A short history of localization, internalization and globalization (Part#1)

Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider, Volume XI, Issue 1.5, pages 1-5. Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association

(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA: www.lisa.org)
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004.

In the beginning, or shortly thereafter, there were people. And when one people met another people, translation was born. Then, somewhat later, came software. And when people started translating software, some of the changes required were not, strictly speaking, translation: changes to character encoding’s, date and time formats, sorting rules, etc. The term localization was used to more generally describe any changes required to adapt a product to the needs of a particular group of people generally in the same physical location or locale; in short, to make local as the dictionary suggests.

A locale in our industry identifies a group of people by their common language and cultural conventions; the group may or may not be in the same physical location. French-Canadians, for example, are present mainly in the province of Quebec, but there are several other groups in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. In our industry, the word locale has become a virtual location, more akin to the concept of culture. To wit, we name locales by language-country pairs; for example, French-Canada is one locale, while French-France is another.

When multiple localization efforts were performed on the same product, it became obvious that certain steps could be performed in advance to make localization easier: separating translatable text strings from the executable code, for example. This was referred to as internationalization or localization-enablement. This definition represents a shift away from the dictionary: internationalization, in our industry, is only the first step in the overall process of making international, as the dictionary suggests.

Finally, when the “rest of the world” gained in importance, it was a marketing imperative to have a strategy to sell all over the world: a so-called globalization strategy!


For the full article, click here.

By Pierre Cadieux
President of i18N Inc.
Specializes in internationalization training
and consulting for embedded systems,
shrink-wrap software and web sites.
Technology Editor of LISA Newsletter


By Bert Esselink
Author of “A Practical Guide to Localization” book.
Works for Lionbridge’s consulting group.



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