Taking a Peek at Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization

It is true that globalization, internationalization, and localization are often used interchangeably. These terms often piggyback off of each other, but there are some distinctions between them that are identifiable from one another.

Photo of globe provided by Pexels

Globalization: making a product or content multilingual so that it is more acceptable worldwide. More than one process can be used to make a product globalized.

Internationalization: refers to the actual process of development of a product, services, or content to make for easy localization.

Localization: the process in which something(product, services, content, etc.) is adapted to meet the requirements of a specific market or locale. This can be done by adapting to a local target market’s language, culture, or region.

Globalization is a board term that is widely used and it is defined in various ways. Both globalization and internationalization plan for localization. Globalization can focus on many processes on making a product or content accessible globally. It is structured to help with global growth of a company by building relationships with local partners. If done effectively products and content will be accessible for many around the world. This can be achieved by internationalization and localization (often followed by internationalization). Though globalization done effectively can be a good thing there are many challenges that it faces.

Globalization Challenges

  • A company may lack the necessary skills for successful globalization
  • A company may not have the resources or do not find globalization necessary
  • A company may not know what language to use
  • A company may not know the extent to what to localize

If a company work through their dilemmas there are two strategies (internationalization and localization) that a company can use to make their content relevant. Though internationalization can live without localization, localization cannot live without internationalization. This is due to the fact that internationalization preps for localization. The goal is to make localization run as smoothly as possible. In order to achieve effective localization, planning is key. Without planning a company’s budget and timeline can be negatively interrupted.

Juan Carlos Navarro’s article How to develop a good Internationalisation Plan is about making a good plan for Internationalization. “An internationalization process is not easy, and to carry it out with certain guarantees we must involve not one. Still, several departments within the organization since the collaboration between the Marketing, Sales, Operations, Technology and Quality departments must be absolute.” Though with a good process and plan localization can face many challenges.  

Localization Challenges

  • Culture Differences: one must be mindful that every culture is different. Lots of research needs to be involved so that a company do not offend a target market.
  • Translation: have you seen the same book in two different languages? Those books probably took a lot to translate. Translating is more than just copying and pasting texts into google translator. Remember one word in English can have many meanings in another language.
  • Resources: similar to globalization challenges, a company can lack the resources to localized their product. Lacking resources make it harder for localization. It can also make a company look unprofessional if they attempt localization without those resources.
  • Communication: communication seem to be the key no matter what situation. What happens if a company lacks it? A company may have a hard time providing translations.

There are many more challenges when it comes to localization, but don’t let that scare you off. Remember when there are challenges there are also solutions/strategies. In order to combat those challenges, there are some strategies that can be made to help a company with localization. Acclaro’s article Top 10 Tips for Localization Strategy help provides a better understanding on what a company can do to help with localization. Also, you can find additional strategies listed down below.

Localization Strategies

  • Do your research: like mentioned with culture differences, research is a necessity. Research can make or break a company’s reputation.
  • Planning: this can tie into research. Planning is key, because you do not want to dive head on. You must look at every possible step to take.
  • Knowledge: this also goes hand in hand with research. You must become knowledgeable about the target market that you are looking into. This includes knowing their laws, customs, and culture.
  • Competition: stand out from your competition. This can help your company grow and gain credibility.
  • Local Experts: using local experts to test your site can make a huge difference.
  • Language: use simple language. Avoid humor, metaphors, acronyms, slang, etc. Also, use simple sentence structure and incorporate words that have fewer meanings.  The type of language that you use can make for hard or easy translations. Think of International English Style. If you do not know what IES is read on for its definition.

International English Style

It is estimated that English is one of the most widely used language globally. International English Style is a form of communication that is used globally. Techscribe mentioned that Edmond H. Weiss describes it as “an approach to English that reflects an appreciation of its global uses and sensitivity to the needs of the E2 reader.” E2 reader is those who read English as a second language. Like mentioned before using simple language is ideal to make texts clear. Simple language plays a huge part of International English Style.

Simple Language

  • Chose shorter words over longer words.
  • If a word can be eliminated, do not use it.
  • Never use a jargon word if there is an everyday English word that can be used (e.g. using “cup of joe” for the word coffee can be hard to translate in another language)
  • Do not use metaphors

International English Style is made simple because texts can be easy to translate. Also, different texts has different meanings in other languages. You want to avoid translation blunders that may end up costing a lot of money down the line.

