Got GILT? Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation: Making Sense of These Long Words – and Why It Matters
Penetrating new markets is a top strategic priority for many businesses. Entering new foreign markets is easier than ever, but still requires significant time and money to prepare your product for success abroad. Success depends on careful planning and implementing the right processes from the very beginning.
In terms of language support, these processes include globalization, internationalization, localization and translation and each represents a crucial step in taking a product to a new foreign market.
Globalization is the process of developing, manufacturing and marketing a product intended for distribution in foreign markets. This is a two-step process consisting of internationalization and localization, with translation being an integral part of localization.
Internationalization is the process of generalizing a product to prepare it for localization. This neutralizes the product, enabling a more efficient localization process, improving quality and decreasing localization costs and time to market. Internationalizing a product just once enables a company to easily localize that product for multiple locations.
Here is a sample list of tasks commonly performed in the internationalization process:
- Reduce redundant or repetitious texts
- Finalize texts before localization and translation
- Use standard terminology
- Create a glossary defining any original, technical or unclear terminology
- Enforce a consistent writing style
- Adhere to grammar rules
- Adapt layouts to accommodate right-to-left or top-to-bottom scripts
- Allow for extra space since text tends to expand when translated from English
- Use programming tools that support foreign language character sets
After a product has been internationalized, it can then be localized. Localization is the process of adapting a product to fit the specific language and culture of a target market. The goal is to make the product as natural and transparent as possible for the user, as if it was developed with that user in mind.
The following details differ greatly between countries and therefore must be taken into consideration during localization:
- time and date formats
- time zones
- keyboard usage
- number formatting
- currency conversion
- paper size
- units of measurement
- names and titles
- regulatory compliance
- culture/value systems
- social norms
Translation is the process of rendering the meaning of a text from one language into another. It is a significant part of the localization process.
Why Is This Important?
Globalization has made barriers to market entry smaller than ever before. However, language and culture remain significant obstacles for companies expanding to foreign markets. It is a common misconception that most business professionals in the world have sufficient knowledge of English and, therefore, English-only websites are perfectly acceptable for a global marketplace.
Companies cannot survive under this assumption. While English knowledge is indeed widespread, studies have shown that knowledge does not indicate preference. Put quite simply, people are less likely to buy your product if they can’t read about it or use it in their own language.
How Can a Language Services Provider Help?
Language services providers offer a range of services that support globalization, internationalization, localization and translation initiatives, such as:
- Global content management solutions
- Product internationalization
- Website localization
- Software localization
- Software testing
- Terminology management
- Translation memory management
- Consulting and training
When you globalize a product, you are making a commitment to support that product in all of your target markets for the duration of its life cycle. This long-term commitment requires an excellent partner who has a history of success with its existing clients, extensive experience with localization and translation technologies, knowledge of your industry, subject-matter expertise and a process-focused approach to supplying services.