Natalia Shuhman
Posted by Natalia Shuhman
on 11/22/22 6:30 AM

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Localizing Game Characters: Facts & Finer Points

Some games are so simple that interface localization alone is nearly enough to launch them globally and start printing money. With other games, however, developers can’t get off so easily. You may need to do far more than translate buttons and items when your game features characters. How does the game localization process go when there are dozens of characters with their unique tone of voice, intentions, role in the game, etc.? Alconost, a game localization services provider with 18 years of experience, shares its opinion.

If you came to continue reading this article from the link on the IGDA website, please jump here for a seamless reading experience. 

Names & Dialogues: More Meaningful Than You Think

Tools That Help With Game Character Localization

3 Secret Ingredients of a Flawless Game Localization

Voices & Images: Localization at the Ultimate Level

Top 5 Questions Developers Ask When Coming to a Game Translation Agency

First and foremost, let’s see how characters express themselves in games. 

  • Names

  • Dialogues: written phrases, strings

  • Voice narration, if any

  • Look: facial features, clothes, other attributes

  • Actions: gestures, behavior, interaction with other characters and the player.

Your game does not necessarily need to have all this. But the more you’ve invested in plot development and narrative design, the greater the chance that when preparing to go global, you’ll have to take these layers into account at the localization stage.

Names & Dialogues: More Meaningful Than You Think

Let’s start with the simplest: character names. Take, for example, a name such as Alexander. It’s evidently a masculine given name, and this simple fact communicates an important piece of information to the translators. But if it were in the shortened form, Alex, the gender identity wouldn’t be that obvious, and this would give rise to questions—or to a translation blunder. The same occurs when the character has a made-up name that doesn’t give any clues about gender.

Or, imagine that your character is an animal. The trick here is that in English, animals are usually referred to as ‘it,’ which is genderless. But for a proper localization of this character into certain languages, for example Spanish, Italian, or German, the issue of the animal's gender will come up.

The thing is that the English language doesn’t have gender-specific endings. In many other languages, when the character speaks or is being referred to in a dialogue, its gender might need to be expressed. That is, in certain languages, some adjectives or even verbs inherit gender, just like the pronoun ‘she’ in English indicates that the character is female. Yes, you got it right: even if your characters were designed as ‘genderless’ initially, and the source language of your game is English, these characters will have to obtain a gender in certain localizations! 

The good news here is that when you work with a localization team, you don’t need to delve into intricacies of this kind. The team naturally knows how to localize the names and dialogue lines into their native language without making linguistic errors. The only thing you need to be aware of is that you might be asked about characters’ gender and maybe some other features that are not evident, such as if the character is a child or an adult.

Ways to localize game character names

Character names can reference books, movies, historical events, or culture in general. To maintain these references in localization, you might need more than simple transliteration, and that’s why some names in localization may look far from the original.

Without properly localized names, some character features could be lost.  Image: © Alconost

Without properly localized names, some character features could be lost.
Image: © Alconost

It might be that the same characters are known by different, specific names in the target market. With the aid of native speakers, you’ll be able to select the right names to keep the allusion visible. Take, for example, Humpty Dumpty from ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The book is well-known in many countries, but to keep the reference evident, you need to know what Humpty Dumpty was called in the book’s most popular translation into a specific language!

If the names are self-explanatory and refer to the character’s personal features without external cultural references, consider allowing a creative approach for choosing equally self-explanatory names for each localization. The same approach won’t hurt if the names were unique wordplay-based inventions by your team.

Other solutions are either to sacrifice the implied meanings to keep everything simple for the players, or to supplement your game with a knowledge base where all allusions are explained clearly.

So, now you’re aware of some underwater streams that may lead to a non-obvious and non-literal way of localizing specific names. And again, when a localization team takes care of your game’s new language version, you can relax and simply answer questions if they’re asked.

Tools That Help With Game Character Localization

Before we list two significant tools that help with quality-first localization, let’s state quite an obvious thing: the more context the translators see, the more accurate and natural the localization will be. When preparing a file where all localizable lines are put together, consider adding screenshots of your characters in conjunction with strings that contain the respective names and briefly describing their key features. This way, some questions simply disappear even before they’re asked, and the localization process will go swiftly.


Technically, a glossary is a small database of the terms used in the game repeatedly. It helps ensure that objects, locations, and functions are named the same way throughout the game. 

The characters' names should also be glossary items. If a game update brings new characters into play, their names should be added to the glossary too. The glossary can also contain instructions on how to deal with a specific name. That way, every time the name appears in a string, it’ll always be handled as intended.

When you order localization for the very first time, you may not have a glossary, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be the one who creates it. Your localization team can do this for you.

A quick case study: To localize ‘Days After,’ a mobile game developed by Reaction Games, into eight languages, including Korean and Traditional Chinese, we suggested creating a glossary and keeping the same team of linguists for this project. Since then, our linguists have been expanding the glossary with each new update.

Translation memory

Another tool that can help maintain consistency is translation memory. It’s a feature that localization platforms, such as Crowdin, have by default. Translation memory scans the previously translated strings in the localization project and shows how a specific line has been translated before, if at all. 

The translation memory also helps if you have characters with specific speaking styles; for example, some have a rustic vocabulary, while others use a high-flown language. The translation memory shows how repetitive vocabulary items were localized previously, so that translators can refer to the existing translation of repeated words and translate them the same way — or at least with the same spirit, depending on the context.

The bundle of the glossary and translation memory works wonders to keep the characters’  phrases unique & consistent at the same time. It also accelerates the tempo of localization, enabling developers to roll out localized updates as soon as possible.

A quick case study: EdkonGames localizes three games with us: ‘Modern Ops,’ ‘Fire Strike,’ and ‘WW II: Battle Combat.’ Each game has its own terminology, which needs to be preserved in the translation. A glossary and translation memory accelerate the work and make localization for each language uniform. On top of that, there’s a permanent team of translators who work on localizing these games; their immersion in game contexts helps them to translate in the proper style and as quickly as possible.


3 Secret Ingredients of a Flawless Game Localization

The more comprehensive information the localization team is given,  the better they will transmit the characters’ spirit and mindset to the target culture.  Image: © Alconost

The more comprehensive information the localization team is given,
the better they will transmit the characters’ spirit and mindset to the target culture.
Image: © Alconost

1. Communication 

Solid communications between a developer and a localization team representative helps localizers avoid blunders and deliver a high-quality product as quickly as possible. 

If you’re a developer who has been asked to fill out a localization brief, you might consider it a time-wasting formality. But try to look at it from a different angle. The questions in the brief can help you hone your requirements and articulate expectations, as well as give the localization team a better understanding of your game. 

Remember that you can benefit from your localization team’s expertise. If you're facing game translation for the first time in your career and simply don’t know all the possible pitfalls, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If you work with a professional team that has localized dozens of games, they’ll have you covered. They’ll ask you the right questions and point out the nuances that require closer attention during the localization process.

A quick case study: The chief nuance in localizing Next Epic’s ‘The Hotel Project: Merge game’ into Brazilian Portuguese had to do with the names of the characters, objects, and locations. We coordinated with the client on the guiding principles for handling names and titles in translation. Then we compiled a glossary that helped the translator to correctly deal with terms in different groups: some were to be translated, others transliterated, and still others left in the original language.

Another factor that makes communication efficient is the function of commenting on strings that cloud-based localization platforms have. When the localization team communicates on a cloud platform, translators and the manager see each other's comments instantly, as well as clues and clarifications from the client in conjunction with a specific string. This non-stop and focused communication with no missed messages contributes to the speed & quality of localization. 

If you’d like to learn about other capabilities of different translation management platforms, explore The Ultimate Localization & Translation Management Platform Comparison we’ve prepared.

2. Localization kit & style guide

A localization kit, or loсkit, usually looks like a spreadsheet with several columns. Apart from content that needs to be translated, the lockit can also shed light on the specific strings’ context or requirements for particular phrases. It helps the localization team from the very beginning. Such columns as, for example, ‘Label,’ ‘Screenshot,’ or ‘Character limit’  give the localization team vital clues. Yes, the lockit can regulate not only the creative aspect of localization but also the technical part, such as string length, specific punctuation rules, etc.

As the game expands, you might face the need to give the translators more information on a broader level, especially when it comes to characters and their relationships. You might want to provide details on every character’s background, highlight their attitude towards other characters and how their relationships change throughout the game, and describe all the context that may influence how the characters express themselves verbally. 

