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I develop a mobile app that displays information about the bus system in one U.S. city. The de facto official language is English, but there are many students from other countries—China and South Korea, especially—and I’d like to internationalize and localize my app, both to make it more appealing to non-native English speakers and because I want the experience of localizing an app.

I’m a little hazy on where I should draw the line between strings that should be localized and those that should stay in English. The bus system itself uses only English names. It was easy for me to decide not to localize the stop names: there are thousands of them, meaning that translations would be expensive, and moreover most of the stop names are proper nouns that wouldn’t necessarily have Chinese translations (for example), making localization pointless.

Since the stops will only ever be displayed in English, is it reasonable that the app’s list of all stops should only ever use English collation?

The bus system uses colors to name most of its routes. It would be possible to translate these, but should I? The sign on the front of the bus is only ever going to display the English name of the route. With that in mind, is there any benefit to my app displaying a translated name that the user will just have to mentally convert back into English anyway? (I’m leaning toward “no”.)

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    I myself have only had one two-month work experience in another country, but I'd expect that a foreign student can handle the language of the country they visit well enough to get by, and furthermore that having to deal with it is part of the appeal. In other words, what's the point of localizing this app for foreign students? – user7043 Aug 4 '13 at 21:52
  • @delnan Mostly as a learning exercise, really. – bdesham Aug 5 '13 at 12:31

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