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What is Localization?
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Definition of Localization

  • You have excellent software. You have manuals. You have webpages. You have marketing material. You are selling well.

     

    And now you have decided that the best way to increase your income is to sell your great products overseas, grab the as-yet untapped customer base in those huge foreign markets in continental Europe, the Far East, South America, and elsewhere.

     

    But all your material is in English! How do you go about preparing your software for use in foreign machines? How do you organize your resources so that your UI strings can be translated? And how do you actually translate your material into languages about which you know so little? Japanese? Chinese? Is this all Greek to you?

     

    The process of adjusting your material for these foreign markets is called "Localization".

     

    When we talk of localization, we are talking of preparing software and its accompanying materials to be usable and readable in a non-English speaking environment. And by environment, we mean both computers, and personnel. That means then that fully localized software is software that works on non-English or local operating systems, and whose visible texts are in the target language.

     

    But the term localization can be confusing. It is one of the funny terms that has different meanings at different levels. First, it is used as a general definition of the overall process of preparing software, user interfaces, documentation (print and online), online help, and websites for use in a non-English locale. At that most general level, localization includes three sub-processes, defined by the following terms:

     

    Internationalization:The process of ensuring that the software can work fully on the machines in the target country, as well as make the software localizable.

     

    Localization:The process of making the textual material of the software readable in the target locale. This includes translation (see below) but encompasses many activities that facilitate and enhance the actual translation.

     

    Translation: The process of taking text in a source language, and accurately translating it into text in a target language.

     

    So, there we see the term localization again, but here, at this lower level, it has a very specific, more technical meaning, in the entire localization process. Yes, this can be confusing, but unfortunately both of these uses of the term localization are accepted throughout the industry.

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