A quick case study: Alconost has been localizing ‘My Cafe, a mobile game from Melsoft Games, into ten languages. The game features dozens of characters who each have a unique look, background, and communication style, and they have complicated, developing relationships. What helps us keep this band of characters running smoothly and implement newcomers seamlessly is specific documents that supplement the localization kit. Some of these documents describe a character's occupation, personal features, short biography, and even the internal conflict that affects this character’s behavior. It was extremely helpful, for example, when localizing the character named ‘George from 1887’: to maintain this character’s persona in every localized version, translators were instructed to use a slightly archaic speaking style, intentionally implementing words that are a bit out of date. 

The more content your game has been accumulating, the more details the lockit should cover. At a certain stage of your game’s development, you might find it makes sense to gather all this knowledge in a kind of unified book that collects all the meta-level information and keeps it well organized, where particular cases are showcased as examples of a specific pattern, which is also spelled out clearly. This is how a localization style guide is born.

A comprehensive style guide doesn’t come out of nowhere. Usually, it’s a snapshot of the work carried out so far. On top of that, every target language may require its own edition of the style guide, as the particular cases common in one language may not be an issue at all in other languages, and vice versa.

3. Localization testing

Localization testing services help you round up semantic errors, contextual mismatches, font display problems, and other string-related issues before the final build reaches players. 

Although functional testing can detect several issues of this type, the key word here is ‘several.’ A comprehensive check of the localization is a job for localization testers (not functional testers), and the competence of these specialists varies. To learn more, read this article focused specifically on localization testing

In broad strokes, localization testing is more than a perfectionist’s best friend. It’s a process that allows you to see how the localized product will be perceived by the target audience and make quick fixes before your support service goes nuts with complaints received. The good news is that localization testing shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, especially if you are prepared for it.

A quick case study: When doing localization testing for Vizor Interactive’s game ‘Mahjong,our testers got cheat codes and in-game coins to quickly reach the precise level that required testing. When localization testing was needed only to check the UI translation, Vizor provided us with a gameplay video, and it helped reduce testing time significantly.

Voices & Images: Localization at the Ultimate Level

Professional voiceover talents are good at impersonating several characters at once;  keep this hint in mind if you need voiceover localization.  Image: © Alconost

Professional voiceover talents are good at impersonating several characters at once;
keep this hint in mind if you need voiceover localization.
Image: © Alconost

Voice localization: a better user experience

When it comes to voice narration, you need to consider the proper tone of voice for specific strings, taking into account the context in which these phrases are heard. For example, a word as simple as ‘Yes’ or an exclamation as simple as ‘Oh!’ can sound very different depending on the situation. To help a voiceover artist catch the right tone, you can provide the localization team with context references, e.g. gameplay video capture with this phrase being read out loud in the original language, and a short textual explanation, e.g. ‘The character is frightened.’ 

A quick case study: When ordering English voice-overs for over 20 characters for the game ‘Camelot: Wrath of the Green Knight, the developer provided us with a description and image of every character. They also explained the context of each phrase so that we were able to provide voice artists with comprehensive guidance on mood and subtext for every line. In addition, video references served as a duration clue for specific sets of phrases.


Fortunately, by the time you want to localize your game, you most likely have the voiceover part recorded in the original language already. And you can come to the video game voice over agency with these audio files ready to go; the original recordings can serve as references, if you are happy with them, of course.

When your characters are animals, there’s one more thing to consider: animal sounds differ from language to language. For example, in the German language frogs say ‘kwaak,’ while in Chinese it’s ‘guo guo,’ and in Japanese it’s ‘kero kero.’ So when recording voice-overs for animals, check whether these sounds are subject to localization, as well.

Don’t forget that if an audio line is attached to a video sequence, you might need to ensure the localized voiceover does not exceed the length of the original. And if you wish to apply special effects to the audio, e.g. make a character sound robotic or as if they're speaking through a bullhorn, remember to allocate the time and budget for a post-processing stage.

Images & animation: a costly challenge

The simplest scenario for a developer is when no changes in the game's visual content are needed to successfully adapt it for a foreign market. But this is when cultural differences come into play. The tip of the iceberg is the attitude to nudity. There can be drastic variations in this attitude between the developer's native market and the target market for which the game is being localized, depending how lucky you are.

Characters’ gestures, behavior, and even some items players will deal with might also be affected by the rules and regulations, customs and traditions of the target market. Picture, for instance, a simulator game where players cook dishes requested by NPCs. If the menu contains, let’s say, steaks, think of what the meat should look like. Should it be just a conventional ‘piece of meat’ — or maybe you’d draw cute little pigs or cows to emphasize that it’s a pork steak or beef steak, respectively? As you might have guessed, the first option is more localization-friendly, while the second option may add one more item to your to-do list if you are aiming at Arabic-speaking or Indian markets.

What about the gestures characters make? For example, how do their hands move when they want to beckon a player? What is the position of their fingers when they want to express agreement? A no-brainer in one culture can mean something different in other cultures. Being simply misunderstood is the lesser evil here.

To avoid costly changes, think of—or at least be aware of—pitfalls like these, and allow time for adjustments, if necessary, even before preparing strings for localization. To find the most common pain points, such as numbers that a Japanese player would consider unlucky, or the symbolism of specific colors in Feng Shui, you can conduct an in-depth search on your own. For a deeper analysis, or if you simply want to save time, consider showing your game to a representative of the target country and asking for their opinion at least on the following issues: 

  1. Whether your game touches on issues that are considered sensitive or debatable in the target culture

  2. Whether your game’s plot is generally understandable without knowing the background of your native culture

  3. Whether the character’s clothes, gestures, and behavior are appropriate and understood the way you intended 

  4. Whether the visual palette of your game is pleasing to the eye of a target market representative

  5. Whether the game contains any misfortune indicators, such as the unlucky numbers already mentioned, that you didn’t intend

A review like this may instantly highlight any grave issues that could significantly affect the localization cost or even make you reconsider localizing the game for a specific market. 

Your characters’ look can be subject to localization as well,  and native speakers of the target languages can tell you if that is needed.  Image: © Alconost

Your characters’ look can be subject to localization as well,
and native speakers of the target languages can tell you if that is needed.
Image: © Alconost

Changes like these are obviously outside the scope of linguistic localization. Let’s face the bitter truth: it will be your team who will have to adjust the game visuals and animation, characters’ behavior, narrative design, game mechanics, and so on. Help from the outside can come in the form of consultations, and although this may look like a drop in the ocean, it can still be a big help.

If you need consultations, there's no need to network urgently to strike up a friendship with a target culture representative. Your localization team can arrange this consultation for you, taking your intentions and concerns into account and carefully conveying them to a native-speaking game translation professional who’s familiar with local customs and context. This way, you can get a valuable reality check and save your team and yourself from wasting hundreds of working hours, not to mention money. 

Top 5 Questions Developers Ask When Coming to a Game Translation Agency

1. Won’t game localization service “from the outside” ruin the spirit?

This is an understandable concern. The more love and heartfelt feeling you and your team put into the game, the more difficult it is to entrust it to external people. 

The key advantage of a professional game localization studio is that they work with native speakers of the target languages. These folks obviously know better than anyone how to transmit the implied sense in the most natural, concise, and eloquent way. Not every international fan is capable of this: even if they know the target language, it remains foreign to them.

Don’t be surprised, however, if translators become your game’s first international fans. Game localization is an absorbing process, and the translators that select this job are usually gamers at heart.

Another advantage is their vast experience localizing other games, even in the same genre. An already-existing understanding of a specific niche, be it business management, car repair, fishing, the everyday life of medieval knights, or whatever else, is a huge advantage, to say the least. 

This combination of advantages can give you exactly what you need: a terminologically flawless and stylistically exquisite localization in the shortest possible time frame.

2. Can I transfer a game to a localization service provider in a partly localized condition? 

There might be different reasons for you to ask this question. You might have started localization in-house, but the passion faded. Or you tried a localization service company, and it didn’t fully meet your expectations. 

In any case, the answer is yes: you can switch to another game localization agency without sacrificing quality or ruining translation consistency. For example, the game ‘Vlad & Niki: 12 Locks’ that we’ve been translating into ten languages, including Hindi and Vietnamese, came to us in partly localized form. Some content required editing, and the project glossary was incomplete. We finetuned and cleaned up the existing translations and added missing elements to the glossary (character names, quest names, etc.), and we keep developing the glossary with each update. 

So, if you feel like changing horses mid-stream, be brave enough to consider it.

3. Does game localization take more time if there are characters? 

This is also a reasonable concern. On the one hand, it seems logical to assume that to perfectly transfer a character into another culture, a translator may ask for many clarifications and ponder all the clever wording a bit longer. 

On the other hand, assets such as a localization brief and lockit reduce questions to a minimum, especially if they contain references, such as screenshots and actual gameplay videos. But these assets are highly desirable even for localizing a game that doesn’t feature characters. 

