Information technology has revolutionized the localization and translation working environment, and this is such an obvious fact that it not longer even bears mentioning. On the other hand, regulations and customer needs are continuously changing, and may differ from location to location in a global enterprise. Business is fast-paced, ever changing, worldwide and becoming increasingly electronic.
Software tools have replaced manual programming techniques, modems and e-mail have replaced envelopes, mass storage devices have replaced drawers full of folders, CD-ROMs supplement dictionaries and tools, and more recently the Internet and its resources are increasingly saving us time in terms of a better understanding of the localization and translation needs.
Both things, translation and localization, are very important in order to have a true Global product in the Software world. In general, these two concepts are referred to as localization. However, they do not mean the same: Internationalization is the process of designing or redesigning a product so that it can be localized with minimal changes. Localization is the process of adapting a product, in our context a software program, to a specific site, i.e., to its language, standards and cultural norms as well as to the requirements and expectations of a specific target market. A properly localized product also meets all the legal requirements in force in the user's country.
International users of computer software have come to expect their software to "talk" to them in their own language and having coverage of their more usual business practices. This is not only a matter of convenience or of national pride, but a matter of productivity, and in some cases, a legal requirement as well. Users who understand a product fully will be more skilled in handling it and avoid mistakes. So they will prefer applications in their language and customized to their cultural environment and legal regulations.
The international market has become very important for software manufacturers. Many US companies derive a large percentage of their revenues and profits from international sales. Competition is fierce, and those companies who are best at anticipating the needs and preferences of their international users will benefit most.
Most of the software vendors have assumed this challenge, and today their products are available to accomplish these goals providing a true Global product instead of having just an “international” product.
Developer teams are often needed in different countries to adapt products. If the original product is not built with a view toward being localized, this can be a very expensive and time-consuming process. There is the direct cost of multiple development teams modifying the source code of the original product. This process also produces multiple code bases, which makes future development and maintenance more complex.
A real localization stratgy allows to address the localization needs of the different countries incorporated into the standard product, instead of having different products for each country.