Globalization, internationalization, and localization: 5 differences you should know

It is impossible for an application or software to conquer international markets and be understood by users from around the world without applying internationalization and localization processes. Although these two concepts are sometimes confused, they have one common goal – product globalization. Let us have a look into how these terms differ and what they mean in practice.

Globalization, internationalization and finally localization are concepts that are closely related to adapting the product and brand to the needs of customers around the world. If you want to deliver an application, software or even a website to international recipients, you probably want to “globalize” your product. However, it is not going to be successful without undertaking some important steps. Internationalization and localization go first. Learn the basic differences between these concepts:

1. Globalization – sets goals and strategies

As far as software developers are concerned, globalization is the widest term. This requires planning, following a strategy and performing specific processes, such as internationalization and localization.

2. Internationalization begins at the concept stage

In the past, product globalization, e.g. software, was not planned in advance. The code used to be designed with one language in mind, and its translated version would not work properly anyway. The process of adapting the application to various markets was therefore difficult time-consuming.

Currently, this approach has changed and many solutions have been programmed and designed bearing in mind the fact that they should be easily adapted to the needs of recipients from different countries. This is the reason why product internationalization, i.e. its preparation for later localization and possibility to support many formats and languages, begins already at the conceptual stage.

3. Internationalization refers to software architecture

Internalization – how does it work in practice?  This process focuses on best practices that must be followed when designing and programming applications, which makes it easy to translate and localize for different languages and settings found in many regions of the world. This means that programmers, from the very beginning of their work on software architecture, must take into account localization process in subsequent stages.

4. Localization focuses on content

Localization refers to content, although it goes beyond mere text translations. It covers the adaptation of all application or product components to the language, cultural or legal requirements in a given country or region. This applies to texts, website content, documents, photos and videos.

For example, in e-commerce, location includes not only translations of product descriptions that are to be understood by users in their native language, but also changing currencies and measures to those applicable in the given country. It is crucial in the case of one international shopping platform where an American pays in dollars and can measure a product in inches, but a Pole would like to buy the same thing in zlotys and measure it in centimetres. On the other hand, in the case of real estate offers from London, buildings on graphics presenting them should not be from Asia or the USA but from England. In this way, the product is closer to the recipient and is fully understandable, not only in terms of language, but also culture.

5. Localization can be done many times for different regions

A well-made internationalization stage also helps in later localizing the product multiple times for different markets and customer requirements. The internationalized solution can be easily translated and localized without errors using flexible process and minimal effort.

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