What is the difference between Localization, Globalization and Internationalization?
Localization is the modification of a product or content to the language or other specification of a particular locale. The process of localization involves changing content to align to what obtains in the region of the target audience. This can include converting currencies and units of measurement and changing the presentation of dates, phone numbers and addresses. This could also mean changing the designation of a cultural group or country for political reasons; for instance, many residents of Taiwan will resent being referred to as “Chinese,” preferring instead the appelation “Taiwanese.”
Localization can also involve alterations to graphical content; most images are of a culture-specific nature, and therefore need to be slightly altered (or completely replaced) in order to seem natural to the intended viewer. The kind of clothing being worn by people in a stock photo, for instance, can immediately tie the content to a specific region of the world. Likewise, a color with positive connotations in one culture may carry negative connotations in a different one. Symbols and icons are another graphical element that are far from universal and may therefore require replacement.
Localization also involves certain aspects of language that are not strictly covered by translation. For instance, idiomatic expressions and proverbs—if not omitted from the source material from the start—will require replacement by a comparable one from the target destination, assuming a suitable correlative actually exists.
In summary, Localization therefore aims to give a product the feeling that it was produced solely for the target audience, irrespective of culture and language.
Competition—both domestic and international—has motivated many companies to begin targeting global audiences; for these companies then it is imperative that their products (especially in the case of interactive software and applications) are compatible with their global consumers’ operating systems, web browsers or other local specifications.
For the most part this process revolves around the translation into the local language of any textual components that the user is likely to interact with, including menus, toolbars and dialogue boxes. Globalization also involves the various ways in which onscreen text is to be sorted or displayed.
Because this process is mostly linguistic, it makes little sense to recreate applications from scratch every time they need to be prepared for a specific market. Instead, the application to be globalized should initially be coded in such a way that text can easily be replaced without affecting its underlying (non-textual) components.
Globalization is therefore a process that is used to address the challenges of logistics that an organization faces when it expands its content and assets into new markets with different perspectives and cultural beliefs.
The processes involved in globalization include carrying out research and identifying global markets, validating and selecting these markets, formalizing global business requirements, translating into the target audience language and putting their culture into consideration while aligning it and getting support for internalization.
Internationalization involves planning for and implementing products and services such that their localization for the target audience and culture will be easy. A blend of international expertise and technicality is needed to pull this off. New systems are deployed in the process while the ones in use are reengineered. Internationalization helps to ensure that when you roll out your services in the selected target countries, there is cost efficiency in the way you do business.
Internalization processes include making illustrations for documents whereby text is easy to change to another language, creating space in user interfaces in case there is a need for more space during translation into another language, making web site graphics and print such that their translation is not expensive, using examples with global meaning, using tools that are able to give support to international character sets and making sure that there is data space in software so that messages can be translated from a source language with single-byte character codes to the language of the target audience language that has to make use of multiple-byte character codes.
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