On November 17th, 2017, Slack released their Japanese version.
The WOVN.io team has been a heavy user of the English version of Slack since our founding; it’s our main internal communication tool.
Today we are going to take a look at the Japanese version of Slack and see how it stacks up against other localizations.
What is ‘Localization’?
‘Localization’ refers to the process of making a product or service that is initially intended for one country available to another, not only by translating the content but also by accommodating the country’s culture, law and customs.
Slack’s localization: the details
At TechCrunch Tokyo 2017, held in November, Slack’s co-founder and CTO, Cal Henderson mentioned it took about one year to finish the Japanese version and the result is a well-thought-out localized tool.
One of the features unique to the Japanese Slack is the “送信” (sou-shin) or “Send” button. In the original version, pressing the Enter key will send your message. In the Japanese one, however, you will need to press “送信” to do so, by default.
Henderson explained the reason they added this feature was based on other Japanese chat tools; so it would fit Japanese people and how they would use Slack.
The impression that Japanese people are cautious might have led the Slack team to decide to add this feature. However, many might find it strange, because other widely used chat tools in Japan don’t always have a “send” button. LINE and Facebook Messenger, for example, have one on the smartphone app, but not on the computer versions because the Enter key serves the same purpose as the Send button. The Send button also appears in the English-version smartphone app of Slack.
On a side note, you can turn off the “send” button in the settings.
Henderson also pointed out that they want Slack to be a fun communication tool. If you take a look at the Japanese translations, you can tell that humor is something that Slack takes seriously.
The sign-up page
The first page you see when getting started with Slack is the sign-up page.
Even if a product is localized, complicated sentences or untranslated text might discourage users from using it. Just as the Slack team mentioned how thorough their preparation has been, the sign-up page was no exception.
Something that caught our attention is the job/field selection when asked what kind of company we are. One option is ‘消費財/Sho-hi zai/’, or consumer goods in English. The English wording refers to clothing and food, goods that are used or consumed fast. If you look it up in the dictionary or check it with machine translation, “消費財” (Sho-hi zai) turns out to be the correct translation. It is common in Japan, however, to either have separate items named “食品・飲料” (Food and Drinks) and “アパレル” (Apparel) or have one general type “メーカー” (Maker or Manufacturer).
Also, a short message about password security is left untranslated. The reason behind it might be that the message is simple enough for Japanese people to understand or be able to guess what the message says. In fact, people might not find this situation particularly strange, translating every text isn’t necessary.
Did you notice that Slack displays a message while it’s loading?
Handy tips and tricks or messages are displayed at random. The English and Japanese versions have the same ‘handy tips and tricks’, but each has different ‘messages from Slack’ that are culture-friendly.
Handy tips and tricks
After the tip, Slack in English signs with “your friends at Slack” while in Japanese ‘Slackのヒトコト’ appears, which means “a message or comment from Slack”. “Magic!” at the end of the message is translated into ‘おススメです！’, which literally means ‘our recommendation!’.
How would Japanese people have felt if those messages had been translated word for word: “あなたのお友達のSlack(your friends of Slack)” or “魔法！(Magic!)”? By adapting to the Japanese audience, Slack was able to provide straightforward feature explanations, delivering the same, detailed messages as in English. Kudos to Slack!
Messages consist of Japanese proverbs or lines from popular animes. You can’t help but chuckle at some of these very Japanese-original messages.
ーJapanー (The approximate English translations follow Japanese. )
- 笑う門には福きたる – これ、ほんと! ‘Laugh and grow fat – This is totally true!’
- ありがとう ＋ 笑顔 ＝ 最強 ‘Thank you + smile = invincible’
- 三人寄れば文殊の知恵 ‘Four eyes see more than two. ’
- いつもお疲れさまです ‘Good work, as always.’
- 定期的にちょっと一息 ‘Take a break every once in a while.’
- With Love, From San Francisco
- ‘Please use Slack in the right place at the right time. ’
- 失敗なんて人生の味のモト ‘Failure is the ingredient of life’
- できることからコツコツと ‘Start with what you can do. One step at a time.’
- なんとかなるもんです ‘Everything will be alright.’
Let’s look at the English version:
- Always get plenty of sleep, if you can.
- Please consider the environment before printing this Slack.
- Please enjoy Slack responsibly.
- What good shall I do this day?
- Have a great day at work today.
- More “holy moly!”
- Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.
- You’re here! The day just got better.
- The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
- Thank you for using Slack. We appreciate it!
- You look nice today.
- We’re all in this together.
- We like you.
- Be cool. But also be warm.
- Alright world, time to take you on!
Since Slack’s UI has always been simple and easy to use, it was already very successful in Japan, even before the localized release.
Slack did not carry out any big re-designing for their Japanese localization, although there might be some points they can look at. For example, Japanese words look bigger than English due to Japanese being full-width and English half-width. But this is not a problem in terms of its UI and UX.
Localizing other things
The job is not with over with product localization. What if, for instance, you sign up on a Japanese website and receive a registration mail in English? Link destinations should be Japanese pages, too. How about customer support? How would you feel if you called the number displayed with the Japanese message ‘お電話はこちらに(Call us at this number)’ and the person on the other side of the line answers in English?
When we signed up for the Japanese version of Slack, the automated email we received was in Japanese. From the title to the footer, everything was translated. You might find it natural to get an email in Japanese, but it is not rare for some localized services to send you a mass, automated email written in the original language.
The e-mail we talked about above has a link in the footer named ‘Slack公式ブログ(Slack Official Blog)’, but this blog is only available in English. Slack might open a Japanese blog in the near future.
Slack Offical Blog：https://slackhq.com/
The Support page is available in Japanese, English (US), Germany, Spanish and French.
Slack constantly needs to update information every time a new feature is released. We are assuming that they have a collaborative system that can instantly handle updates for 5 languages.
Slack Help Center：https://get.slack.help/hc/ja
You can contact Slack through:
- Contact form
A user would probably feel comfortable contacting Slack through the contact form or email, but some might be worried about making a call because it’s a U.S. phone number. How will they communicate if an English speaker picks up the phone? How much will an international phone call cost? Ideally, perhaps, later on, setting up a Japanese-supported call center listing a Japanese phone number could be helpful. Another way to handle this issue is to hide the U.S. phone number on the Japanese support page if they don’t offer Japanese support over the phone.
Slack’s Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are only for English-speaking users. Social Media is big in Japan; in order to create followers, breaking down the language barriers is a must.
At WOVN.io, we have created a page for Japanese and English.
Several steps need to be followed to fully localize. Slack did an amazing job, having worked not only on translation but also paying attention to the details rooted in cultural differences. You can tell how meticulous they were by taking a look at their localized advertisements on their Facebook page.
If you choose to expand your business and be successful targeting a particular country, you might consider localizing your marketing, in addition to the product itself.
Slack is a tool the WOVN.io team uses every day. What do you think about their localized versions?
Additionally, if you are a company from overseas looking into entering the Japanese market, let us know, we would love to help!
WOVN.io is a website localization service; it enables you to multilingualize your website in less than 5 minutes without the help of a developer. For questions or comments, please click here.