The role of translation in localization, internalization and globalization (Part#2)

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

(Globalization, LISA:
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004.

To complete our quartet of terms, we can show how translation fits into these key processes. Once again, we can probably rely on the vernacular understanding of the word and say that translation refers to the specifically linguistic operations, performed by human or machine, that actually replaces the expressions in one natural language into those of another. This has the effect of making translation just one task – possibly the most time consuming, costly and vital, but as we have seen not the only one – in adapting something to the needs of the given locale.

An interesting phenomenon is that much of today’s new, emerging publishing standards, such as content management systems and XML, place a new focus on the art of translation. Where localization previously incorporated translation as “just one” of the activities, these new publishing standards strip all the complexities from the raw text, i.e. separate layout and structure from the “content”, which is one of the primary goals of internationalization. This means translators in localization can finally start focusing on what they should really be focusing on – changing one natural language into another.

We can see more and more practices and technologies that were previously very specific to the “localization world” entering into the more traditional translation industry. For example, translation memory tools are now commonly used by translators who translate material which is not software related. Similarly, legal translators may be faced with XML documentation while life sciences translators may have to translate a piece of software running on a medical device.

As humanity evolves, so do languages and definitions. The concepts of translation and localization may progressively merge. Localization may no longer be a separate discipline since sooner or later all translators will have to know at least the basics of localization – from translation to localization, and back again.

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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