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Software Translation, Software Localization and Software Internationalization

Many people new to software translation are confused by the terms “translation,” “internationalization” and “localization.” Although each term describes a distinct process for multilingual software projects, “translation” and “localization” are often used almost interchangeably. This blog clears up the mystery around these concepts, which are closely related to one another.

What is Software Translation?

Software translation, which is the process of converting text from a source language into a target language, is also known as “software globalization.” In order to translate software into other languages, you may need both software internationalization (I18N) and software localization (L10N) services. Most translation companies use the term globalization for the combination of internationalization and localization.

The terms internationalization, localization and globalization are frequently abbreviated to numerous. For example, I18n means there are 18 letters between the first i and the last n in internationalization. The capital L in L10n helps to distinguish it from the “I” in I18n.

What is Software Internationalization?

Internationalization (I18n) is defined as the process of developing a program core whose feature design and code do not make assumptions based on a single language or locale and whose source base simplifies the creation of different language editions of a program. This involves enabling the back-end of your software to handle different languages, character sets, currencies, submit form data, site search capabilities, etc.

In brief, it refers to the automatic rendering of an application in the user’s chosen language. Internationalization relates not only to displayed text in a software application, but also to numbers, date formats and currency values. Internationalization can be highly involved, depending on the complexity of the software. Special symbols and alphabetical sorting in different languages bring interesting challenges with them.

What is Software Localization?

Localization (L10N) is defined as the process of adapting a software application for a specific international market, which includes translating the user interface, resizing dialog boxes, customizing features and testing results to ensure that the program works in the target language. Localization also involves the process of adapting internationalized software for a specific language or region by translating text and adding locale specific components. As an example, localization for Brazilian Portuguese as a target language would be localized differently than European Portuguese.

Key Steps in Software Internationalization

Each translation agency will have its own methods and best practices for software internationalization. GPI has a methodology that usually includes the following four steps:

  • Discovery
  • Assessment
  • Implementation
  • Testing

Each GPI client is assigned a Globalization Services Team (GST) based on the information collected through the discovery process. The information collected in this first step is critical to ensure each GPI team member selected has the required expertise to not only complete the I18n work, but also to transfer the required knowledge and skills to your in-house development teams. All clients are given the opportunity to review their GST members’ credentials and interview them.

Requirements to Start a Software Localization Project

To get started with a software localization project, provide your translation company with a complete set of source files, also known as a “localization kit.” A software localization kit should consist of all of the resources used to develop, build and run your application, including:

  • All files in your development environment, specifically resource files.
  • All documentation source files. This includes all templates, books, fonts and original graphics.
  • All help source files (e.g. graphics, RTF, VBS, HTML, CNT/HHK/HHC).
File Analysis for Software Localization

The source files in your software localization kit will be analyzed for:

  • Number of words
  • Source and target languages
  • Subject matter
  • Desktop publishing (DTP) requirements
  • Help authoring tools
  • Software development platform and process
  • Internationalization requirements
  • Client review and approval requirements
  • Client workflow requirements
Software Localization Methodology

GPI uses the below methodology:

  • Review, analysis and preparation of client’s source files.
  • Project kick-off confirming scope, schedule and teams.
  • Subject matter training and research.
  • Glossary and style guide development.
  • Cultural correctness assessment.
  • Translation, editing and proofreading of all content.
  • Localization of all graphics.
  • Format verification and multilingual DTP: software may include target language documentation which must be properly formatted after translation.
  • Localization of any multimedia files (e.g. audio/video translation).
  • Basic online QA & testing.
  • Draft delivery to client.
  • Final edits, translation memory updates and file archiving.
Keeping the Goal of Software Globalization in Mind

Whether you are trying to release a multilingual product in order to increase your global market share and ROI or you are trying to increase your company’s global operational efficiencies by developing multilingual applications, software translation is a requirement to make either a reality. Each client’s needs are somewhat unique and there are a variety of factors that can influence resources and costs involved in a complex software globalization project.