The article Lost in Translation – 11 Epic Poor Translation Blunders by Christine Benton talks about poor translation blunders one of them being the American Dairy Association “Got Milk” campaign. Which was successful in the US but in Spanish-speaking countries it didn’t work out so well. “Got Milk” was translated into “Are You Lactating? “


Though you have to be mindful of text translations you also have to keep in mind visuals when it comes to localization. Visuals can have different meanings for different cultures. Not all images can be made simplified. Sometimes the meaning can get lost in translation. Designs, much like texts need to be adapted to cultural context. Look at the below images that has different means in different countries.

Photo provided by Pexels. This is a symbol for peace.

The peace sign is widely used among Americans. It was used to signal victory in World War II. When holding up the peace sign your palm must be facing outward, but what would happen if you make the same gesture with your hand facing inward? In the United Kingdom, by flipping your palm inward can mean “piss off” or “up yours.”

Photo provided by Pexels. This is a symbol for okay.

We all know what the okay hand gesture looks like, but this gesture can have a different meaning in different countries. In Brazil this is equivalent to giving someone the middle finger.

In conclusion, localization is used to adapt a product, content, or application to fit the requirements of target market. In order to define localization, you must look at the terms globalization and internationalization!

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Hi Michelle! The topic you have is very interesting. I appreciate that you included the context of globalization and internationalization in order to provide a definition from localization. It really aided my understanding. The bullet points and headings you used helped me to navigate through the post and helped me to understand what was important and what the main concept was. The images at the end anchored my thoughts and helped me to focus on the concept of visuals. I think localization is an interesting process when thinking about website design. I read an article (https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/12/how-to-conduct-website-localization/) that discussed how you can translate a website into a different language, but that is only one step into adjusting it to fit the needs of the target audience. For example, reading in an F-pattern is typical for websites in western cultures, but not so much for Arabic countries whose citizens read right to left. This ties into, as you mentioned, symbols hold a different meaning in different cultures. It’s important to localize a website according to the whole culture, not just one aspect of it.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Michelle! I find this topic particularly interesting because I enjoy learning about different cultures, and I could at some point see myself working in a position that requires intercultural communication. Also, your blog post helped me learn something new. Before reading it, I was not aware of the International English Style. I’m glad I now know about it because I can see how it’d be useful in many situations.
    I read some other sources about this topic, and a sentence in one of them stood out to me: “…straight translation is not enough.” I think this is important to remember when producing materials for other countries and cultures. Simply translating word for word will not accomplish much because of different customs and phrases that change from culture to culture and language to language. It will be more work, but going above a simple translation will help to avoid any mistranslations or offensive language, and gain more interest from the target public because it shows that you care enough to do so. Source: https://enveritasgroup.com/campfire/content-localization-what-it-means-why-you-need-it/

  3. Hi Michelle,
    Great job on the blog post. The readings about localization and globalization were slightly long and confusing, but your blog post helped to clarify a few things. I really like the natural order of the headings and how you led into the next topic at the end of every previous topic. The bullet points and bolded words made the information easy to read and follow. It also made the main points of the blog post stand out, which is great. I enjoyed how you used examples and images when explaining how visuals can be treated differently in different countries. I think this aspect of the blog post was very interesting because we normally don’t think of how other cultures treat our language, signs, images, etc., especially when we have not experienced other cultures. However, when producing products and content meant for a global audience, we have to keep in mind other cultures and how they perceive our images and content. I found another blog post that goes through six different gestures used in America that mean different things in other cultures. You can find it here. https://blog.busuu.com/what-hand-gestures-mean-in-different-countries/. I was amazed at how differently these signs can be taken in other cultures when we normally don’t think twice about them. This goes to show how careful we have to be when producing products and content for a global audience so that we make sure we don’t offend or confuse any cultures.

  4. Hi Michelle,
    You did a great job on this blog post. Your formatting and structure made it super easy to digest this information, as well as retain the most important parts. This topic is super interesting to me and something I feel we can always improve upon. Stepping outside of ourselves and our own perspectives can make or break the work we are doing, hence declaring its relevance in everything we create. Internationalization is probably my favorite thing to discuss in your blog. Adapting to local communities for a global or regional message is a hefty, yet important job. It requires a humanistic approach that we sometimes can be blind to (because we are so task-motivated). The source I have attached to my comment shows big brands who have done localization RIGHT. These strategies show obvious attention to research, cultural detail, and unique relatability. Samsung and Coca-Cola are just a couple of the news you will see! Take a read!