This means that although the developer’s input at the beginning of a localization project can help a lot, in general, the presence of characters in a game doesn’t affect the localization turnover time too drastically. 

4. Does character localization influence a game’s localization cost?

In terms of price increases, the answer is no, unless we're talking about multimedia localization or localization testing. If we put these services aside, the game localization cost itself is calculated based on the size of a written text in characters or words. It’s the volume of text that affects the price, regardless of whether the lines are attached to a character. Urgent translation tasks, however, might cost you more than usual. 

In terms of a price deduction for written text localization, sometimes you can save a bit because of repetitive lines. A Translation Memory feature—the majority of localization platforms have it— helps track similar strings, and the policy of your localization service provider can help you spend less on localization. Some game localization companies offer big discounts for translating repetitive strings.

What can increase the cost is multimedia content localization, such as character voiceover or in-game videos. The multimedia localization cost is usually calculated individually, with specific requirements taken into account: complete video localization with all the bells and whistles or simple, budget-friendly subtitling; dozens of voiceover artists involved or only a few. 

Also, the presence of dialogue can indirectly influence the cost of localization testing services, as the testers must examine every line closely to check whether it suits the context.

5. How should I prepare for my game’s localization?

We can help you out with this! Here’s our free guide on how to prepare a game for localization; please go and use it!


Popular articles

In 2021, we at Alconost published data on the most popular languages for product localization. This year, we're continuing the tradition and publishing the latest stats on the demand for languages to enter foreign markets. Read on and get the broad strokes right now.


Highlights: 12 Consistently Popular Localization Languages
Top 5 Languages: The Classic Four + Brazilian Portuguese
Companies that localize into the most popular languages
Japanese, Korean and Chinese are shoulder to shoulder
Places 9-12 and below: What other local markets are popular for localizations
A treat for number geeks: A closer look at the Top 10 localization languages
But localization isn't everything. So, what else is there?
Editing and localization QA: When you need them
Remember: Every product is different
Request the full edition of the article from Alconost for free

An abridged version of this article was first published on the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)'s website. We thank the association for the opportunity to publish it and for its interest in our content!

In this review, we look at orders made by Alconost Localization Department customers with English as the source language.

People turn to Alconost when launching a product — most often software, an application, or a game — so they can enter foreign markets. The company provides translation and localization services into 100+ languages, video production and multilingual marketing services. Our clients include both indie developers and such large companies as JetBrains, Microsoft, Kaspersky, and Bitrix, to name a few.

Highlights: 12 Consistently Popular Localization Languages

The 12 most popular target languages for orders that had English as their source language remained the same as last year. French (France), Italian, German, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Spain), Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Dutch, Turkish, Polish, Russian are languages that are consistently in demand.

Figure 1. The most popular target languages (1)

Figure 1. The most popular target languages in projects with English as the source language in 2021. The share of orders for the top 12 languages accounts for 63.6% of the total volume of orders.

However, the positions of some languages have changed within the most popular ones compared to last year. Korean, German, and Brazilian ranked higher in the top 12, while Spanish, Dutch, and Turkish ranked lower. 

The main surprise in the top 5 is Brazilian Portuguese's rise to 4th place and Spanish dropping out of the top four languages. 

Top 5 Languages: The Classic Four + Brazilian Portuguese

There is a group of the four most popular languages for localization — not including English, of course — with the acronym FIGS: French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Just like last year, these languages are among our top 5 languages for localization from English. 

When localizing software, apps, and games into the "classic four" languages, developers are able to do more than just enter the markets of four countries. Italian, for example, is the official language in three other countries besides Italy, and German is the official language in five countries outside of Germany. Not to mention the prevalence of Spanish, French, and their variants in dozens of countries on both sides of the Atlantic! 

"The availability of a product, not just in English, but in FIGS languages, too, is, in a way, an integral part of software, games, or apps that strive to be global. But we can't forget that translating a product into a particular language and localizing a product for a particular country's market are not the same thing. For example, localization for Spain will not fully meet the expectations of users in Argentina or Mexico. The Spanish language in Latin America has its specifics. You need to adapt the product to the local version of the language in a particular country," says Stas Kharevich, Localization Team Lead at Alconost. 


While Spanish's move to fifth place in popularity is a noticeable change in the ranking, it doesn't indicate a global decline in interest in the Spanish language. After all, if we combine the order statistics for all varieties of Spanish (in 2021, we also worked with Spanish for Mexico, the US, Argentina, and Colombia), they would have taken the top spot in our ranking with a share of 8.45%.

If we talk about French, which leads our ranking for the second year in a row now, we mean only the French spoken in France. Note that, for example, Canada, one of the most attractive Francophone countries in terms of marketing, has its own variety of French, and orders for "Canadian French" in our statistics aren't included in the number of French orders for France.

Learn more about the nuances of localization into Canadian French in our review. 

Brazilian Portuguese deserves special attention in the top languages. In 2020, it was the "fifth element" in the ranking, on the heels of the classic four. And in 2021, it moved into fourth place and changed the traditional balance of power. 

The following factors, we believe, have influenced the growing popularity of Brazilian Portuguese for localization: 

  • Brazil has the ninth-largest economy in the world.

  • The country has a high purchasing power.

  • Smartphone and console games are very popular among Brazilians.

  • The country has one of the highest download rates in Google Play and the App Store.

Indeed, the Brazilian market looks like a tasty tidbit for developers. Considering that Brazil is a growing market for mobile apps and games, we predict that Brazilian Portuguese has a good chance to settle in the top 5 and to be in demand for localization as much as the most popular European languages.

Here's a review of the Brazilian mobile games market and helpful information for those planning to scale their product to Brazil.

Companies that localize into the most popular languages

Among the companies localizing their products into the top languages from our ranking are JetBrains, TransferWise, Avangate, Movavi, and Vizor Games. Bear in mind that these Alconost clients' activities aren't limited to the top 5 languages. As they expand into foreign markets and develop their products, they need to localize into additional languages, and their list is even wider than our top 10. 

Request the full article on Top localization languages for free

Japanese, Korean and Chinese are shoulder to shoulder

Just as it was a year ago, Japanese remains the sixth-most-popular language in projects with English as the source language. Although its share among the total number of orders increased by 0.7%, it failed to make it into the top five.

Follow the link for tips on localizing games for the Japanese market.

Please note: The statistics we analyze in this article reflect only "English to Japanese" orders. However, there's another side of this moon: translations from Japanese to English and Asian and European languages.

Ilya Spiridonov, Chief Commercial Officer at Alconost, sheds more light on this: 

"For the last year, we've been actively working with clients from Japan. Among the exciting companies from Japan that we started working with in 2021, I would like to mention the game developers Characterbank and Zxima, as well as the tech company RICOH. We expect that we will help more IT and tech companies gain new clients and users from the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world in 2022. This March, Alconost was ISO 9001:2015 certified and received two more industry-specific ISO certificates relating directly to translation services. The documented quality of processes will simplify the company's work with corporate clients.


Yoshiyuki Suginome, Regional Director of Alconost Japan and Asia-Pacific, talks about what languages Japanese companies are interested in as target languages and what matters when choosing languages for localization: 

"According to our observations, many app developers, from startups to mid-size companies, evaluate the possible impact of localization on ROI efficiency. This potential impact seems to be one of the key factors for specific target languages' selection. As for English, Chinese, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese, I guess they're amongst the most popular target languages for Japanese app development companies because of the number of speakers. Apart from that, the cultural and geographical proximity to Japan can factor in. As far as I can tell, this is one of the reasons why Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese are also in demand."


Korean is a popular language for localization, and not just among Japanese customers. It ranks seventh in overall popularity among target languages for orders with English as a source. Over the past year, Korean has jumped three lines up in our ranking: in 2020, its share of 4% earned it tenth place, while in 2021, with a share of 5%, it moved straight to seventh place. 

Request the full article on Top localization languages for free

It doesn't come as a surprise if you know the situation in the Korean gaming market. The users from this country are among the most willing to pay in the world, and in 2018, one out of every two(!) citizens of South Korea could be considered a gamer. Given the growing worldwide interest in Korean mass culture, the localization of a product into Korean can no longer be considered something exotic.

Read about the preferences of South Korean users and the specifics of game localization for this market in this review.

Of course, developers aren't ignoring China's audience of more than a billion people. Like last year, between translations into Simplified and Traditional Chinese, developers are more likely to choose the former. Simplified Chinese is eighth in our ranking, just as it was last year. 

By the way, if we combined all the varieties of Chinese that we translated from English in 2021 — Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and the Hong Kong dialect — their share would be 7.3% in total. In this case, translations from English into all varieties of Chinese would be second on our list after French.

Read this article about the issues Chinese developers face when localizing games for users in Western countries.

