Translation Industry Terms and Definitions

Many different definitions and descriptions for localization are used in the software and translation industry. Below you will find a commonly used definition, as well as descriptions of some related terms, including: Internationalization, Localization, Globalization, Translation, and Language Engineering.

Explanations of many other commonly used terms can be found in the Glossary of Terms.


The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) defines internationalization as follows:
"Internationalization is the process of generalizing a product so that it can handle multiple languages and cultural conventions without the need for re-design. Internationalization takes place at the level of program design and document development."

In general, a product is internationalized during the product development cycle, as a precursor to the localization of a product.

An important aspect of internationalization is the separation of text from the software source code. Translatable text, i.e. text witch is visible to the user, should be moved to separate strings-only resource files. This will prevent translators from changing - or breaking – the program code, because the resource files only contain translatable components and no coding.

Central to internationalization is the ability to display the character sets and support local standards of a particular language and country. For example, before a software product can be translated into Japanese, it must support double-byte characters. If the application has been programmed to support only Western European languages, it must be double-byte enabled first, for example by using Unicode character support, Likewise, different foreign keyboard layouts, input methods, and hardware standards must be supported.

Internationalization is not limited to software. Online help, documentation, and web sites, in particular, also need to be internationalized. For technical writers this process is often called "writing for translation" or "writing for a global audience". In the case of web sites, internationalization, translation, and adapting the content to specific target markets is usually referred to as "web site globalization."

Internationalization is often abbreviated to "i18n", where "18" indicates the number of letters between the "i" and the "n". For more information on internationalization, refer to Chapter 2, internationalization.


The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) defines localization as follows:

"Localization involves taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target locale (country/region and language) where it will be used and sold."

Note that some publishers consider localization as an integral part of the development process of a product. In some cases, special country-specific releases of software products are called localizations. In this book, we will refer to all localization-related internationalization.

Localization projects usually include the following activities:

    • Project management
    • Translation and engineering of software
    • Translation, engineering, and testing of online help or web content
    • Translation and desktop publishing (DTP) of documentation
    • Translation and assembling of multimedia or computer-based training components
    • Functionality testing of localized software or web applications

Approximately 80% of software products are localized from English into other languages because the majority of software and web applications are being developed in the United States. In addition, software manufactures in other countries often develop their products in English, or have them localized into English first and use this version as a basis for further for localization.

A well-localized product enables users to interact with a software application in their native language. They should be able to read all interface components such as error messages or screen tips in their native language, and enter information with all accented characters using the local keyboard layout. "L10n" is often used as an abbreviation for localization.


The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) defines globalization as follows:

"Globalization addresses the business issues associated with taking a product global.
In the globalization of high-tech products this involves integrating localization throughout a company, after proper internationalization and product design, as well as marketing, sales, and support in the world market."

Globalization is a term used in many different ways. For example, there is the top, geopolitical level that deals with globalization of business as an economic evolution. Secondly, there is the globalization of an enterprise that establishes international creating local or localized versions of web sites, witch we will refer to as "web site globalization". Web site globalization refers to enabling a web site to deal with non-English speaking visitors, i.e. internationalizing the site's back-end software, designing a multi-lingual architecture, and localizing the site's static or dynamic content.

In the context of this book, globalization covers both internationalization and localization. Publishers will "go global" when they start developing, Translating, marketing, and distributing their products to foreign language markets. The concept of globalization ("g11n") is typically used in sales and marketing context, i.e. it is the process by which a company breaks free of the home markets to pursue business opportunities wherever its customers may be located.


Translation is the process of converting written text or spoken words to another language. It requires that the full meaning of the source material be accurately rendered into the target language, with special attention paid to cultural nuance and style.

The difference between translation and localization can be defined as follows:

"Translation is only one of the activities in localization; in addition to translation, localization project includes many other tasks such as project management, software engineering, testing, and desktop publishing."

In localization there is stronger emphasis placed on translation tools and technology compared to the traditional translation industry.

Language Engineering

The following definition for language Engineering was extracted from the EUROMAP Report published on behalf of the EUROMAP Consortium in 1988:

"Language engineering is the application of knowledge of written and spoken language to the information, translation and communication systems, so that they can recognize, understand, interpret, and generate human language. Language technologies include, for example, automatic or computer assisted translation, speech recognition and synthesis, speaker verification, semantic searches and information retrieval, text mining and fact extraction."

Language engineering and computer aided translation (CAT) are discussed briefly in this book. Most language engineering applications are not yet utilized on a large scale in the localization industry, even thought this changing rapidly. Many language engineering techniques such as sentence parsing, terminology extraction, or text mining are now integrated in CAT tools used in localization.