Software Internationalization: Why Is It Essential for Localization?

If you decide to make your software or mobile application a global product and available for multilingual markets, two main words will come to your mind, which are internationalization and localization. Although these two words are different in their meanings, they share the same objective which is helping you expand your business operations to new markets and regions.

In the past, the process of making software applications multilingual and portable for various global markets was a bit complicated and time-consuming as companies needed to change the codes for each language and start the process from scratch every time. However, in today’s technological age, the software development industry is flourishing more than ever. As reported by Statista, revenue in the Software market is expected to reach US$659.00bn in 2023. Thus, the recent advancements in the field have made it much easier to move software applications from one language to another without major changes. The process of adapting your software to new global audiences and enlarging your customer base is called software localization services. 

Before proceeding with localizing your software, you have to follow a solid growth strategy from the very beginning to ensure a successful expansion and not waste your time and money in making changes to the code of your software product every time you intend to develop it for a new language. This is where software internationalization comes into play. Software internationalization is a part of the localization services process that acts as a proactive approach to facilitate it and help you make your software adaptable for different languages. 

In this blog post, we will walk you through the definition of software internationalization and its best practices, and explain the difference between internationalization and localization, elaborating the relation between both terms and highlighting the key benefits of software internationalization.

What Is Software Internationalization?

Internationalization is sometimes named “i18n” because of the number of letters between “I” and “N”. In its simplest definition, software internationalization is the process of building, developing, and designing your software products to be adaptable to different languages and regions. The process is carried out by software developers and engineers from the get-go to facilitate the localization process for translators and language professionals. Here are some of the best practices of software internationalization:

Using a Standard Encoding System

It is a very crucial step in the internationalization process. Using Unicode that is suitable for every local and any character regardless of the language is the core function of internationalization. Unicode allows you to update and store text data in any language. An internationalized software product supports different character encodings and text directions.

Separating Language Content from the Core Code 

Content is everything in your product that conveys meaning to its users, while code is the technical aspect and functionality of your software. If you set language content and code apart, you will make your software more flexible and adaptable. You should avoid hard-coding content that may not be appropriate for other locales. Moreover, use databases or external resource files to store your data content, and employ variables to insert them into your code.

Developing a Flexible and User-friendly Software

Apply software internationalization during the process of developing and designing your software will make your product adaptable and flexible for different languages and cultures. Thus, you have to take into account the cultural nuances, images, colors, formats, dates, and currencies. Your software should also be designed to accept variations in text lengths, layouts, and fonts. 

Applying an Effective Localization Strategy

The next step after software internationalization is localization. Here, translators start to translate the product’s code and content into the language and culture of target audiences to meet their requirements and expectations. 

Internationalization vs. Localization

Internationalization and localization are often understood synonymously. However, each term has a different meaning. Internationalization is the process of preparing your software to be localized and adapted to address the languages of new global audiences. It forms the technical base of your software to suit different locales and languages. 

Localization is the process of translating and adapting your software content to resonate with new markets. It is also called “l10n” where 10 refers to the number of letters between the “i” and the “n”. It is not just translating the original text into another language. The process involves adapting your software content to be culturally appropriate for global audiences. The main goal is to make your product sound natural to new audiences as if it was originally developed with only them in mind. Accurate and professional localization services help you penetrate new markets and establish solid relationships with new customers. 

By applying software internationalization from the beginning, the localization process will be much smoother and cost-effective. It enables you to move your software from one language to another faster and easier without having to make serious changes to the code.

The Benefits of Software Internationalization

Expanding your software product to international markets is essential in today’s globalized age to stand head and shoulders among others. Using upfront software internationalization plays a pivotal role in facilitating the process of making your software a multilingual product. Here are some of the major benefits of software internationalization:

Facilitating the Localization Process

The localization process takes place after the designing and developing of software applications to be justifiable and adaptable for multiple languages. Only properly internationalized software will make it easy for translators to translate text elements from one language to another. Internationalized software smoothes the path for adding texts in different languages into the product without any problems or making significant updates in the code. All in all, internationalization makes the localization process more efficient by providing us with localization-friendly coding practices.

Reducing Costs

Internationalization reduces the costs of localizing your software to support multiple languages. By internationalizing your software, you will no longer hardcode each language separately. Instead, well-internationalized software replaces code with key placeholders that can accept a new language without any technical changes. Instead of creating a copy of the same code to use for different languages, you will utilize only one software for any language in the world. 

Enabling Faster Global Expansion

With software internationalization, you will not need to rebuild your software to be suitable for a new language and different cultural norms. Internationalization accelerates your global expansion and helps you venture into new markets fast and efficiently.

Providing a Seamless User Experience

Software internationalization helps you create a multilingual product that is user-friendly for customers speaking different languages. Customizing your software product to meet the preferences and needs of your target users will certainly improve their user experience and increase their satisfaction and engagement.

The Bottom Line

Software internationalization and localization remarkably complement each other. By following a valid software internationalization strategy, you can design your product or application to be available in the languages of your target regions. Internationalization paves the way for a successful and efficient localization process that adjusts your software to meet the linguistic, cultural, and functional requirements of different markets.

Afrolingo takes pride in providing top-notch software localization services. At Afrolingo, we employ professional translators, programmers, and designers who work hand in hand to help you step into new international markets and be second to none. Want your software product to rock in overseas markets, contact us today!