  5. Hi Michelle!
    This blog post is great! The organization makes the post easy to read and the writing style is the right mix of professional but still personal to relate to your audience. Well done! The visuals that you choose to include in the last section were really helpful in demonstrating your point. Different symbols can have graphically different meanings in different cultures around the world and it can be hard to keep those in mind. I remember one year I decided to make a box for Operation Christmas Child (a charity where you fill a shoebox with small toys and other necessities and it gets sent to a child in Africa) and wanted to include a stuffed animal as one of the toys, but there were a list of things not to include and animals were one. I was confused as to why, but did a little bit of research and apparently certain animals were considered to be evil symbols in various cultures and had the potential to upset the child. Since you didn’t know where exactly your box would be shipped, it was best not to include any animals. I found that really interesting and put more thought into the meanings behind different symbols in various cultures around the world, but the thought of doing this while designing a website for globalization is extremely overwhelming. Everything has the potential to have a shifted meaning in a different culture, so it seems easier to just not even try. Thankfully, I found this article (https://www.shutterstock.com/blog/3-things-to-consider-for-culturally-relevant-web-design) which makes it less overwhelming, but it is still a daunting task.

  6. Michelle,

    Thanks for writing a great blog post! Before reading this, it was difficult for me to distinguish many actual differences between globalization, internationalization, and localization. Thanks to your post, I now have a better understanding of the differences between the three, and how internationalization and globalization play a role in the general localization of something. In terms of the design of your post, I appreciate that you used the verbiage “Taking a Peek at…” in your title, and not just titling this “Globalization, Localization, and Internationalization,” (or any variation of the three). Also, your post was the first I read that strayed from the typical variation of a blue color palate! Seeing your red-colored headings felt fresh, and it gave your content a greater sense of importance I think. In addition to this, the way you organized your content using lists and bold lettering made this post extremely easy to navigate and pick information out of. You included a lot of really beneficial, greatly helpful information, especially since we’re working in an international context with creating our own websites. I especially loved your section about using visuals and how they translate across various cultures, as I had no idea an inward-facing peace sign was rude in the United Kingdom, nor did I realize that the traditional American “okay” hand gesture was rude in Brazil! I found statistics that actually provide that out of all Internet users across the world, almost 26% actually speak English: https://www.statista.com/statistics/262946/share-of-the-most-common-languages-on-the-internet/
    This is something crucial to take into consideration when globalizing a website, because we need to be able to adapt to the entire world if we want to effectively support an international audience. The article https://www.motionpoint.com/blog/why-localizing-your-website-is-important-for-global-marketing/ is one that I found that provides additional information about who is using the Internet, and why it is so important that web designers localize their websites successfully, and all the benefits that may come from this.

  7. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your blog post this week! I really appreciated the use of bulleted lists to draw my attention to key concepts throughout and summarize important ideas from each section of the post. It was insightful to first learn of the challenges that companies face when considering globalization and localization and then transition into strategies for combatting these challenges. I had heard about globalization and localization in a previous class, but internationalization was a new idea that I had not heard of before. Your post made the differences between the three terms clear and gave me a new understanding of the process of globalization and localization. I found it really interesting to see the relationship between internationalization and localization, and how one can live without the other, but not the other way around. I did some further research into company logos that are designed with globalization in mind and what strategies they used to create a visual that has a global appeal (https://www.spellbrand.com/top-10-global-logos). The logo ranked number one was the Olympics logo. The Olympics logo was designed to be universally recognizable. This was achieved through the use of intertwining circles. Circles are an inclusive shape, and by intertwining the circles, the logo emphasizes that the Olympics are an inclusive, global event. It was interesting to see how different logos are designed with a global audience in mind.

  8. Michelle,

    I thought that your blog was very compelling! Right away you helped me understand how these terms differ from one another yet are so intertwined at the same time. It is fascinating to understand how these concepts are used in businesses and how important they truly are in order to conduct an effective business that works within multiple cultures. The challenges associated with these terms are things that need to be considered as well because as you mentioned, sometimes the businesses do not have the resources. I think that it should be essential that businesses have the resources and that options are available at different price points in order to accommodate the business and the cultures they are trying to connect with. As an advertising and public relations major, the concepts of simple language and international English style are good things to know. I think understanding how these work with different cultures and why it is important to use will help me become a more effective professional who takes other cultures into consideration in the best way possible. With this I thought it would be beneficial to look into what percentage of the world speaks English. I found that an estimated 13% of the world does! While this may seem somewhat high, I believe that knowing this and the field I want to go into has fueled my desire to become fluent in a second language that much more. https://www.reference.com/world-view/percentage-world-speaks-english-859e211be5634567

