Localization vs Internationalization
As our world becomes increasingly smaller and interconnected through the rapid advance of technology, translation alone is often no longer enough. That’s where localization, globalization and internationalization services come in. But which do you need – and what is the difference between them? Read on to find out.
Localization, often abbreviated as L10N, refers to the process of adapting a product for use in a different locale or country. Localization often involves, but is not restricted to, language localization and translation of texts to a different language.
What is Localization?
Whether you’re translating marketing materials, an app, a video or something else, it’s important to focus your material on your target audience. Localization does just that. The process considers everything from the popular culture and current slang to the religious beliefs of the translation’s intended audience, molding the resulting language to meet those needs. Localization can apply to imagery, logos, company names and more, with all of these potentially being amended to suit one specific audience. Your localization strategy should take all of this into account.
Internationalization, often abbreviated as I18N, refers to the preparation of the infrastructure that lends to easy deployment of localized products.
What is Internationalization?
Internationalization is essentially the opposite of localization. It is the process of preparing something to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Instead of focusing a translation on the needs of a specific group, the process creates a document (or logo, app, video game, etc.) that can be used by people around the world without the user experience diminishing in any way.
Internationalization must often be addressed at a deeper level than localization. Data encoding, software and hardware issues can all have a fundamental impact on internationalization and must therefore be considered as part of the overall process.
The process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. (from Oxford dictionary)
What is Globalization?
Globalization is a very broad term with various meanings. For the purpose of the translation and localization industry, globalization is the process of preparing something for a global audience. This is a broad term that can actually encompass both internationalization and localization. For example: as part of its globalization strategy, a company could seek to make its website appeal to as wide an audience as possible through internationalization when developing the site itself and the content, but then localize elements such as currencies and the checkout experience.
Which service do I need?
If your business has plans to expand its operations and court a global audience, then globalization is an essential part of the process (along with translation, naturally). In all likelihood, you will need both internationalization and localization expertise in order to build your brand around the globe.
Speaking with an established translation agency can be a helpful part of establishing the best way to go about reading your documents for your company’s globalization. Such entities have a great deal of experience when it comes to supporting brands to go global and will be able to offer insights as to where internationalization will be absolutely essential and where localization may also be of use. It’s a process that can at times seem complex, but the business benefits are undeniable. Building a brand that appeals to customers around the world is easier than ever before and can be an immensely rewarding – not to mention profitable – experience. As such, it’s time to start mapping out your globalization (and internationalization and location) needs.
William Mamane is Head of Digital Marketing at a translation company that provides translation, localization, globalization and internationalization services.