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Internationalization vs Localization - What is the difference?

Internalization is a crucial part of the Localization process.

Although there are many variations on the precise definition of localization and internationalization, some consensus is achieved.

Internationalization focuses on preparation of the content for the process of localization, making it “localization friendly”. Localization focuses on full translation and adaptation of content to a different language, cultural or regional context.

What is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a product for different markets, to different languages or to a different cultural context. Localization is not a word-to-word translation of text, it is a process of forming authentic multilingual content based on source material. Localization goes beyond translating words and commits to translating the meaning.

The goal of localization is to create a faithful version of the product that can be enjoyed fully by customers in their native language and in accordance with their cultural background.

This process is more than a simple translation of words and grammar, it focuses on translating the meaning and nuances behind the text.

Localization includes adaptation of visual adaptation of elements such as symbols and colors; how information such as measurements and currency is presented or for example, which date format should be used

Localization Process

Localization is not a one-shoe-fits-all type of process, as each company or even product can have their own needs and quirks that demand a step more or step less. However, generally speaking, there are several phases that can be distinguished:

Internationalization (i18n): includes preparation of the product for localization, ensuring world-readiness of the product and enabling the software for easy localization without changing the source code.

Localization (l10n): adaptation of the product to specified locales

Quality Assurance: whether you opt for Machine Translation, CAT or human translators for your localization process, quality assurance should be a must in your localization process.


What is Internationalization?

Internationalization is the process of adapting a digital product prior to localization. Although there are many variations to what Internationalization can include, the majority of sources agree that the product of Internationalization is software ready for localization.

This often includes ensuring world-readiness and localizability of the software. It is crucial to remember that the process of Internationalization should be an integral step in the overall development process and not an after-thought.

In software development, internationalization means removing hard-coded text and visual elements. They are put in a separate database or in a language resource file - one or several for each locale.

The source code then contains instructions to include text strings from resource files, allocated by ID or a value name.

Similar approach can be made for visual elements (ex. pictures), where the code will insert a corresponding picture depending on the selected locale. A properly internationalized source code can be used for all translations. The product of good Internationalization process is a product that is easy to localize to as many locales as possible (ideally - localizable to any locale). This can include everything from enabling use of Unicode to support of bidirectional and vertical texts, including support for different time and date formats, currencies etc.


What is the difference between Internationalization and Localization?

Internationalization and localization are two sides of the same coin, and definitely two essential elements to developing a proper continuous translation process.

  1. The process of internationalization ends with a product whose content is easy to localize - especially the design and text. The product of the internationalization process is a world-ready, localizable product.

  2. The process of localization comes after the internationalized product is adapted to different locales. The product of localization is a multilingual and fully culturally adapted product.

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