Posted by shahzad-bashir on January 28, 2022

The Ultimate Guide to Software Internationalization – i18n

The Ultimate Guide to Software Internationalization – i18n

Software internationalization is all about adapting the user experiences based on the language they speak and the culture they belong to. All brands that want to reach global markets, should keep their products culture appropriate, so the native audiences can resonate with them. In software internationalization, you develop your software in a way that automatically modifies itself to the local audiences. 

Most people still get confused between the terms internationalization, localization, or standardization. First of all, these terms are not synonymous. All of them have their own unique meanings that you must understand. In this article, we’ll elaborate on software internationalization, and why it is important for aspiring global enterprises. 

So, whether you’re a business owner who wants to internationalize their software or a developer responsible for internationalization, you need to know how it would impact your global presence. Moreover, you better know all the best practices that you should employ to make your software internationalization hassle-free and effective. In this post, we’ll share some tips to smartly do software internationalization that would help you launch your software successfully in global markets. 

What is Software Internationalization?

In software internationalization, you adapt your software to the cultural, legal, and social requirements of a region. The textual content of the software is translated into the native languages of the target customers. Not just textual content, but all the visual elements of software, be it images, user-interface or buttons, are modified to meet the user demands and preferences. Each and every component of your software from time and date to currency and payment method should be modified for every region that you are targeting. When your software seems native to your global customers, they feel more comfortable using it.

Unlike translation management, internationalization is more technical. Internationalization is a part of localization that deals with the development part of the software. The internationalization of a product should be done before launch, so you must have a proper plan for it. Internationalization involves development processes, you should have all the required tools customized to your unique software needs. 

Best Tips to do Software Internationalization Appropriately

To do your software internationalization correctly, you need careful planning and development of all components of the software. Following are some of the best tips and practices, which businesses should adopt for effective internationalization. 

1. Cultural Formatting 

Cultures and social norms have a huge impact on the psychologies of individuals that also shape their preferences and interests. When it comes to internationalization, you have to adapt your software product to the cultural parameters of that particular region. The formatting of your software elements should be recognized by the targeted groups. Every region has its own formatting for a date, time, currency, telephone numbers, writing style, etc. For instance, some countries follow a 12-hour clock using AM and PM. and others follow 24-hour clock where 3:00 refers to 3:00 AM and 15:00 refers to 3:00 PM.  

Developers should write the source code of your software in a way that you can automatically adjust it to cultural preferences and regional languages. Similarly, the currencies of different countries also vary. You have to make sure that your software is offering payment methods that are preferred for the people of that region. 

2. Optimizing Your Source Code

To keep your internationalization process hassle-free and less complicated, it is important to keep a separate file for every language. It would make it easier for you to translate your content for every region. You must store all the translated text separately outside the application code. Hard coding your text into the application would create complications, and it will also make it hard for the developers to perform localization tasks for every region. When you have separate translated files stored outside the code, you can easily import files whenever needed, without messing up with the rest of the code. To keep your code clean, you should have organized your translation files logically and created a relevant name for them. It would allow you to recognize each file and easily drag them to the code. So, rather than hard coding the text into the code, you’ll use the placeholders. 

3. Creating Placeholders

It is probably the most important factor of internationalization because the overall work efficiency and speed of your internationalization project depend on it. When it comes to internationalization, hard coding is a big no. When you hard code your text into the code, it only complicates the localization process. Things get harder when you have to internationalize your software for multiple locations. Using placeholders for text and call-back files is the best practice for building multilingual software. 

For example, if there is a button in your software with “buy now” written on it, instead of hardcoding text you should put the placeholders. And you can call back the translated text for every new region. It would keep your code organized and reduce the chances of design errors. For extracting the text from the code, you can either do it manually or use some text extractor tool. Using a tool will make your job easier, you can extract all the translated text from the code in no time.

4. Pseudo Localization 

As we know that language is one of the major aspects of localization but it is not just about translation. Adjusting your layout and designs to different translations is quite a job. Some languages take more space to convey the same message, and some take comparatively less space. Similarly, you write some languages left-to-right and others right-to-left. So, your software design should be flexible enough to easily adjust to all languages. With pseudo localization, you can adjust your designs, and optimize your user interface for every language. It would speed up the whole internationalization process, and you can quickly ship your product to new markets. 

5. Use Translation Tools

Language plays an important role in building your product value in a new marketplace. It is significant to write in-context translations and keep the brand voice consistent across all regions. You should use translation management tools such as translation memory, glossaries, or quality assurance systems to ensure high-quality translations. Translation memory is a tool that helps you keep the translations in context by using previously done translations as a reference to produce new ones. 

Localization managers create glossaries that include all brand terminologies and other keywords that must not be translated. This allows the translators to get an understanding of the brand and effectively communicate the brand message to the target audiences. Similarly, you can use a quality assurance system to ensure high-quality translations. Having such tools in place would save your time and make your translation management effortless. 

6. Application Programming Interface (API)

For effective translation management, API is a must-have tool that helps you keep your translation tool connected with everything. It also helps you manage the translation files, download documents, and back up projects from an app automatically. Creating your API would make the localization process simplified for the team, and it also keeps the workflow optimized. Your developers only have to write the code one time, and it would work for different regions. So, API is a valuable tool to support your internationalization team throughout the project. 

7. Use Command Line Interface

Being an internationalization developer, this is a must-have tool in your localization toolkit. It is a helpful tool used by developers to make the internationalization process hassle-free. By using this tool, the developers can create a new project, download files, add contributors, etc. There is no need to use a mouse or UI to perform any operation, all you have to do is run a command to do any job. For example, using a command you can download different translation files from specific projects. With the command-line interface tool, it becomes much easier for the developers to perform localization operations. 

8. Use A Software Localization Tool

There are many software localization tools available that you can use for your internationalization purpose. These tools would streamline your workflow and keep things sorted. Some advanced localization systems also provide regular reports and project insights that help the localization team keep track of their project progress and make informed decisions. While choosing any localization system, make sure it has all the tools that you need for software internationalization purposes. You can also tailor your system to your unique business needs. 

Final Words!

Once you have ensured that your software is error-free and fully internationalized for all target markets, you are all set to make a global leap. Launching your software product into international markets comes with some challenges that you should handle wisely. You have to break that glass ceiling of languages, and cultures to pull it off into the global markets. Software internationalization would help you have a smooth entry into a foreign market. 

This helps you to build a positive image of your brand and grab the attention of maximum customers. Internationalization makes your software appear local, and your targeted audiences also consider it as a native brand. It also helps you build a long-lasting relationship with your target audiences. 

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