What is localization?

What is localization?

The definition of localization, abbreviated as “l10n”, is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. It gives a product the look and feel that it was created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture or location. We can also refer to it as language localization.

Several terms are often used interchangeably with localization, as they are thought to be synonymous. Since we have looked at the definition of localization, we will now compare it to internationalization, globalization and translation.

Localization vs. internationalization

Internationalization is the process of planning and implementing products and services so that they can be easily localized. The primary task of internationalization is preparing the encoded scheme, while the primary task of localization is translating the elements and documents.

Internationalization allows for easy localization in the future, since localization of code such as dates, currencies, or specialized language characters is dependent on internationalization being performed initially.

Localization vs. globalization

Globalization is the process of integrating a country’s culture and policies with the rest of the world. It is natural for different cultures to have different viewpoints and practices; however, conditions around the world have evolved to where peoples and countries are beginning to have similarities in their ways of thinking and behaving. The world is shrinking because of faster and more efficient modes of transportation and communication.

Globalization increases interdependence of countries, while localization allows your product or documentation to be used in a different culture and locale.

Localization vs. translation

Translation is the process of translating words or text from one language into another. It is a written or spoken rendering of the meaning of a word, speech, book, or other text, in a different language. Translation and localization are not synonymous, but are intertwined as translation is one of several elements of the localization process.

What is the localization process?

The localization process is complex. Aside from translation, a localization strategy can also include:

  1. Adapting graphics to target markets
  2. Modifying content to suit the tastes and consumption habits of other markets
  3. Adapting design and layout to properly display translated text
  4. Converting to local requirements (such as currencies and units of measure)
  5. Using proper local formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers
  6. Addressing local regulations and legal requirements

As with many services, you get what you pay for. To localize a product, it requires specialized expertise from a trustworthy, skilled provider. It involves sound technical knowledge of the deliverables themselves, and should be completed by in-country, bilingual linguists who are intimately familiar with the language, customs, and cultural biases of the target culture.
A localized product is appropriate for the target locale’s business and cultural conventions, appears custom-built for the end user’s cultural and linguistic background, and does not change the original intended meaning.

What is software localization?

Software localization is the process of adapting a software product to the linguistic, cultural and technical requirements of a target market. It involves the extraction of translatable text from source applications, submitting the text for localization and rebuilding the application in any target language. Software localization projects often run parallel with development of the source product.

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