Illustration by Markus Koljonen
Most people, including technology professionals, don’t know the meaning of the terms internationalisation and localisation. How many people know what a localisation specialist does? How many organisations localise their products?
According to LISA (the Localization Industry Standards Association), “localization is the process of modifying products or services to account for differences in distinct markets” while “internationalization is the process of enabling a product at technical level for localization”. In other words, internationalisation involves the creation of a design that makes it easy to adapt a product for different regions or ethnicities (called locales), while localization is the adaptation itself. Internationalisation is done once per product, localisation is done for each locale of the product.
For example, in an imaginary appliances factory, the colours and labels of a microwave could be changed according to the target market (locale) by moving a lever in the production line. The process of designing the mechanism behind the lever is called internationalisation. Localisation is the identification of the colours and labels to be used to suit each locale. In the context of web development, our lever is a combination of programming code, data files (often XML) and database tables, while localisation is usually the actual translation of the content (text, video, graphics, etc.) of those data files and tables.
Although the above definitions indicate a high level of complexity, the term localisation is often misused to indicate both processes and treated as nothing more than a “high-tech translation” (LISA Globalization Industry Premier, 2007). Due to this, and for simplicity, we will use the term localisation in our survey to indicate the whole process that leads to a final product becoming available for different locales, even though is not technically correct.
The following survey has been created to study the apparent lack of interest many organisations have (even in today’s global economy) in localising their products (websites in particular). We hope to identify the level of awareness of the existence, complexity and importance of the field. At this stage the focus will be on selected aspects and their application in the development of websites.
This survey has been created as part of my research, combining my roles as IT lecturer of the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and freelance Spanish Localization Specialist. The survey consists of 12 questions and requires only one piece of personal information (your email) which will only be used to avoid duplicated forms, filter spam and send you the survey data (of course, without the email list) in recognition of your participation.
We appreciate your input and ask you to share this survey with your colleagues and encourage their participation, as it will take just five minutes of your time.
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