There’s a lot of talk about web globalization these days. And rightly so. Doing business on a global scale is a real part of today’s worldwide economy, thanks in no small part to the ever spreading reach of the Internet.
If you are exploring a global web initiative, or even if your site is already in a good way down the globalized path, you’ve probably run into a lot of terms and even some strange abbreviations. We often hear these terms used interchangeably and it leads to a lot of unnecessary confusion.
Saying you need translation is not the same as localization. And it’s definitely not the same as needing internationalization of the backend technology so that it can support other languages.
So, let’s all get on the same page.
Here are the definitions Aware uses for the commonly used web globalization terms.
Web Globalization or Globalization: Refers to increasing global connectivity and integration of web sites.
Internationalization: The process of ensuring that a site is capable of adapting to local requirements. Includes planning for and supporting effective processes around content creation, content ownership, content approval (workflow), technology platform and architecture, and possibly even larger business processes like fulfillment and distribution. Often abbreviated as the numeronym i18n (where 18 stands for the number of letters between the first i and last n).
Locale: The set of parameters or "things" common to a given group of users. Typically a locale identifier consists of at least a language identifier and a region identifier such as Canada-French (or CA-FR).
Localization: The process of adapting a site to be as familiar as possible to a specific locale by displaying text in the local language and using local conventions. Takes into account things like cultural considerations (taboo colors, slight variations in translations or misusing colloquialisms), local marketing promotions, units of measurement, imagery, and even address field idiosyncrasies on forms. Often abbreviated as the numeronym L10n (where 10 stands for the number of letters between the first L and the last n; the capital L helps to distinguish it from i18n).
Region: Indicates a physical area such as a country, a group of countries, a geographic area or body of land.
Regional: Refers to and makes an association with a specific region (e.g. regional web sites).
Regionalization: The process of forming regions; in globalization, it represents a world that becomes less interconnected, with a stronger regional focus (tend to need to be separate sites altogether).
Translation: The interpretation of the meaning of a text in one language (the "source text") and the production, in another language, of an equivalent text (the "target text," or "translation") that communicates the same message.
Fall-Back Language: A pre-determined language chosen for presentation when the desired localized content is not available (e.g., an España-Español (Spain-Spanish) user selects a page that is not localized, he or she then sees that page displayed in the pre-set fall-back language, e.g. English).
Global Navigation: The method behind how visitors access regional sites.
Global Gateway: A landing page or element on a page (such as picking from a list or a dropdown) that allows visitors to self-select their language or country (or both) before reaching the regional site itself.