Places 9-12 and below: What other local markets are popular for localizations

Oddly enough, the 2021 statistics show that the languages of three Asian countries — Japan, Korea, and China — are ranked next to each other. A year earlier, Dutch stood between Japanese and Simplified Chinese. Now, it's moved from 7th to 9th place. 

The year before, Turkish was ninth, wedged between Simplified Chinese and Korean. This year, Turkish is tenth, but note that this language has been one of the stable areas for localization from English for several years now. Developers' interest in it can be explained by the fact that the Turkish game market is considered the most developed among Middle Eastern and North African countries. The presence of localization significantly increases the chances of a product's acceptance among users from Turkey.

Turkey is interesting as both a target market and a source one. Their game development industry is booming. Read about the outcomes of Turkish game localizations into popular languages in this case study

Places 11 and 12, as in 2020, are reserved for Polish and Russian, respectively. The gap between them slightly narrowed over the year. The share of Polish decreased by 0.1%, and the percentage of Russian increased by 0.2%.

Places 13 through 17, in decreasing order of share, are occupied by European Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Mexican Spanish, and Thai. The shares of orders for these languages range from 2.3% to 2%. 

Read the review of the Middle East market for localization into Arabic here.

Among the languages gaining popularity specifically for game localization, we'd like to mention Hindi. In 2021, the English-Hindi language pair accounted for 1.3% of orders. We'll see how the situation changes a year from now.

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Alconost states that it provides localization into 100 languages and that they work only with native-speaking professional translators. It sounds great, but how do you do it? For example, if you need to localize an interface from English to Burmese, Hindi, Odia, Lao or Dzongkha, where do you find the right people, how do you check the quality of their work, and how do you retain them for regular collaboration?


We spoke to Anastasiya Yazepenka, who is responsible for finding and testing translators at Alconost, about the unique aspects of hiring rare language translators. This is mainly required for localizing apps, games and online services, technical documentation and marketing materials for IT companies. 

1. What are rare languages in localization?
2. The process of finding a translator: 6 steps
3. How to find rare language translators
4. How much does a rare language translation cost and what affects the price
5. How to communicate with translators
6. Four ways to avoid selecting the wrong candidate
7. Testing translators
8. Interactive onboarding
9. Why all this isn't a secret

1. What are rare languages in localization?

Anastasiya, let's first clarify which languages are considered 'rare' in our context.

Yes, let's clarify this from the start. Of course, classifying a language as rare depends on certain things. In one way or another, all the languages that we work with are living languages, which are widely used in a particular region, with relatively large communities using them on a daily basis. For example, Kannada is the native language of over 40 million people in South-West India, but we classify it as a rare language.

In terms of localization, we consider a language rare if it is not in constant demand on the market, both among our clients and overall. The lack of consistent demand means the supply, i.e. the number of translators working in this language, is also limited. When there is demand for this language, the suppliers, i.e. the translators, are in a more favorable position than the customers. Consequently, clients are more likely to compete with each other for a good rare language translator than translators compete for a client.

There is no shortage of translators who are native speakers of Spanish, German, French, Chinese or Japanese. Nevertheless, even in these popular languages, it may be hard to find a language specialist to translate highly specialized projects, such as medical equipment software. It may be hard to find suppliers who are experienced and responsible, and available for collaboration, even in the popular language pairs. In any case, when translators are competing with each other for a client, it creates a certain balance of power. Translators understand that the client will choose them based on their competitiveness: ability to keep to a deadline, readiness to negotiate the price, and the ability to translate accurately. Of course, if a translator is experienced in using specialized computer-assisted translation tools (CAT tools or platforms), is easy to talk to and discuss the project details, that is also a big plus.

When clients compete for suppliers, it creates a different power balance. If we receive only a few replies, or even none, to our advertisement or we see very few available translators, it means that this target language is in less demand, so we can call it a rare language for localization purposes.

I'd like to ask then how quickly you find rare language translators? It can obviously vary…

Yes, it's always very individual. From what I can remember, the shortest amount of time was five working days, and the longest was more than three months (however, in that instance, we needed a pool of several suppliers, who were competent in a certain field). Ignoring the extremes, I would say that we can find an exotic language translator in about three weeks on average.

Want to learn more about how quickly we are able to
find a rare language translator for your project?
Book a free call with our team!

By the way, when we're talking about "finding a translator", we mean selecting appropriate candidates by sifting through applications and studying their resumes, right?

Oh, not only that! Studying the resume is just the start, the real work comes next. Let me describe all the stages included in "finding a translator" at Alconost, step by step.

2. The process of finding a translator: 6 steps

Step 1. Manually searching for potential suppliers: using selection criteria and examining relevant profiles. As an option, we may publish an advertisement on specialized platforms and study the profiles of translators who respond.

Step 2. Contact: inviting a translator to collaborate via a private message or email.

Step 3. Negotiation: requesting additional information from a candidate about their qualifications, discussing rates and payment methods. 

Step 4. Test task: providing a test task and reviewing the results after a couple of days. 

Step 5. Validation: examining any errors the candidate made when completing the test. This is the most interesting, although time-consuming step, where every comma can affect the outcome. This stage has three possible outcomes. If the test is an obvious fail, we inform the supplier of this but do not go any further. If the test is an obvious pass, we move on to the onboarding. The most interesting are borderline passes, for example, when the result is technically a fail, but the reviewer believes the translator did a good job. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis in these instances, based on how serious the errors were and ways of minimizing these errors in the future.

Step 6. Onboarding: this is probably the most predictable stage for us, but the most unusual stage for the supplier, who is not yet familiar with Alconost's processes, standards and corporate culture. During this stage, we introduce the translator to our workflow and deal with administrative tasks, such as adding the translator to our contractor database, and signing an agreement that includes the NDA. We are not big fans of bureaucratic procedures ourselves, but we know how sensitive clients can be to these nuances, so we deal with them from the start.

Alconost: rare language translator search

Only after all six steps have been completed, can we say that we have found a rare language translator. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it takes an average of three weeks not to search for a translator, but to find one: it's a subtle but important difference in this case. 

True, looking at profiles is only the tip of the iceberg. What is the trigger that launches this entire process? 

The trigger is always a request from the client for a particular language pair. The language pair is what we call the source and target languages. This is how it works: when localization managers receive a request from a client for translation into a language we haven't worked with before, they create a task in our internal system. The task to find translators is created using a template that we have refined over the years of recruiting. The template contains only 11 questions but they're all important ones. 

Answers to these questions give us an overall idea of the task that the translator will need to complete and suggest certain requirements that the translator needs to meet. Basically, answers to these questions form the work specifications for the vendor managers. 

So you look for rare language translators only upon the client's request? 

When we're going through the database, we might notice that we don't have enough active translators for a particular language pair, while we have plenty of specialists in another language pair but no one working in a particular high-demand niche. But these observations don't trigger a search. It doesn't make sense to collect translators just to add them to the database, since inactive contacts fade over time. If you don't provide translators with regular work, they tend to forget your standards and criteria, but remember the long-winded process (emails, test translation, onboarding) which, ultimately, led nowhere. Therefore, only a specific task triggers a search for translators.

Do you find translators for any volume of work here at Alconost? Or does it have to be a large project to start looking? 

If the potential project is over 1,000 words, we start looking. Which isn't to say that small projects don't stand a chance. If we're talking about a constant stream of small projects, that's even better for us than a large, but once-off translation project. As I've said before, we're interested in regular collaboration with the translator. It's important not to let the company and translator relationship fall dormant. So, if the client needs translation into a rare language and the volume is quite small but these jobs are recurrent, we're on board! 

By the way, it's not a problem for us if the client views us as an additional or secondary vendor. For example, if the client already localizes their product into most languages themselves or with the help of another vendor, and contacts us only for a particular need. We're happy to help with translating only rare languages, for example, or with quality assurance of already existing language versions of a product, and we can embed ourselves into a client's existing localization set-up.

Try Alconost as a secondary localization vendor

3. How to find rare language translators

How do you and your colleagues usually find translators? 

There are a number of online platforms that we use in our search. Unfortunately, I can't mention them by name, but I can say that there isn't a single resource out there to cover all our needs for qualified translators. 

All platforms where we find suppliers have their own pros and cons. Some platforms, for example, have a lot of rare language translators in particular, but not everyone lists their contact details, which complicates communication. Other platforms may have many excellent specialists, but only in one language pair or for only one particular topic. For example, only translators into Japanese or only translators with software development experience. 

A translator with software development experience? Sounds like a rare combination! 

Of course, not all developers have a linguistic background. But there are projects where knowledge of niche terminology, localization experience in a highly specialized topic, and familiarity with the topic overall, are more important than a translation degree. Here we have another problem: rates that would motivate a programmer with experience in localization to work in localization rather than programming.

