7 Core Differences Between Localization and Internationalization

Do you know the core difference between localization and internationalization?

If yes, this post is for you.

Internationalization and localization seem to be almost similar to each other. But, there are multiple differences that set them apart from each other. If you want to know which is right for your business, you are at the right place. We have compared internalization vs localization and have provided you in-depth information with examples.

Let’s start with the key comparison between internationalization and localization.

Key Comparison Between Internationalization vs Localization

Internationalization (i18n)Localization (l10n)
Internationalization is about developing software, service, or products that can adapt to different languages, cultures, and writing conventions.The localization process is translating and adapting the various UI elements according to local requirements.
The goal of internationalization is to create a modular product that supports different cultures, varying cultural norms, regional preferences, and new languages.The goal of a successful localization process is to create a product that feels familiar in the local market.
Intended to cover the local market of the world.Intended to cover only the local market.
Internationalization is effective when the target audience is broad.Localization is effective when the target audience is limited.
Internationalization is preferred for large businessesLocalization is preferred for a small businesse
Implementing internationalization requires a high budgetLocalization can be executed in a limited budget
The abbreviation for internationalization is i18n.The abbreviation for localization is l10n.

From the above table, you have got an idea about the key differences between internationalization and localization. Let’s understand internationalization in detail.

What is Internationalization?

A combination of world-readiness and localization—that’s how Microsoft defines internationalization.

Internationalization focuses on designing software products to be more adaptable to different markets and target audiences. It is about design and development practices to follow to easily adapt a product to multiple locales. Internationalization opens up more avenues to expand your internationalized software into different countries (international markets). It also paves the way for localization. If you want your product or business to have a global presence, get in touch with an experienced software development consultant who can guide you with the best strategies and roadmap.

According to NPR, Ikea internationalizes the instructions of its furniture by using only diagrams and illustrations. Ikea doesn’t include any text to be translated.

Essentially, developers should keep the user interface resources culture neutral while developing any software product. It prevents the developers from hardcoding various languages. Instead, they prepare the code to receive different configurations, or placeholders, depending on the locality.

But why does internationalization matter? Let’s go through its key points.

Why Does Internationalization Matter?

Internationalization is one of the most crucial processes to prepare the company to enter the global markets. The type of internationalization required will vary according to the nature of the business of these companies.

Apart from this:

  • Internationalization provides access to new markets, enabling businesses to build a new customer base.
  • With internationalization, you can get access to unique skill sets.
  • By expanding into the international market, you can have faster growth of the business.
  • Internationalization provides you more visibility than your competitors.

Let’s even understand the key features of internationalization.

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3 Key Features of Internationalization

  1. Fix the Processes

  2. The internationalization process requires deliberate planning right from the first stages of the software application development process. Therefore, the developers need to identify and highlight the areas that need to be internationalized. Focus on the tools that introduce automation to the translation and localization into the CI/CD pipeline. However, a proofreader should be hired to edit the semantics.

  3. Adaptable UI Design and Development Practices

  4. Creating an adaptable UI is one of the most critical parts of internationalization. To begin with, the app or software should use fonts that can be easily changed when the language is unavailable in that format. The same should be applied to colors and images. Due to cultural differences, some colors or images might have negative connotations. The text boxes should also be adaptable to accommodate texts from right to left.

  5. Specify the Storage Needs

  6. Numbers, grammar forms, and dates and times should be saved in different formats that make it easier to adapt to local requirements. Encoding the strings using the UTF-8, one of the most widely recognized Unicode standards for variable-width characters, makes it easier during the later processes. The software application development team can also utilize 3166-1 and ISO 693-1 country codes and multiple languages to mark assets by their specific locality.

Best Practices for Internationalization Testing

What is internationalization testing?

Internalization testing is a process to verify the software by its compatibility with different regions and cultures. Here are some of the best practices for internationalization testing.

