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All There Is to Know About Internationalisation

Is it just us or the translation industry is full of words ending in ‘-ation’? Translation, localisation, transcreation, transadaptation, internationalisation… it can get confusing. Well, we like posting articles to clarify their meanings, and here’s the one where we explore internationalisation in detail.

Internationalisation Vs. Globalisation

These two terms might sound like synonyms, but they are not. How do internationalisation and globalisation differ? Well, it’s simpler than it looks, and it’s also related to localisation—adapting content for local consumption by adjusting it to meet the culture and nuances of a specific target market.

Globalisation (or g11n, if you want to be cool, because there are eleven letters between the ‘g’ and the ‘n’) is the process by which businesses start operating on an international scale. Therefore, it is often considered to include both internationalisation (or i18n) and localisation (or l10n). The formula would be something like:

I18N + L10N = G11N

In the software industry, internationalisation is the optimisation of products like websites, e-commerce sites, and apps to be localised for adoption by a global audience. In other words, internationalisation is the step previous to localisation, and both are necessary to achieve successful globalisation.

Internationalisation is the step previous to localisation, and both are necessary to achieve successful globalisation.

What Does Internationalisation Involve?

Internationalisation involves things such as making the app language independent (i.e., supporting non-Latin alphabets or bidirectional text when users need to switch from English to languages such as Japanese or Arabic), storing user-facing content in separate strings to facilitate their translation, etc.

Some common internationalisation tasks involve the below:

Display and Design

A typical internationalisation challenge is ensuring that the localised content displays properly in the target language. As explained in this blog post by K International, some languages use more or longer words for the same concepts. On the other hand, some languages user fewer or shorter words. As a result, text can expand or contract quite drastically during the translation process.

For example, here’s how text length typically changes when localising from English into some of the most common target languages:

  • English to Arabic: expands 25%.
  • English to Korean: text shrinks by 10-15%.
  • English to Spanish: text expands by  20-25%.
  • English to German: text expands by 10-35%.
  • English to French: text expands by 15-20%

Dates, Times, Numbers, Addresses and Currency

Culturally-dependent data, such as dates, numbers, and currencies, almost always need their formatting adapted, or they need to be converted. With dates and times, this involves time zone adjustments. With money, it is converting from one currency to the equivalent value in another. As explained by Baeldung:

For instance, let’s focus on country-specific numbers. They have various decimal and thousand separators:

  • 102,300.45 (United States)
  • 102 300,45 (Poland)
  • 102.300,45 (Germany)

There are different date formats as well:

  • Monday, January 1, 2018 3:20:34 PM CET (United States)
  • lundi 1 janvier 2018 15 h 20 CET (France).
  • 2018年1月1日 星期一 下午03时20分34秒 CET (China)

What’s more, different countries have unique currency symbols:

  • £1,200.60 (United Kingdom)
  • € 1.200,60 (Italy)
  • 1 200,60 € (France)
  • $1,200.60 (United States)

An important fact to know is that even if countries have the same currency and currency symbol – like France and Italy – the position of their currency symbol could be different.

Does Your Internationalisation Process Hit the Mark?

If you are planning on penetrating Spanish-speaking markets with your app or website, get in touch with us so we can advise you on what’s best for your brand and product.

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