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What is Software Localization?

Software localization is the process of adapting a product for different markets, to different languages or to a different cultural context. Localization (l10n) is not a word-to-word translation of text, it is a process of forming authentic multilingual content based on source material. Software localization goes beyond translating words and commits to translating the meaning.

The goal of software 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.

Basics of Software Localization

Simply put, software localization is the process of adapting a product from source language into a specific locale. A locale refers to a set of parameters for displaying information such as: language code, region or country code, number format settings, time and date settings, currency formats etc…

Software localization includes visual adaptation of design and navigation elements, such as symbols, colors, menus etc.

With software localization, the goal product is a product that is perceived not as a simple translation but as a product tailor-made for the target market and native speakers of the target locale.

Software Localization Process

There are different approaches to software localization, and good localization processes are adaptable to the needs of the development process.

However, there are some general guidelines for building a functional and reliable software localization process:

  1. Internationalization (i18n): includes preparation of the product for localization, ensuring world-readiness of the product and creating a localization-friendly content

  2. Localization (i10n): adaptation of the product to specified locales

  3. Quality Assurance: QA is a must regardless which localization approach you choose - Machine Translation, CAT, or human translation.

How is software localization done?

Localizing software includes adapting text, colors and images so that they appeal to the target local market. However, before the actual localization of the software starts, the process of internationalization needs to be properly done.

The goal of the internationalization process is to separate the content of your product from the source code, so that is easily localized. Internationalization will take care of factors such as:

  • Character length (because different writing systems take up a different amount of space)
  • Layout of characters (left-to-right, right-to-left and top-to-bottom writing systems have different requirements)
  • Localization-friendly content

Internationalization (i18n) vs Software Localization (l10n) - what’s the difference?

Internationalization and localization often go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating multilingual software. Sources often differently define i18n and l10n, but the main difference is in the end product of the process.

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