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Language localisation (from the English term "locale" and abbreviated in the numeronym "L10N", the 10 being a way of replacing the middle 10 letters of the word) can be defined as the second phase of a larger process (Internationalisation) of product translation and cultural adaptation (for specific countries, regions, groups) to account for differences in distinct markets. Thus, it is important not to reduce it to a mere translation activity because it involves a comprehensive study of the target culture in order to correctly adapt the product.
The localisation process is most generally related to cultural adaptation and translation of software, video games and websites, and less frequently to any written translation (although these also involve cultural adaptation processes). The process of localising can be done for regions or countries where people speak different languages, or where the same language is spoken. Just recall the language differences in countries where Spanish is natively spoken (for instance in South America), or where English is the official language (e.g. in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Philippines).
The overall process: internationalisation, globalisation and localisation[संपादन]
As the LISA association explains, globalisation "can best be thought of as a cycle rather than a single process". To globalise is to plan in advance the way the product or the website should be designed and developed in order to avoid costs from going up and quality problems from emerging, to save time, and eventually to smooth the localising effort for each region/country. Localisation is one phase, but an integral part, of the overall process called globalisation.
In this view, there are two primary technical processes that comprise globalisation, internationalisation and localisation, which make up a double-phase process. See the right-hand diagram insipired in a chart found in the LISA association website.
The first phase, internationalisation, «encompasses the planning and preparation stages for a product in which it is built by design to support global markets. This process means that all cultural assumptions are removed and any country or language-specific content is stored externally to the product so that it can be easily adapted». If this is not done during this phase, they must be fixed during localisation, though, adding time and expense to the project. It is important to acknowledge that in extreme cases, products that were not internationalised may not even be localisable.
The second phase, localisation, «refers to the actual adaptation of the product for a specific market». The localisation phase involves, among other things (see below and Internationalisation and localisation), the four issues LISA association describes as linguistic, physical, business and cultural, and technical issues.
At the end of each phase, a testing and a quality assurance (QA) test are done to ensure that product works properly and to deliver it according to the client's quality expectations.
Translation versus localisation[संपादन]
Localisation is often treated as a mere "high-tech translation", but this view does not capture its importance, its complexity or what it encompasses. Though it is sometimes somehow difficult to draw the limits between translation and localisation, in general localisation addresses significant, non-textual components of products or services. In addition to strict translation (and, therefore, grammar and spelling issues that vary from place to place or from country to country where the same language is spoken), the localisation process might include adaptation of graphics, adoption of local currencies, use of proper forms for dates, addresses and phone numbers, and many other details, including rethinking the physical structure of a product. All these changes aim to recognise local sensitivities and to enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, localisation aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company or different editions of a book depending on the place it is published.
Globalisation versus localisation[संपादन]
To explain this issue, let's analyse a given situation: suppose someone is working for a company that, until now, has operated exclusively in the United States. However, your company is now opening a major office in China, and you need a website for this country, evidently, translated into Chinese. You'll be offering pretty much the same products and services in both countries, with only some minor differences, but perhaps some of the elements that appeared in your original United States targeted website (use of flags, colours, national-embedded images, songs) are offensive or upsetting. Thus, that person might lose a potential market only because of small details of presentation. Observe the cultural gap there is between most oriental cultures and European-occidental ones. Furthermore, this person might need to adapt the product to its new buyers; video games are the best example. To illustrate this, read the following articles published in the October/November 2008 edition of the specialized magazine Multilingual: "Practical skills for video game translators" or "Preserving the spell in games localization".
Now, suppose instead that this man's company has major offices in a dozen countries, and he needs a specifically-designed website in each of these countries. Before he decides how to localise the website and the products offered in it any given country, a professional in the area might advise him to create an overall strategy: to globalise (the way an organization does business). And he might want to design a framework to codify and support this global strategy. The globalisation strategy and the globalisation framework will provide uniform guidance for your 12 separate localisation efforts and will earn a lot of time and money for him, as a businessman, and for the group of localisers and translators hired for the project.
Language tags are closely related to the localising process as they indicate the locale to which and from which the translation/adaptation is being done. They are used in different contexts, for example, they might be informally used in a document published by the European Union (for this purpose see the European Interinstitutional style guide's norms which are based, in turn, on the ISO 639-1, alpha-2 code) or they might be introduced in the HTML tagging under the lang attribute. In the latter, the language codes are generally defined by the IETF's BCP 47. BCP stands for «Best Current Practise», and is a persistent name for a series of RFCs whose numbers change as they are updated. The latest one is RFC 4646, Tags for the Identification of Languages. The election of one or other depends on the kind of project and the requirements the translator/localiser has.
Most frequently, there is a primary subtag that identifies the language (e.g. "en") and an optional subtag in capital letters that specifies the national variety (e.g. "GB"). The subtags are linked with a hyphen (although in some contexts it's necessary to substitute this with an underscore ).
It is important to consult the ISO website for further inquires because there are more than one nomenclature possible for language codification. For instance, language codes specified in ISO 639-2 use a three-letter nomenclature instead of a two-letter code, such as bul for Bulgarian or fij for Fijian. However, be careful as these might not valid as language tags if the language also has two-letter code in ISO 639-1.
Some examples of the two-letter codification are:
- English: en-GB (British English), en-US (American English), en-CA (Canadian English)
- Spanish: es-ES (Castilian Spanish, Spanish as written and spoken in Spain), es-MX (Mexican Spanish), es-AR (Argentine Spanish), es-CO (Colombian Spanish)
- Portuguese: pt-PT (European Portuguese, Portuguese as written and spoken in Portugal), pt-BR (Brazilian Portuguese)
- Chinese: zh-CN (Mainland China, simplified characters), zh-TW (Taiwan, traditional characters), zh-HK (Hong Kong, traditional characters)
Notes and references[संपादन]
- The spelling "localisation", a variant of "localization", is the preferred spelling in the UK and other Commonwealth countries.
- List of currently supported locales by the gnu libc library.
- Internationalization and localization
- American and British English differences
- Spanish dialects and varieties
- Variety (linguistics)
- Localization Industry Standard Association (LISA) - They offer an interesting glossary on localisation
- Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)
- Localization World Conference
- Worldware Conference - Global Software Strategies
- Localisation Research Centre
- Mozilla Localization Project
- 22 Ideas for Better Game Localization - Tips and ideas on how to improve the localization process for video games
- I18nguy: Internationalization (I18n), Localization (L10n), Standards, and Amusements
- Foreignword - List of translation magazines
- Developing Tips: Language tags
- W3C: Internationalization - Language tags in HTML and XML
- Ranking of Top 20 Language Service Providers
- Library of Congress List of ISO 639-2 (alpha 3) Language Codes