What about platforms like LinkedIn? Do you find translators there?

Sometimes, but we have to look through a lot of profiles that might not be complete, and in some cases, there are significant delays in potential suppliers responding to our queries. LinkedIn is good but it isn't our main source of suppliers. 

Can you remember the most unusual source of an excellent translator?

The most unusual case in my practice was when a potential translator into Canadian French recommended their colleague as he himself was working on urgent projects. We contacted the specialist recommended to us, he was interested in the job, successfully completed the test task and onboarding, and is now part of the Alconost translator team.

Alconost: Rare language translators team

4. How much does a rare language translation cost and what affects the price

So, what about pricing? Is there a correlation between "the more popular the language, the cheaper the localization"? 

That statement is only partially true. If we're talking about translation into popular localization languages, the price is mainly influenced by the living standards of countries where the native speakers live. For example, translations from English to Hebrew, Norwegian, Dutch or Japanese will cost more than, for example, localization from English to Turkish, Hindi or Indonesian. 

Of course, a shortage of qualified translators in a particular language pair will significantly affect the price. For example, the cost of translation from English to Khmer (which is spoken in Cambodia) or Burmese (spoken in Myanmar) will be about the same as translating to Swedish or even Norwegian. All because these translators know that they are in high demand, so they avoid reducing their rates or negotiating prices in general.

Another factor is the translator's competence in a specialized topic. Such as translators with experience in development, as I've mentioned before. The problem is that these suppliers will expect translation rates that are close to the prices charged by programmers. But programming rates are higher than the average translation rates. It's the same situation with other topics in which only a handful of translators specialize. 

So, even if the language itself is popular and relatively cheap to translate into on the whole, the rates may skyrocket for high-quality work in a very specialized field. A translation of the same size and into the same language may cost very differently, depending on whether it is an article on consumer behavior or instructions for a woodworking machine.

Want to learn more about rare language localization pricing? Book a free call with our team!

5. How to communicate with translators

Let's talk about establishing contact and how you communicate with candidates. What do you normally write to the translators and what do you pay attention to in their responses? Any specific advice about communication? 

If I was the one who found the candidate, I usually briefly describe the company and project for which I need a translator, in the first email.

If the candidate responded to my ad, I study their profile and CV, and then write a short email to discuss conditions if I'm happy with what I've seen. I often ask clarifying questions regarding experience, specializations and their role in specific translation projects.

Do you communicate with translators over email or in messengers? 

Here at Alconost, we prefer email. This ensures colleagues can see everything, there is a record of the correspondence, which is easy to search through. Some translators would prefer to communicate using messengers. I've noticed that translators of African languages prefer WhatsApp, while speakers of Asian languages prefer Skype. But we leave messengers only for extreme cases and emergencies. For example, if our emails aren't reaching the translator, we find out the reason via messenger and then return to email. 

6. Four ways to avoid selecting the wrong candidate

Alconost: Tips on translators selectionWhen we study a resume, we always take note of how many languages, dialects and fields a translator works in. Let's take two fictional resumes as an example. First resume: a niche specialist, who works with one language and a maximum of two dialects, and specializes in certain fields. Second resume: a 'universal' translator, who claims to know several languages and dialects at the native level and states that they're competent in a dozen fields, from translating poetry to software localization for heavy industry. The owner of the first resume definitely has a higher chance of reaching the next stage in Alconost's recruitment process than the owner of the second. 

Mentioning world-renowned brands as clients can also backfire. This can mean that it's the resume of a scammer: for example, this article even lists famous companies used by unscrupulous people to try and pass themselves off as in-demand, qualified professionals.

Less obvious red flags in a resume are online language courses. Of course, we won't automatically reject a specialist who includes them in their resume, but we'll check the candidate more thoroughly. I'll explain why. Online language courses often provide lots of useful information that can show a translator which areas to focus on, which resources and tools to use. But these courses can't compare to the fundamental linguistic training provided by good old universities, and certainly not to many years of real-world experience. Perhaps other recruiters think differently, but here at Alconost, we're not very impressed by certificates from online language schools.

The most concerning thing is when a candidate provides contradictory information about themselves. For example, one candidate claimed to be a freelancer but then used "we" when writing about himself. As it later turned out, this candidate wasn't a translator, but a representative of a translation agency. The problem here wasn't that he was an agency employee, but that he tried to hide this fact and was being disingenuous.


7. Testing translators

Do you test all potential translators or are there exceptions?

Everyone who reaches the testing stage.

What do you use to test the real translating ability? 

We check translating qualifications using a fragment of the project for which we need the translator. We negotiate with the client which fragment of the project can be used for testing. It is usually 250-300 words long. This amount won't take too much of the translator's time but it is long enough for the candidate to show their skills. What's important is that a translation of this fragment not be already available anywhere online. Since this is only the test translation and the translator hasn't yet completed the onboarding, which includes signing the NDA, we try to choose a text fragment that doesn't make it obvious which product it's referring to. 

Which criteria do you use for assessment and who checks the test task? 

We check the test translation using a specialized quality assurance system. If we already have a translator for this rare language, whom we're currently working with (this happens if we work with this language, but we need to expand the translator pool), then our regular translator checks the quality of the candidate's work. If we don't have a regular translator, candidates check each other, while another candidate can serve as the arbitrator in case of disagreements. 

Translation quality is measured as a percentage in the QA system, so perfect quality is 100%. The candidate is considered to have passed the test if the test quality is 98% or higher. The quality index is calculated automatically, based on how serious the errors are. Error severity is decided by the reviewer, but we make sure that they don't over- or underpenalize. 

We also often ask the reviewer to provide their overall impression of the test translation. In my practice, I remember one instance when the candidate made several critical, but repetitive errors, which were related to the specific terminology in this project. The reviewer was already working on the project and knew the terminology, while the candidate hadn't and didn't know the terms, but the reviewer couldn't approve a test containing errors. But it was obvious that if the translator learned the right terms, they could provide an excellent result. Which is what ended up happening. 

Plus, a quality score of 98%, which we consider the pass level, is a pretty high requirement. As far as I know, some translation agencies accept tests with a score of 95%. 

What if a candidate disagrees with the reviewer?

We always ask candidates, even those who successfully passed the test, to carefully study the test results, note the errors, and reply to the reviewer's comments. It is a constructive process when searching for translators into popular languages, but less so with rare languages. There can be emotional and prolonged arguments, and we have to soothe participants and ask them not to take the reviewer's comments personally. Vendor managers have to act as mediators to preserve a constructive atmosphere between candidates and help them listen to each other.

Want to learn more about localization quality assurance at Alconost? Book a free call with our team!

8. Interactive onboarding

You've spoken about all stages of the search except the last one — onboarding. Is it a topic that can be discussed publicly? There's probably corporate know-how involved… 

My colleagues and I try to ensure that the onboarding process doesn't turn into a stream of boring instructions. Right now, onboarding is a series of tutorials set out on Google forms and Trello cards, and a few instructional emails, which are sent to the translator at certain onboarding stages. We believe that thanks to the portioned provision of information, the translator develops a better understanding of our processes.

More specifically, we provide more information about our translation quality standards and communication during onboarding, as well as presenting our attitude to the work processes and deadlines. While the translator tells us more about themselves. For example, which translation tools they can use, which platforms they usually work in, the operating systems on their PC and smartphone. The last question may sound odd, but we have a reason for it. It can be important if the client requests localization quality testing (LQT) and the translator has to launch the application or game on their device.

The purpose of onboarding is to prepare the translator for working on a real project, so that they understand what is expected of them and what they need to do in a particular situation.

Alconost: Translators onboardingThe process of onboarding only takes a few days, so it can't really change an already formed specialist or make a person acquire some hard skills. But we can suggest some simple things that the translator might not have paid attention to before. We highlight these during onboarding: yes, these are minor details but they are important for us, please keep them in mind. 

Returning to the topic of rare languages. Can you list which rare languages Alconost actively works with at present? 

Yes, I checked right before our chat. We've already spoken about some of these languages, while others may not be familiar to a large audience, but here is a list of rare languages that we can translate into from English at any moment. 

























Order localization at Alconost

I can imagine how much work had to be done behind the scenes to make this possible! 

Thank you. This may sound obvious, based on our conversation, but I'd like to stress one thing. Finding translators is a system in Alconost: it's a process rather than an ad hoc scenario. We understand that it is a long game, and that a translator for whom we have no work today could become a vital member of our translator team tomorrow. That's why, even if the amount of work for a translator drops, we try to keep in touch with them, to maintain regular contact.

