RE: internationalize and localize

Subject: RE: internationalize and localize
From: "Bill Burns" <bburns -at- qds-solutions -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 10:31:18 -0600

Dick wrote:

>Internationalization is creating or modifying the software architecture
>so that the software can work in multiple languages.

I'll give a slightly broader definition of internationalization (abbreviated I18N). It's the process of preparing any product (software, hardware, firmware, hardcopy, online user assistance, or other) so it can be localized with ease. Dick's correct about the meaning in terms of software. I18N would also include changing things like date, currency, and numeric formats based on the locale of the OS or on the fly. For documentation and online help, I18N addresses issues of cultural neutrality, layout, and other design issues that could be affected during the localization process. For example, you'd want to avoid culture-specific allusions, idioms, and metaphors. You'd also want to be careful in your use of images and symbols; some might be considered taboo or, at least, inappropriate in some locales. With layout, it might include designing with text expansion in mind (that is, providing enough horizontal space for side headings, or enough vertical space for text to flow downward).

>Localization is, as I understand it, providing the dataset (the strings,
>date formats, currency types, other constants) for one or more specific

Another way to look at it is that localization (abbreviated L10N) is the process of producing the culture-specific version of a product. It includes the translation of text, adjustment of layout, conversion of numeric formats, and anything else that would be required to make a product ready for a different market. You can localize something that isn't internationalized, but it takes more work.

Bill Burns
Documentation Supervisor/MS Help MVP
Quality Design Systems
bburns -at- qds-solutions -dot- com

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