Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What is Localization?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Language localization)
Language localization[nb 1] (from the English term locale, “a place where something happens or is set”)[1] is the second phase of a larger process of product translation and cultural adaptation (for specific countries, regions, or groups) to account for differences in distinct markets, a process known as internationalisation and localisation. Language localisation is not merely a translation activity, because it involves a comprehensive study of the target culture in order to correctly adapt the product to local needs. Localisation is sometimes referred to by the numeronym ”L10N” (as in: “L”, followed by ten more letters, and then “N”).
The localisation process is most generally related to the cultural adaptation and translation of softwarevideo games, and websites, and less frequently to any written translation (which may also involve cultural adaptation processes). Localisation can be done for regions or countries where people speak different languages, or where the same language is spoken: for instance, different dialects of Spanish, with different idioms, are spoken in Spain than are spoken in Latin America; likewise, word choices and idioms vary among countries where English is the official language (e.g., in theUnited States, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines).


[edit]The overall process: internationalisation, globalisation and localisation

As the former Localisation Industry Standards Association (LISA) explained, globalisation “can best be thought of as a cycle rather than a single process”.[2] To globalize is to plan the design and development methods for a product in advance, keeping in mind a multicultural audience, in order to avoid increased costs and quality problems, save time, and smooth the localizing effort for each region or country. Localisation is an integral part of the overall process called globalisation.
The globalisation process
(inspired by a chart from the LISA website.)[2]
There are two primary technical processes that comprise globalisation, internationalisation and localisation.
The first phase, internationalisation, encompasses the planning and preparation stages for a product that is built by design to support global markets. This process removes all cultural assumptions and any country- or language-specific content is stored so that it can be easily adapted. If this content is not separated during this phase, it must be fixed during localisation, adding time and expense to the project. In extreme cases, products that were not internationalized may not be localisable.
The second phase, localisation, refers to the actual adaptation of the product for a specific market. The localisation phase involves, among other things, the four issues LISA describes as linguisticphysicalbusiness and cultural, and technical issues.
At the end of each phase, testing, including quality assurance, is performed to ensure that product works properly and meets the client’s quality expectations.

[edit]Translation versus localisation

Localisation is often treated as a mere “high-tech translation”, but this view does not capture its importance, its complexity or what it encompasses. Though it is sometimes difficult to draw the limits between translation and localisation, in general localisation addresses significant, non-textual components of products or services. In addition to translation (and, therefore, grammar and spelling issues that vary from place to place where the same language is spoken), the localisation process might include adapting graphics; adopting local currencies; using proper forms for dates, addresses and phone numbers; the choices of colors; and many other details, including rethinking the physical structure of a product. All these changes aim to recognize local sensitivities, avoid conflict with local culture and habits, and enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, localisation aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company, or different editions of a book depending on the place it is published.

[edit]Globalisation versus localisation

Whereas localisation is the process of adapting one product to a particular locale, globalisation designs the product to minimise the extra work required for each localisation.
Suppose someone is working for a company that, until now, has operated exclusively in the United States. However, the company is now opening a major office in China, and needs a Chinese-language website. The company offers the same products and services in both countries, with only some minor differences, but perhaps some of the elements that appeared in the original website targeted at the United States are offensive or upsetting in China (use of flags, colors, nationalistic images, songs, etc.). Thus, that company might lose a potential market because of small details of presentation.
Furthermore, this company might need to adapt the product to its new buyers; video games are the best example.[3][4]
Now, suppose instead that this company has major offices in a dozen countries, and needs a specifically designed website in each of these countries. Before deciding how to localize the website and the products offered in it any given country, a professional in the area might advise the company to create an overall strategy: to globalise the way the organisation does business. The company might want to design a framework to codify and support this global strategy. The globalisation strategy and the globalisation framework would provide uniform guidance for the 12 separate localisation efforts.

[edit]Language tags and codes

Language codes are closely related to the localizing process, as they indicate the locales involved in the translation and adaptation of the product. They are used in various contexts; for example, they might be informally used in a document published by the European Union,[5] or they might be introduced in HTML tagging under the lang attribute. In the case of the European Union style guide, the language tags are based on the ISO 639-1 alpha-2 code; in HTML, the language codes are generally defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force’s Best Current Practice (BCP) 47.[nb 2] The decision to use one type of code or tag versus another depends upon the nature of the project, and any requirements set out for the localisation specialist.
Most frequently, there is a primary sub-code that identifies the language (e.g. “en”) and an optional sub-code, in capital letters, that specifies the national variety (e.g. “GB”). The sub-codes are typically linked with a hyphen, although in some contexts it’s necessary to substitute this with an underscore. [6]
There are multiple language tag systems available for language codification. For example, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specifies both two- and three-letter codes to represent languages in standards ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-2, respectively.
Examples of two-letter ISO 639-1 codes
Language familyISO 639-1 codeLanguage variant
Englishen-GBBritish English
en-USAmerican English
en-CACanadian English
Spanishes-ESCastilian Spanish (as written and spoken in Spain)
es-MXMexican Spanish
es-ARArgentine Spanish
es-COColombian Spanish
Portuguesept-PTEuropean Portuguese (as written and spoken in Portugal)
pt-BRBrazilian Portuguese
Chinesezh-CNMainland China, simplified characters
zh-TWTaiwan, traditional characters
zh-HKHong Kong, traditional characters

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