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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
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!