Localisation and internationalisation

Published 11th February 2013
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by Lingua Translations

The language translation process is not only about transferring information from one language into another. Every translator, before she/he starts his work, needs to think of whom the translation is for, where it will be applied and what sphere of life it relates to. Therefore, we can distinguish two terms: localisation and internationalisation, which enable the translation to become more carefully thought out and adapted. As both notions reflect two different things they actually have something in common. Localisation and internationalisation are both all about adaptation!

Localisation in language translation refers to customising a product for a local audience, whereas internationalisation is about generalising a product so that it can be applied across different countries and can handle multiple languages and cultural contexts without the need for re-design.

Localisation is very important in the language translation industry; it is the process of taking a product and making it linguistically, technically and culturally relevant within the local target market where it will be used and sold. It is usually used for local adaptation of software, video games and websites. Localisation basically means translating the information and adapting all the product specifications to support standards in the target market including cultural modifications of the source text to reflect situations and examples common in a particular region. Business applications need ‘localisation’ as well.

On the other hand, internationalisation is a task for developers who have to include support for all possible target markets in their products. Internationalisation means standardisation of the information, however, it has to comply with cultural conventions and international laws in order to prevent offence or illegal action in any region. In most cases, better internationalisation automatically results in a more efficient localisation process. For example, if a software package has been created in which the address format automatically adapts to the chosen country, there is no need to localise the product to a particular target market which requires a specific address format.

To sum up, internationalisation and localisation are becoming more and more important and thus popular in the world of language translation. They give a company an enormous competitive advantage as they enhance communication with overseas customers and meet the needs of local customers. Surprisingly, internationalisation is the first step towards localisation, since if everything is standardised it is much easier to implement it into various places around the world.

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