ABC of Internationalization, Localization & Globalization

It is important to understand the software globalization development cycle and in that, the most important process is ‘internationalize first, then localize’.

Most of us think about translation and languages when we hear about Internationalization or Localization. Instantly, an individual would think, “I don’t know the language, now how can I develop or test?” They are scared to imagine software testing in Japanese, Chinese, or German. But, the fact is that you do not need understanding of the language (word by word) to validate internationalization.

Here are some fundamentals on Internationalization, Localization, Translation, and Globalization.

Internationalization is an engineering and design aspect for creating product for a world-ready market. The Internationalization process starts from the beginning of product design and lasts till the product is released to the global market. ‘Internalization-ready’ means that an English product can run on any foreign language OS. This also means that all the strings, resources, and text that is shown to the user is extracted from the source code and ready for translation. The product can be completely internationalized without translating to any other language. Internationalization is frequently abbreviated to i18n (where 18 stand for the number of letters between the ‘i’ and the ‘n’ in internationalization).

Localization means that a product meet the local needs such as legal requirements, and financial requirements that differ in other countries. Localization includes translation of user-interface strings, adjusting culturally-sensitive elements and any other task required to make the product usable in a particular language. It is as simple as a German application can run on a German OS. A locale is typically identified by language and region identifiers, such as US English, Austrian, German, and so on. This also means that messages are in their own localized language, and the user can input text/names, addresses, dates, and other data in the same way that they would put them down on paper. Localization is frequently abbreviated to L10N (where 10 stand for the number of letters between ‘L’ and the ‘n’ in Localization).

Translation is the process of converting words from a source language to the target language. Domain and language expertise is required to do the translation of software. Translation is frequently abbreviated to T9N (where 9 stand for the number of letters between ‘T’ and the ‘n’ in Translation).

Globalization is abbreviated to G11N (where 11 stand for the number of letters between ‘G’ and ‘N’ in Globalization). A product is globalized only when it is completely internationalized and localized, and can support multiple locales. In other words, G11N = i18N + L10N.