A Deep Dive Into Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization!

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The global business world is no longer the same! The revolution of rapid technology development and digital transformation has rendered today’s world an interconnected sphere of abundant opportunities. It has never been easier for businesses to grow and look forward to unlimited global expansion. This fact could be tricky, though! As much as taking your product or service to several markets all around the world has become easier than ever before, achieving the same success across various markets is very complicated.

Business and linguistic experts use a couple of terms to address the intricacies of the global business expansion issue, yet there is still confusion over the explanation of these words. Globalization, internationalization, and localization are all similar terms that describe different things. Language industry specialists use the abbreviation GILT (globalization, internationalization, localization, and translation) to refer to the entire understanding of the activities a company performs to go global.

What do these terms mean? And why understanding them clearly is important as you make your way through overseas markets? Let’s begin with the definitions and then descend to a comprehensive understanding of the relations between these expressions.

What is globalization?

Former Mexican president Carlos Salinas once said that globalization is a fact of economic life. At its core, globalization is a very common term that refers to the transformation of the world into a smaller and more interconnected place amid the current digital revolution. The concept of globalization also concerns the business expansion on a worldwide scale as well as the strategies and practices companies follow to build an international network of customers and stakeholders.

The definition of globalization, however, differs according to the context and varies from one industry to another. In the language field, globalization is the all-encompassing concept or the large umbrella under which internationalization and localization efforts are taking place. Succinctly put, globalization is the fact that your business can easily become global.

What is internationalization?

Internationalization is simply defined as the process of creating a versatile and adaptable product or service. When it comes to internationalization, there are always two main attributes to look at: developing a universal product for an international audience, and preparing this product to be localized or catered to local cultures. The concept of internationalization or i18n – 18 represents the number of letters – is usually concerned with the preparation and facilitation of localization activities.

For a software company, internationalization could be using a standardized uni-code or developing a flexible interface that allows space for the unique typographical features of different languages. Meanwhile, an educational platform would see internationalization as the usage of simple and easy-to-translate language expressions as well as universal designs and visuals that make sense across different cultures. 

To sum up, Internationalization is designing your product with the fact that it can be localized for foreign customers in mind. This ranges widely from the visual designs and color palettes all the way to the textual content and coding language.

What is Localization?

As opposed to internationalization, localization basically describes the efforts exerted to cater a brand, product, service, or even digital content to the local language and culture of a particular market. Whereas internationalization aims at adapting a product or service to an international audience, localization is, contrarily, the process of tailoring them to the needs of a local target market. 

L10n extends far beyond translation; the concept entails the full spectrum of activities done to recreate a brand message and make it fit into a new market. In other words, localization is the process of making something feel authentic for a new target audience. Localization might include the change of brand name, slogan, date and time format, currency, writing direction, punctuation marks, as well as visual elements and the company’s legal form.

Holistic understanding

Under the general concept of globalization, both internationalization and localization are two integral parts of any successful global business expansion. Internationalization can begin as early as you set your strategy and design your product, preceding the localization practices. Localization comes afterwards as you decide on the markets you want to penetrate and modify your brand to resonate with. To do a proper localization, however, you need to partner with a specialized and professional localization service provider with a demonstrated track record of successful projects.

A reliable localization partner will help you enable a seamless transaction from internationalization to localization activities within a broad understanding of globalization. With the help of expert linguists and subject matter experts who understand the difference between globalization and localization, your product will go viral, just like the successful examples you see all around. 

Successful models

Siri

Apple’s virtual voice assistant Siri marks an epitome of combined internationalization and localization success at scale. On the internationalization level, Siri allows multiple features and is developed in a way that could be easily adapted. As for localization, the voice assistant is now available in more than 21 languages with dozens of local accents and dialects. Siri also customize answers based on the location and the cultural norms of the local market.

Netflix

The booming global success of giant video streaming platform Netflix across 130 markets and over a short time span is filled with lessons to learn. The company’s internationalization strategy included the availability of receiving user feedback and the designing of on-screen menu options that are easy to integrate with any language. Similarly, the company’s winning localization practices ranged widely from the incorporation of multilingual subtitles or dubbing to the creation of original content for each market.

At AfroLingo, we have completed hundreds of successful localization projects over the course of twelve years. Backed by a thorough understanding of the difference between globalization, internationalization, and localization, our native linguists will get your brand thriving within and beyond the African Markets. Partner with us now and develop an impeccable product-market fit with our prime localization services. Contact us today and get a free quotation!