Translation and localization in a nutshell

By Marta Chereshnovska (@Martav88)
Reblogged from the Translation and l10n for dummies blog with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Translation and localization in a nutshellA lot of said about translation and localization but let me put in my two cents and try to explain the most common terms in simple words.

So first goes the most general one – translation.

Translation is a process of conveying a text from one language into another.

Localization (commonly abbreviated as L10n, first and last characters of the word plus 10 characters between them) means not just translating software/web-service but making it look and feel like it was originally developed for the target market. Apart from translation, the following issues must be taken into account:

  • Date format. For example, for December 8th 1994 in United States we write 12/08/94, in Spain 08/12/94, in Germany 08.12.1994, in Japan 94/12/08. We should watch this very carefully, as these issues may lead to user confusion
  • Time format. In USA the AM/PM format is used but in most of European and Asian countries the 24-hour format is applied.
  • Number formats. For example, in English the thousand separator is a comma (2,244), in Germany it’s a period (2.244) and in Russia – a space (2 244)
  • Address format
  • Currency format, telephone numbers, paper sizes, units of measurement
  • Cultural peculiarities. For example, some colors or signs/symbols may have different meaning in different countries and cultures: white in Japan symbolizes death whereas in Western cultures it symbolizes brides, peace etc.
  • National symbols, appropriate country information
  • Adapting idioms and proverbs according to the local culture
  • Localizing web links & addresses. For example, changing to for France
  • Adapting product names. Note that most software applications are developed in English and when translating products names in most cases trademarked names are left in English like Microsoft, Nikon etc. but service names may need to be translated, for example Google Books is translated into German as “Google Bücher”, into Spanish as “Google Libros” etc.
  • Company’s information – if you have branch in the target country, don’t forget to indicate its information – address, names of representatives etc.

Locale indicates combination “language+country”, for example “en_us” is English language for US users, “en_gb” is English language for Britain. First goes country code and then language code. There may be, for example, Spanish language for Argentina (es-ar), Uruguay (es-uy) or Spain (es-es).

Software localization includes translation of GUI strings and help information, strings for mobile apps – on Android and iOS platforms.

Internationalization aims to make the product more general and ready for use in multiple languages and different cultural environments, ready for localization. In most cases it is recommended to be done during the software development phase.

Internationalization includes:

  • Separation of translatable text from the code (externalization)
  • Enabling display of different character sets and support of local standards
  • Enabling usage of different regional settings as date and time formats, number formats, calendar formats, units of measurements etc.

During software development make sure not to hard-code translatable text as later you’ll have to make extra efforts during string externalizing and localization testing to spot all untranslated text.

So to cut the long story short:

In general globalization refers to companies efforts to make product available in different markers all over the world.

localization = translation + cultural and local adaptation

internationalization = getting things more general, preparing for localization

globalization =  i18n+ l10n

One may come across term simship which means simultaneous shipment of all language versions to the market so users won’t wait for their language. The advantage of such approach is that the buzz about your product release has the most effect, but there might be challenges to face during simultaneous localization, like handling updates etc.

Pseudo-localization is one of localization testing methods which is done to determine internationalization issues and bugs. In the process of pseudo-localization all translatable text is substituted with fake text that simulates the most common internationalization issues, like accented characters input and output, strings expansion (during pseudo-localization strings are expanded by 30% and more) etc.

TM or translation memory – two-language base that stores previous translations which can be re-used while translating similar content or updated version of software.

With localization of your software into major languages you not only increase sales and revenue. Customers will understand product clearly and use it properly so there is less need for customer support which can be rather costly.