The Localisation Industry Standards Association (LISA) defines localisation as "the process of modifying products or services to account for differences in distinct markets". Thus it would entail adapting, translating and customising a product for a specific market. This would involve dealing with a specific locale or cultural conventions. By locale, we mean conventions such as sort order, keyboard layout, date, time, number and currency format.
The Difference between Translations and Localisation
Localisation might seem identical or similar to translation. However, the process of localisation is much broader than simply translation. Localisation should ensure that the product provides the local user with the correct local "look-and-feel" while they interact with the product.
Aspects of Localisation
Here is a list of some of items that are considering in localisation:
- Translation of the product's interface and documentation
- Colours, images, graphics and icons: adapting to cultural and legal requirements
- Rendering (can we display the text correctly, does the new text fit inside the allocated space), fonts (do we have fonts and characters for the language), bi-directional text needed in Arabic and other languages.
- Locale data: how to display dates, time, number, currency and other regional data.
Why is Localisation Important?
The lack of content in locally understandable languages is one reason for the slow adoption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in developing countries and in today's world, access to ICT plays a major role in the overall development of a country.
When software has been properly internationalised it is ready for localisation. Internationalisation then is the process of adapting the software so that it can be localised.
Internationalisation would involve adaptation of the software so that interfaces can be translated, that the software makes no assumptions about the presentation of dates, times or calenders but rather present them based on the applicable locale information.
An internationalised application may be localised in those languages and for those locales that are supported by the technology used. Underlying technology, like UTF-8, defines to what extent a localisation is possible.