Alconost finds hidden gems amongst rare translators
Rare language translators require particular care. After all, if we have a need for this language again, a new search might take even longer if an existing contact remembers us as an agency that wastes time with questions but doesn't provide work.

Maintaining a good relationship is also useful when the search for translators hits a dead end. Then we can ask the translator for a recommendation. It may be that they've worked on another project with a colleague who speaks the very rare language that we're looking for. A localization company must have established ties in the translation community.

9. Why all this isn't a secret

Through our conversation, we've learned a lot of details that not all language service providers would be willing to share, I think. Are you afraid that clients who localize products in-house will copy your processes and turn to your agency less often? 

I'm not so sure that our system can be easily copied. Let's take the OKR methodology or Objectives and Key Results. It is described in detail in John Doerr's book, Measure What Matters, there is plenty of information about OKR, and there are special instruments for the practical application of OKR in companies. But not everyone who wishes to implement OKR is successful. It's not just about information access, but about how it is used, as well as whether a company is at a stage where it has a critical need for these changes.

I can't deny that a development company with in-house localization might consider borrowing a page from Alconost. Indeed, why not: Alconost has developed real-world methods of expanding the translator pool, our quality management system is ISO 9001:2015 certified, and we have a lot of positive client feedback. Why not create a similar system? I see two reasons. 

First, a development company will most likely have their own process for expanding the translator pool, so it's difficult to start again from scratch. The company will probably integrate our process into their existing one, which will lead to a hybrid system that certainly won't be the same as ours.

Alconost: Translation that fitsSecond, as a localization company that provides services to many different clients, we can provide translators with a variety of work and quite regularly. This strengthens translator loyalty and increases the chance that a translator will agree to accept an urgent project, do a good job, and finish by the deadline. Even a very large development company may not have the translation volumes to provide translators into certain languages with regular work. 

I've already explained why we don't look for new translators 'just in case'. For the same reason, a development company is unlikely to spend time and money on searching for, testing and onboarding suppliers who will ultimately just hang around. 

So, it's less about how difficult it would be to copy our system, but rather about whether it would make sense to copy it.

Want to learn more about localization into rare languages? Book a free call with our team!

Thank you for such an honest and in-depth conversation! 

I was glad to share my experience and the company's experience. I'll leave our email address: If a rare language translator is reading this article, please know that we're always happy to hear from you.


In March of 2022, Alconost joined the ranks of language service providers whose quality management system is ISO 9001:2015 certified. In addition, the company received certificates of compliance with standards of quality for translation, proofreading and localization QA, and post-edited machine translation (PEMT). 


We spoke with Stas Kharevich, localization team lead at Alconost, about what these certificates mean for the company and its customers.

Stas, tell us: is certification an important stage in the company's development?

It's a milestone, for sure. But I would say that in our case it's more of a formality. The fact is, when it comes to quality, here at Alconost we're very demanding of ourselves. And it so happened that the processes that we've long been cultivating and improving in the company turned out to meet ISO standards. It's been like that for a long time, as we've been explaining for many years to customers who were interested in our quality standards. Now we have the actual certificate, in addition to our explanations or instead of them.

Alconost has received three certifications. Can you tell us a little about what's special about each of them? 

The first certificate is for compliance with ISO 9001:2015. It's a fairly general certificate and pertains to the quality management system used by the company. In our case, the certificate confirms compliance with standards not only for localization and translation projects, but also for custom video production (particularly for apps and games) and marketing services, such as multilingual SEO and PPC management. 

The second certificate, ISO 17100:2015, is narrower and more industry-specific. It confirms compliance with requirements for provision of translation services, such as translation and localization of software, games, apps, and websites. This particular certificate is actually not the only one offered in the translation industry: there are several standards with different evaluation criteria. After all, different companies employ different processes; consequently, they need to be evaluated by different standards. 

What kind of workflow does the ISO 17100 certification imply? 

It presupposes a multi-stage process that is divided into phases, and this precisely corresponds to our own localization process. There is a preparatory phase — a kind of pre-production, when all the information on the project is systematized. This includes collection of all input data, the work of compiling a glossary, and setting up the project on a specialized translation platform. Then comes the translation phase: here we pay special attention to the context, ask the customer for any necessary clarification, and end by proofreading the translation. The third phase is in-country review: it involves getting feedback from users from the region for which the localization was intended, analyzing this feedback, and, if necessary, improving the current translation and developing rules or recommendations for the future. 

This certification has requirements not only for the process, but also those executing it. They must be native speakers, have a linguistic education, and have specialized translation experience in a particular niche. As I mentioned, we've been selecting translators according to these criteria for many years — not to become certified, but simply because these really are essential criteria for finding professionals in the field. 

Sounds logical. And what about the third certificate, ISO 18587-2017? 

It pertains exclusively to requirements for post-editing machine translation. Although modern machine translation engines (called neural machine translation engines, or NMT) can be trained and customized to produce acceptable translations on certain topics, they still cannot replace professional linguists. But you can combine the two: machine translation using a customized engine and its subsequent editing by a professional translator. The ISO 18587 certificate is what confirms that we know how to employ this process correctly.

Stas, why did you wait until now to get certified? The company's already 18 years old. 

In recent years we've been doing a lot of work with large companies, and working with them also involves a number of formalities, such as bureaucratic procedures like filling out tender documentation. Of course, nobody chooses a vendor solely on the basis of “do they have an ISO certificate,” but all other things being equal, not having a certificate can affect a customer's decision. In a nutshell, having certificates makes it easier to work with corporate customers.

Did you have to tweak anything in your processes in order to get certified? 

No, not a thing.

Should customers expect any changes now that Alconost is ISO-compliant? 

No. We've just been given documented proof that our processes are exactly what they should be.

Latest articles

Let’s say you’ve already decided that you definitely need an explainer video for your business. You may have even made up your mind about approximately what amount you can allocate for a business video production. But now you’re likely to be faced with a new question: what type of explanatory video does your business need?

There are two main types of explainers: live-action explainers and animated explainers. Today we will talk about animation vs. live action in detail, highlighting the pros and cons of these two different approaches to creating explainers.

To get a general idea of what these two types of videos can look like, watch the explainer video examples below.

This explanatory video is made using 2D animated graphics, with custom underwater creatures drawn from scratch.

This business video combines live-action scenes with animated graphics.

Live-Action Explainer Videos vs. Animated Explainers: What's the Best Fit for Your Business?

Alconost works with both animated explainer videos and live-action explainers. In our experience, 2D and 3D animation works great for simple explanations of complex ideas. Live-action videos, on the other hand, may be a good choice if your goal is to create an emotional connection between the business and your viewers. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Animated Explainer Videos

2D and 3D animated videos can involve techniques ranging from typography and infographics to animated characters who walk viewers through your product. Pros of animation include:

  1. Creative potential. Animation lets you literally bring anything you can imagine to life. Want the moon to transform into a coconut, which is then cracked and its contents poured into a branded glass? Nothing easier!
  2. Production speed. Animated video production can start the moment the script is approved. When shooting live-action video, however, additional steps are needed before production can start: you have to find a location, cast your actors, etc. These extra stages between script approval and the start of production aren’t necessary when you opt for animation alone.
  3. Smooth transitions between 2D and 3D techniques with no loss of continuity. If you need an explanatory video about a physical product, this method is a great choice, as it lets you present the product itself in realistic 3D scenes while highlighting its advantages in 2D scenes, which are cheaper and faster to produce. Not sure whether this combination of techniques really looks seamless? The example below proves it.

    This video combines 2D animation of texts, icons, and screenshots with 3D animation of the data storage devices it presents.

  4. Versatility. Sometimes people picture animation as looking cartoonish, but that's just a stereotype. Animation can be used to create not only entertaining videos but also business products, no matter what the niche. Whether healthcare or IT, education or e-commerce, engineering or financial services, animation can work for any business.


Are there any cons to an animated explainer video? Well, there's no denying the obvious:

  1. Animated videos offer creative freedom, but compared to a live-action video they may lack realism. This can be a disadvantage if your business needs to build trust through authenticity and transparency.
  2. Live-action videos featuring real people and their experiences can create a stronger emotional connection with viewers compared to animated videos, which may not evoke the same level of empathy from the audience.
  3. While animation is perfect for demonstrating complex or abstract ideas, it may not be as convincing as live-action video for showcasing institutions, facilities, and tangible products. So if your business is, say, a coffee bar franchise, a flower farm, or a candy factory, you might not want to limit yourself to animation alone.

