively.