Localization Series: The Basics

localeIn times when communications and brands “go global”, ironically there is also an increasing need for them to “go local” through multicultural content.

In the broadest sense of the word, to localize means to adapt a particular product or service for a specific country or region. Although the most obvious part of it consists in the translation of words or text, this is only a part of the localization process. It really takes more than just language to target a particular market.

Linguistic nuances and cultural aspects need to be taken into consideration, as well as the social context of the target audience. From changing graphics, currencies, date and time formats, colors, slang and dialects, to local laws or even rethinking the whole presentation of a product, these adaptations intend to acknowledge regional sensitivities and to cater to a carefully defined consumer.

More frequently though, localization refers to the process of translating and adapting websites, video games and computer software for a particular geographic region, or locale. For this to happen, technical design needs to be done at a programming level—ideally at an early development stage—so that a software application can potentially be adapted to various locales without further engineering changes. This process is called internationalization. Both localization and internationalization are integral parts of an overall process called globalization.

The terms are frequently abbreviated as i18n (where 18 stands for the number of letters between the first i and last n in internationalization), L10n and g11n, respectively, due to the length of the words and geekiness of industry leaders.

Already a $35 billion industry, globalization revenue is on the rise. Websites in only one language can address at most 30% of the online population and 72% of consumers would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language. It also employs the efforts and skills of translators, editors, terminologists, project managers, quality assurance testers, software engineers, and language technology specialists, among other professionals.


One thought on “Localization Series: The Basics

  1. Diana,

    This is a great essay. I must say that when I first started working in localization I wasn’t even aware of the whole picture. I wish I’d had someone to share a post like this before I dared to enter into that world. Then, I wouldn’t have felt so ignorant by abbreviations like i18n_l10n EMARA&LATAM_Round_1, TC PU3, or it-IT, es-US,fr-CA, and fr-FR.
    Diana, thank you for keeping us informed in a comprehensive way.


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