  9. Michelle,
    I thought your blog was great! You did an excellent job of breaking down each concept, making them easier to understand in relation to one another. I found this post especially interesting because I am currently enrolled in a writing course designed to teach us about globalization, so I have some familiarity with your topic; however, I have never heard of localization. I loved your hand signal visuals where you explained how it has different meanings in different countries. As someone who hasn’t travelled outside of the United States much, this is something I did not know. By using images, it made the facts more intriguing. Because I already had information on globalization, I decided to research localization. This link gives a basic, but new definition to the term. Check it out! https://www.gala-global.org/industry/intro-language-industry/what-localization

  10. Hi Michelle! I really like the way you organized your topics and used bullet points to expand upon suggestions and challenges that were related. I found that the part about international English style caught my attention in this blog. It is interesting that it is a refined version of a language created specifically for translation. This blog also showed me how interconnected globalization, internationalization, and localization are and helped me better grasp how it is necessary to know how to perform each of the processes, especially when designing a website. I found an article that describes these processes in even more depth with added examples (https://www.lionbridge.com/blog/translation-localization/localization-globalization-internationalization-whats-the-difference/#:~:text=In%20review%3A%20Localization%2C%20Globalization%2C%20Internationalization%20Globalization%20refers%20to,internal%20operations%20to%20facilitate%20expansion%20into%20international%20markets.)

  11. Hey Michelle! Great job on the blog post this week. The content is organized and separated in an effective way that makes it super easy to understand. There are so many challenges when it comes to communicating globally. Even though much of the world speaks English, you can’t always assume it will be successfully understood, or translated. Just like that short video for the learning activity said, idioms don’t translate well and can be misunderstood drastically. I read this article https://blog.hashtagify.me/2019/06/11/5-great-examples-of-marketing-localization/ that highlighted some companies that did well with localized content. Pandora did a campaign with Shakira, and they made sure to specifically change the wording for regions that the message wouldn’t translate well in! Yet another aspect of writing for the web that gets overlooked.

  12. Michelle,
    This topic interests me as it applies to the work I consistently deal with in my job. While it is not specifically my job to make the decisions regarding localizing or globalizing, it is my job to make edits to documents given markups in order to make them more appealing or approachable to different locations that we conduct business in. I found the inclusion of the strategies used to localize documents especially interesting, as a lot of them are concepts that I feel I would eventually consider but your blog post has put them into words better than I could. I don’t think I’d ever considered that there is a style of English that could be considered “international”, but it makes sense considering that many countries across the globe have normalized English as a second language. While they understand English, they still may not understand certain phrases, metaphors, etc that are specific to western culture, and therefor it is important to avoid these. I found this website’s article helpful https://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/6-tips-to-bring-internationalism-to-your-web-design–webdesign-2084 in outlining potential strategies for making a website maintain consistency and visual appeal while altering content dependent on location.

  13. This is a great blog post about a very interesting topic. Many people don’t think about how gestures as simple as a peace sign can translate over to other countries and cultures. I find it quite fascinating that so much research needs to be done in order to properly appeal to an overarching audience. I also find it useful that you mentioned the differences between these terms we use interchangeably. It’s easy to mix things up and possibly take the wrong steps. Globalization is a lot more heavy-handed than localization, though they are both still very important. Overall, I think you did an amazing job distinguishing differences and what companies can do to make themselves more appealing everywhere. Here is an article I found discussing more on the matter: https://velocityglobal.com/blog/globalization-benefits-and-challenges/

  14. You have done a great job at designing this blog to highlight and organize this information. You have some big vocabulary and even bigger topics to cover. You did a great job at chunking and dividing the information in a way that is understandable. I find it valuable to know that localization is a result of both globalization and internationalization. I wonder what companies find takes the most energy. I was having a hard time, though, visualizing what any of these concepts would look like in execution. I found this article that provides real world examples. https://www.smartling.com/resources/101/examples-of-localization/ This article jogged my memory of a time I have seen localization. There is a British TV show called The Great British Bake Off. Because of some legal trouble with the name, the name had to be changed to The Great British Baking Show in order to be shown in the US. The company that was responsible for this? Netflix. The name had to be changed in order for this show to be released onto the American version of Netflix.

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