Live-Action Explainer Videos

Live-action explainers can mean a full-budget set with actors, props, rented space, and sometimes royalty-free stock footage. But there's more than one way to produce a video with real people expressing real emotions. Keep reading to discover budget-friendly alternatives to costly professional filming. Here are a few advantages that live-action explainers can offer businesses:

  1. Trust building. Real people with authentic emotions seem to evoke more empathy and engagement than animated videos.
  2. Great for showcasing physical products or non-digital services. Live-action videos let you showcase your product in a natural environment with live actors, and they can enhance a client's emotional attachment to the product.
  3. Accessibility. Live-action videos don't always entail high production costs. Did you know that you can purchase professional instructions for how to shoot great footage on your own, which you can then use in your explainer video? Or you can select stock videos that fit your message and include them in your explainer. With these options, even start-ups with a limited budget can get a live-action video without breaking the bank!


Of course, producing live-action videos has its own quirks and downsides:

  1. Modifying a live action video can be challenging and costly once it has been filmed. Suppose you want to change a piece of clothing that a character is wearing. This is easy enough with an animated character, but not so easy with real people!
  2. Live-action videos may have a harder time depicting abstract or fantastic concepts, such as ants carrying your brand of candy on their backs.

    Speaking of ants, check out this business video that features ants driving a track, fixing a pipe, and eating sandwiches.

    The production technique here, obviously, is animation, which can easily depict things that are hard to convey in reality.

  3. If you want to use royalty-free stock video, the price of your explainer video project will remain uncertain until you decide on which fragments to use, as the cost of stock videos can vary drastically.
  4. Animated videos can be made more visually appealing by employing creative techniques to hold the viewer's attention, such as transforming one object in the frame into another in the blink of an eye. With physical reality there's no such luxury.

    Note the transformation of the typography in the opening scene of the video below—an explainer for a security camera app.

With animation there’s no need to show the actual electronic devices: the idea is conveyed clearly without them.

All that being said, live-action and animated videos are not two rival opposites: they compliment each other perfectly. Not only can you combine 2D and 3D animation in a single video; you can combine live action with animation, too.

Animation for live-action videos can take the form of credits, in-frame text, animated infographics, and much more.

Have a look at the animated parrot in this live-action video!

Although the live-action format is naturally very limited by the rules of reality, with a skilled writing team and a customized approach you can get your message eloquently conveyed no matter which technique you select.

Animation vs. Live Action: Cost

In terms of pricing, it is important to note that the cost of an animated explainer video is easier to estimate than that of a live action explainer video. We talked about the details of explainer video pricing in a previous article; you can check it out here.

Summing it all up

When it comes to live action vs animation explainers, it would be a big mistake to say that there's some battle going on between the two, or that we already have a winner. Both are potent tools for product presentation, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Finally, check out the video below.

The video features character animation and seems like a fully animated explainer right up until the end, where the founder of the service being presented makes an appearance in person.

Whether you choose animation, live action, or a combination of the two, Alconost is there to help! At Alconost we'll work with you to create a great business presentation that you'll be proud to show your potential clients.


As the market demand for cloud-based software continues to increase, competition between SaaS companies is heating up as well. Product and marketing teams are challenged with the question, "How can we reach and satisfy our audience more effectively?” And while you may consistently hit KPIs for your single-language product, it’s hard to exaggerate the massive market opportunity you get when your software offers multiple language versions. 

Since SaaS applications range from CRMs to fintech solutions, from B2B to G2E business models, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach for localizing SaaS into new languages. There are however certain common tendencies and pitfalls that we’ve observed over 19 years of helping tech companies to win over international customers. We believe our expertise will save you time and money when your SaaS product is ready to enter new countries. Read on!

Key considerations you should take into account in SaaS localization

UI layout

SaaS products have a fair number of screens, buttons, toggles, icons, and other visual elements for users to interact with. Consequently, localizing the user interface becomes as important as translating the text itself. 

One language that traditionally poses challenges for Western UI designers is Arabic. This language is among the twenty most popular languages for localization, with 358 million speakers in 25 countries and regions. Being a right-to-left language, Arabic presupposes a different visual pattern and way of perceiving information. The linear representation of progress and time are reversed: for example, images that demonstrate events are ordered from right to left.

But it would be a mistake to simply mirror every single element in your UI. RTL and LTR language cultures still share some common ways of presenting information. For example, the majority of users are right-handed regardless of their country of origin—that’s why cup handles would be placed to the right when using a cup icon, and clock hands would still rotate clockwise. Logos also remain unflipped, because they should be recognized the same way across countries.

There are other pitfalls when it comes to designing a multilingual interface. For example, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean characters are quite difficult to read at font sizes that are perfectly legible for Latin and Cyrillic languages such as French, Italian, and Ukrainian. If a SaaS product has been developed with internationalization in mind (no hardcoded strings, flexible design, etc.), issues like this are easily resolved.  

Price localization

No matter how many prospects enter your marketing funnel, it’s not until they actually subscribe to your software that they become your actual customers. With this in mind, have you made the purchase process itself as seamless as possible? 

The most basic thing you can do is to display prices using the local currency. You can allow users to select their country and currency on your website, but a better option is to automate currency display using geolocation technology based on the IP address. This frees prospects from needless additional actions or deliberation, and saves their attentional resources for actually making the decision to purchase. Less pain for them, more gain for you! 

A more far-reaching form of price localization is to adjust your product pricing based on local customers’ purchasing power, perceived value of your software solution, and market saturation in the target region. This strategy ensures you don't price yourself out of the market. In some countries, sale and distribution of pirated goods is a common practice. Research shows that netizens in specific markets (even some markets that IT entrepreneurs tend to deem profitable) don’t mind using pirated software if the legal version is outside their budget. This means that customers in these countries are more sensitive to software pricing, and it makes sense to tailor your company’s pricing strategy to levels that the locals are used to. 


Netflix is a great example of geographical pricing. The company tailors its pricing to the purchasing power of each country. The least expensive country for subscribing to their Premium plan is Pakistan: in 2022, it cost citizens $4.74. Switzerland and Liechtenstein are the costliest countries in which to enjoy Netflix: the company charges Swiss and Liechtensteiners $25.47 for their Premium library of almost 6,000 movies and TV shows. 


Marketing strategy localization

To convert abroad like you do at home, you need to localize marketing touchpoints as well, and not just for landing pages or newsletter content. Here's a brief overview of what marketing localization really means to a SaaS product team.

Localizing your buyer persona

Ideally, you need to make sure your packaging and positioning are aligned to the buyer personas of the countries you’re entering. You need to understand who they are, what their routine looks like, and what issues they're facing. For example, what are the job titles and responsibilities of your prospective foreign customers? Titles for the same job description differ across countries. In some markets, for instance, the professionals you call Performance Marketing Managers are known as Targetologists, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When modeling your international clients’ work day, keep in mind that slight differences in the role structure may mean slight differences in daily duties and the challenges that your clients encounter that affect their behavior, pain points, and purchasing decisions. 


You can think of buyer persona localization as market segmentation at scale. This helps to tailor your global campaigns to the ideal customer profile, attract more qualified leads, and consequently maximize your return on investment.

Localizing messaging

Consider the sociocultural context in which your prospects are living. Your messaging should at least conform to your audience’s social and cultural norms, laws, and religion, or—better yet—resonate with them. 

In conservative societies, gender and sexual diversity themes in marketing communications may not be perceived positively. Some cultures are hierarchical and generally more formal (China, Japan), and have rules that govern interactions in the business setting. When you build your communication strategy for these cultures, you may need to adjust your brand voice a bit: for example, be careful with calling people by their first name, informal forms of address, and general levels of emotion. 

Localizing marketing channels

What sources of information do your international clients use? Where do they text? What is the social media landscape in the target market?

For example, widespread Western platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are blocked in China. To text each other, the Chinese use platforms called Wechat and Tencent QQ. Instead of Twitter and YouTube, they use micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo and video-sharing platform Youku Tudou. Despite owing its origin to Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok is blocked in China; instead, people there use another short video hosting platform called Douyin. 


While WhatsApp is considered the world's most popular messaging app, it isn't always the top choice for chatting in particular regions. In Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand, users message each other using a platform called LINE. South Koreans widely use the messaging app Kakaotalk, and Telegram is the number one choice in countries such as Russia, Uzbekistan, and Brazil.

Localizing keywords

What words and phrasing will locals use when they search for your solution on Google? Keyword research is needed not only for each language, but also for each country

  • Real-life example: As a service provider that operates in multiple regions, we’ve encountered challenges with multilingual keyword promotion, too! In Spain, the word “localization” (localización) means geographical localization, or tracking. When Spanish clients google services for cultural and linguistic adaptation, they use the term “translation project manager/provider/company” (gestor de proyectos de traducción). The French use the word “localization” for games, and they look up “video game localization” (localisation jeux video). But for other technology products like on-premise and cloud-based software, the query in French is “translation” (traduction).

