In today’s world, internationalization and localization go hand in hand with software and app design. They are two high-value operations for companies to open up to the global expansion of their software.
The online world might seem to be characterized by its lack of concern for cultural differences and borders. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. There is a pressing need for digital products and services to adapt to each location.
There are studies that confirm this intuition, such as the CSA survey which confirmed that 60% of the buying public hardly ever shops on websites that are only in English.
And this context produces services specifically devoted to adapting digital products to different markets – which is precisely what internationalization and localization do. Here’s what they’re all about.
Internationalization and localization: what they are and what they do
You might call internationalization and localization two sides of the same coin. They share the same goal, which is to make digital products (apps, software platforms or websites for instance) succeed and be functional for users in different languages and markets. Developing any multilingual digital product requires two phases: internationalization and localization.
- Internationalization refers to the set of operations that during the design phase of a digital service or product aim to make it easy for it to be adapted (localized) afterwards to different markets and languages. Internationalization is all the preparation that has to be done before localizing a product/service in another language.
- Localization covers all the initiatives undertaken to adapt that digital product or service to a specific market and its consumers, adapting it not only to the language but also that market’s cultural preferences.
The internationalization of a product or service can be seen as important in itself, but it’s really just a preliminary step, albeit an important one, to localization. At SeproTec we know that the combination of internationalization and localization makes sure your content stands out and significantly expands its sales potential locally.
Examples of internationalization and localization
Software engineers and product developers are responsible for ensuring successful internationalization. Some examples of internationalization include:
- Developing a website that allows writing from right to left and from left to right, as well as top to bottom, to cover different languages’ needs
- Generating codebase able to show users different text depending on their location and language preferences
- Designing buttons, navigation, designs, and other user interface elements to leave room for text expansion. When you translate English to French the text can grow by up to 15%, while languages such as Finnish, Dutch, and German represent what in other languages would be a sequence of smaller words as a single long word
Localization is done by the experts, whose tasks include:
- Translating texts and numbers (adapting figures and currencies to the target country)
- Adapting design elements according to a market’s distinctive features (for example, if internet connection is slower in one country than in another the elements that take a long time to load should be simplified and means of payment should be adapted to a particular country’s preferences)
- Adjusting content in line with cultural differences to sidestep potential conflict or misunderstandings that might affect a company’s branding (e.g., Western companies often have to revise the content of their messages before doing business in China).
Difference between translation and localization
The above examples capture the main difference between translation and localization: localization services are not simply about modifying a text, they go a step further to ensure your digital product is successful in markets with different languages and cultural sensitivities.
In other words, the job of adapting the text of a website as such is considered part of translation services, whereas localization includes translation and opens up a multitude of additional fronts (from adjusting the use of symbols, unit and currency conversion, and date formats to adapting texts to the target country’s legal requirements).
You might say that translation adapts the message and localization allows you to build an experience.
Localization services: what they offer
Today, the top two localization services are:
- Website, software, and app localization: includes high touch processes such as interface and text translation, adaptation to the product’s end-market culture, and software testing to confirm proper functionality.
- E-learning localization: this service allows companies and independent providers to access international audiences, adapting messages to the learner’s language and location by making adjustments to all systems (platform, apps for devices, LMSs, multimedia content, gamification, etc.)
- Multimedia localization: Dubbing, subtitling, voice-over, and localization of audiovisual content are some of localization services most in demand lately due to the worldwide increase in the consumption of this kind of content.
Internationalization and localization work together to ensure the successful roll-out of a digital business in different markets and contexts.