This is a guest post by Alison Williams.

Even though the terms localisation and internationalization are typically found within the same context, they do not have the same meaning.

The meaning of localisation

Localisation means when information about a product is adapted to meet certain criteria related to the linguistic, legal and cultural features of a specific geographical area that is in an entirely new part of the world. 

When in the process of localising specific features to the targeted area are added along with a suitable translation of the text. Once a product has been successfully localised it should improve its sales and revenue for a business. 

The meaning of internationalisation

Internationalisation refers to the methodology used when in the process of developing a designing a product so that localisation can be more easily achieved. A product can be localised more efficiently if it has been internalized first. 

As soon as a product has been through the internationalisation process it is possible to undertake localisation many times and the localisation process is far easier to achieve. 

The aim of localisation & internationalisation

The key focus of these two processes is to achieve globalisation, which is the method used for both developing and marketing products in many languages to people throughout the world. 

If the intention is to develop a website, a software application or even a mobile app which is to be made available to multiple locations internationalisation & localisation helps to achieve globalisation.

When engaged in localisation there are many features when marketing a product to a different culture and linguistic group that need to be adapted such as the following.

  • The different formats used for dates and time, currency, decimals and calendar months. For example, Gregorian months aren’t the only ones used throughout the world. There are some countries which follow their own official calendar such as the Hijri Calendar which is in use in Saudi Arabia.
  • Any images used in the product’s original description need to be adapted to match their new audience such as the use of a dragon image may have a positive effect in the East but not so much in the West. Colour is also treated differently by other cultures. 

How to undertake internationalisation

An essential practice for enabling internationalisation is externalising to a file every user-visible string. This file is called an external resource file. When in the process of localisation, the end product will be many versions of the external resource files so that there is one for each targeted locale.

For example, if the aim is to design an iOS app, the files, will contain localisable strings called the Strings files. They should be arranged into several locale directories, with one localisable string file for every language required.

How is localisation done?

When the resource files containing locale data are easy to access in external files the resource files are extracted, translated into each locale that is to be targeted and now the product is ready to be sold in every region. 

The key to successful localisation is working with an experienced professional translator who is a native language speaker, knows local slang and the most modern usage of the targeted language.

To conclude, internationalisation & localisation are two different terms with the former referring to the methodology and practice used that make possible the latter. When used, both internationalisation & localisation offer a superior user experience for those from different parts of the globe. Internationalisation during the design and development stages will assist the localisation to produce gains as it enables localisation to effectively use the targeted native language and culture to market the product.

Alison Williams gained an MA in Applied Linguistics and started to move into writing as a means of securing an income. She has since then specialised in writing blog posts and web pages for a variety of clients including those in the legal and translation niches. Alison has built up the ability as a highly skilled writer to communicate with a variety of audiences and in an array of styles and formats. Over the past few years, she has worked with executives, entrepreneurs, industry experts and many other professionals in writing and publishing, SEO web content, blogs, newspaper articles and more.