  1. Use little to no text in your images. As the texts are embedded in the image, it can be challenging to translate once uploaded. Better to upload the images and background pictures without any text.
  2. Do not hardcode the languages. Unraveling the source code and translating the languages is a time-consuming process and can create unnecessary project delays.
  3. Make the layout adaptable. The layout should be adaptable enough to house both long and short text translation without messing with the overall alignment.
  4. Select the UTF-8 data encoding. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the best encodings for Unicode.

Let’s understand internationalization with a real-life example.

A real-life Example of Software Internationalization

One of the important aspects of software internationalization is the adaptability of the UI elements. There is a stark contrast between American and Japanese Sony websites. The American website has a much more minimalistic feel, while the Japanese website is more dense and full of product descriptions. It all boils down to the difference in cultural preferences.

Until now you are cleared with internationalization, let’s understand more about localization.

What is Localization?

Localization is the actual process of adapting the software according to a specific target market (a particular locale). It takes place after the product or service has been prepped using internationalization. The translator plays a significant role in translating all the user-facing texts and components. The abbreviation l10n also denotes the process of localization. Let’s understand why localization is important for your business.

Why does Localization Matter?

Localization focuses on much more than just translating the copy into the local language. The localization workflow of the product includes embedding other locale-specific components so that your product speaks the local language and follows quality assurance.

It involves changing the date formats and time formats, the metrics systems, images, religious symbols, hand gestures, spellings, currency, and even the accounting standards. It is recommended that developers save separate resource files for all these changes that can be paired with the existing code at a moment’s notice for easy localization.

If you want to localize your business, contact a top software development company in Canada, that has experience in providing a powerful digital experience.

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3 Key Features of Localization

  1. Export of Resource Files

  2. The resource files should be saved in an accessible format to upload and export. While some companies support a variety of formats, others may ask for XML Localization Interchangeable File Format (XLIFF) for translation.

  3. Translation of Files

  4. It is essential to hire professional human translators who are also familiar with the modern usage of the language, cuss words, culturally appropriate images, and other similar customs. Or, you can directly hire companies that specialize in localization to make the process even smoother. Lastly, proofread all the necessary changes and ensure everything is ready before launching the product.

  5. Merging the Code with the New Localized Data

  6. The last key feature of localization is making the source code adaptable enough to accept these translated content/ files without hindrance. Before launching the localized product, run tests to see if the images, texts, colors, and alignments have been changed to fit the local aesthetics.

Best Practices for Localization Testing

Localization testing is a process to verify software behavior and suitability for specific locations and regions.

Here are some of the pointers you need to take care of while performing localization testing.

  • Mark the variables you are going to localize. This helps the translators dig deeper into those specific areas. For example, the text space terms and conditions will differ for different regions depending on local laws and regulations.
  • Research the countries and localities where you want to launch your product. This prepares the developers to code for special days and occasions.
  • Make a timeline. It also helps to have a specific list of goals you want your translators to hit before launching the final product or service.
  • Define the budget with your stakeholders. Managers and finance professionals must budget for translations and conversions required to make the product ready for the local area.

A Real-life Example of Software Localization

Amazon has localized websites for different countries with regionally appropriate product images and texts. For example, for the Indian target audience, the Amazon website displays products with Indian models and celebrates the local festivals with special discount codes.

Still, have doubts? Check the frequently asked questions below.

FAQs About Internationalization vs Localization

  1. What is the importance of localization testing?

  2. Localization prepares the product or the service to launch in a specific region with proper translations, culturally appropriate images, and color, time, currency, and date format.

  3. Is localization testing functional or non-functional?

  4. Depending on the company’s needs, localization can be both functional and non-functional.

  5. What is the difference between l10n and i18n (internationalization and localization)?

  6. Localization adapts your product to a specific locale while internationalization prepares your product (software) for localization.

Conclusion

That was all about internationalization and localization. Preparing the brand with the internationalization features during the development process creates more opportunities for the company (internationalized product) to go to the global market. Even if it is not required, internationalization involves making the product or service modular and future-proof. When the need arises, just hire native language translators to localize the product.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies. He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311.