Localizing timing

Localize your holiday marketing campaigns so that they match local seasonal events, carnivals, and holidays. These are a great way to boost revenue, if used wisely! 

Emails are another go-to marketing channel for SaaS businesses where timing is critical. Most emails are opened within one hour after delivery. If you send an email from San Francisco at noon, it reaches Paris at 9 PM. Your French subscribers might see it the morning of the next business day, but all the other emails that have piled up overnight will be competing for their attention. 

Localizing your scaling strategy

Here, once again, you have to consider local purchasing power, buying behavior, and the economic context of the target country. Are the customers in your target market ready to pay more for a higher-end product with better functionality, considering their income level? In other words, will you be upselling your Standard plan customers to a Premium subscription, or should you instead focus on cross-selling or expanding your base of Standard plan users? 

User support in local languages

Because it’s easy for SaaS users to switch service providers by merely canceling their subscription, your goal is to maximize the value of their purchase and keep them consistently satisfied as they use your software. Multilingual user support and even localized tutorial videos will help you to prevent drop-offs in the event of user errors and general questions regarding how to use your product. 

  • The most effective way to ensure personalized case-by-case support is to hire native-speaking agents who operate within the target country’s time zone.
  • If this option is outside your budget, consider implementing automated solutions like multilingual chatbots, or AI-powered self-service assistants. 
  • Another option is to create a comprehensive multilingual knowledge base that includes help documentation, frequently asked questions, how-to guides, and other support materials.

Choosing SaaS localization vendor: 3 essential factors to consider for quality results

1. Check the vendor’s rating on different platforms

Your prospective localization vendor’s rating on a B2B review platform gives you a free and unbiased glimpse of what it’s like to be their customer. We recommend the following websites for B2B tech service insights:

Another popular B2B review platform, Clutch, annually announces their Top Global Business Services Providers, where they shortlist 15 companies per category (including Translation) as the top-performing industry leaders.

2. Choose by niche expertise

Your ideal SaaS localization team will consist of native-speaking linguists with expertise in your industry, and a localization project manager who sets the deadlines, monitors the processes, and keeps the lines of communication open and clear between you and the translators. 

You get the best of all worlds when the localization vendor provides you with translators who understand your technology (such as software), the concept of register (informal friendly narrative, business-like tone of voice, etc.), and your particular SaaS niche (property management, social media analytics, CRM, etc.). While this combination may sound too good to be true, it’s actually quite common for a vendor with 500+ translators in their pool to source the perfect team for you.

3. Buy a process, not a single service

When you decide to outsource localization to a vendor, you're no longer “buying” just a team of professional translators—you're buying the seamless integration of localization into your production workflow. When automating your business processes, here are some questions to clarify with your prospective localization service provider:

  • What translation management system do they use? How flexible are they with their toolkit?
  • If you already have a business ecosystem, are they able to integrate the localization process into it?
  • How do they ensure continuous localization for frequently updated projects?

Putting together a dedicated team is half the localization battle; implementing an effective toolkit for productive collaboration is the other half. Translation management systems often provide tools for reporting issues, which come in handy when you need to request corrections to the translation, or if you just have a general question. Translators can also use them to make their own comments, express concerns, or ask for additional context. This way, both the vendor’s team and your own can keep a finger on the pulse of each step of the localization journey. 


Once your growing SaaS moves beyond a single locale, it’s essential to choose a vendor that is able to deliver timely localization of frequent updates. Change is an integral part of a growing business—you receive user feedback, you analyze user behavior, and you make improvements to your product. To play the long game of customer retention, you need to make sure your international customer base has access to the same benefits as users of the original language version. So be sure to look into how your vendor handles continuous localization of ongoing projects.

Long-term collaboration with a localization vendor needs to provide you with a single convenient place to translate a website, an interface, technical documentation, or even record a multilingual voice-over for your demo videos. Choose your service provider carefully. When in doubt, here’s a little lifehack: place a small test translation order. That way you’ll get to experience the vendor’s methodology and tools with no commitment, and see whether they're the right match for your SaaS solution's current and future needs.

How much does an animated explainer video cost? This is the question you’ll inevitably ask when planning an explainer video production. Yes, the final cost of an explainer video depends on several factors, such as the overall concept in general and the complexity of graphics and animation, just to name a few. But if you’re ready to create an animated explainer video for your business and are curious about the average figures, you have come to the right place!

Today, we’re going to do the math and look at what the cost of making an animated explainer video depends on, at least when you select Alconost as your animated explainer video production company.

3 Factors That Drive the Cost of Animated Explainer Videos

We at Alconost distinguish 3 main factors that determine explainer video pricing. Among them are:

1) Quantity of scenes

When determining how much to charge for an explainer video, many companies calculate their price based on the total length of the video. However, we approach it differently, by counting the number of scenes. After all, the main task of the selling video is to sell, not overload the viewer with information, isn’t it? On average, a scene is 3-5 events in a single setting; changing the setting means the beginning of a new scene. 

Curious how long a scene could last? The average duration of a scene is between 5 and 15 seconds, with opening and closing scenes closer to the lower time limit, and the scenes in the middle closer to the upper limit. To help you imagine how many scenes an average explainer can consist of, here’s a hint: a 90-second video usually has from 7 to 13 scenes of different complexity. 

2) Animation complexity

Not only the quantity of scenes, but also their complexity affects the price of the video. The simpler the scenes, the lower the total explainer video cost will be. Complex scenes require a more detailed approach, such as drawing sophisticated graphics or even modeling objects or environments in 3-D.

2-D animation is generally considered to be the easiest, fastest and cheapest animation type. Choosing 3-D animation results in a more costly production in comparison with a 2-D video, not least because of labor-intensive design work and time-consuming rendering steps.

3) Extra assets

Sometimes clients ask for "extra" options, which certainly affects how much an animated explainer video costs. This can be creating a music track from scratch, or detailed 3-D model development, or drawing unique characters or environments. 

If you don’t want to splash out, think of whether you actually need these extras, or if they are only embellishments. In other words, would these assets help to make your video a better sales pitch, illustrate your product better, or increase viewer engagement?

From our experience, you might not need extra assets in the majority of cases. However, if you need a video to promote a physical, tangible product, 3-D modeling is an option to consider to vividly showcase it, while a detailed environment or characters can support the story you tell in a convincing manner.

Live Action Explainers

Live action videos use real footage and actors to explain a product or concept and motivate viewers to try it. Undoubtedly, film equipment rentals, location fees, actors and crew salaries are costly. But the good news is that actual shooting with all the bells and whistles listed above is not the only way to create a live-action explainer video! 

First, you can use stock videos that fit your topic and create the right mood, and insert these live scenes into your animated video. Second, you can get professional advice on how to shoot a video suitable for business needs, record it on your own, and use this film as one of your assets for a future video.

The animated explainer video price you’re looking for

In the table below you’ll find rough estimates of production costs at Alconost for animated explainer videos. 

As we mentioned earlier, duration isn’t actually the determining factor when it comes to the cost of animated explainer videos produced at Alconost, but you can use the length as a reference to get the price range in broad strokes.

Please note that the numbers below are ballpark figures. Video production is done with custom pricing at Alconost, and your project cost will be calculated with your requirements towards your future video taken into account. But if you are wondering about an average cost for animated explainer video production, the figures below can be helpful.

The prices listed below include script writing, storyboarding, animation, voiceover recording and sound design.

Explainer Video Type Length Price Range, US dollars
Animated Explainer up to 60 seconds 1,800 - 2,500
  60-90 seconds 2,200 - 3,300
  90-120 seconds 2,800 - 4,500
Here you can find more specific numbers on animated explainer video pricing and see how the costs vary for 2-D and 3-D scenes.
Live-Action Explainer The price depends on the origin of the live-action scenes in the explainer video; check the options by clicking this link.


Explainer videos can be created in different ways, each with varying degrees of complexity and cost. While live shooting and sophisticated animation can significantly affect the production budget, remember that the cost of the video does not necessarily determine its effectiveness in selling your product.

The most important factor is that your explainer video clearly communicates the key benefits of your product or service to the viewer. Even with a tight budget, an effective explainer video can still be created and help to promote your business.

Figuring out how much an animated explainer video costs for your product is easy to do. Send us a request and get a preliminary calculation for free!

Wrapping up

Hopefully, this article sheds some light on explainer video pricing, and if you're eager to create an animated video for your business, we're here to help!

Whether you need a 3-D animated explainer, an easy-to-watch 2-D animated video, or a live-action explanatory video, we at Alconost know how to make the video work in your favor. We take care of everything from the original script to the voice-over and help you avoid superfluous expenses without skimping on quality. Contact us to order an explainer video for your business!