Computer code may be written in its own language but software can benefit from translation services, just like advertisements and corporate communications. Computer software requires more than translation to be viable and relevant in another culture. When a software product is sufficiently developed and ready to enter a multi-national arena, it also needs to be localized. Software localization is the process of making the product ready for another culture and language.

When a software product is sufficiently developed and ready to enter a multi-national arena, it also needs to be localized.

This process naturally requires translation services. The language used in the interface of the software itself must be exchanged for another language. In addition, all the documentation must be translated so that it can be read and understood by both the programmers and the end-users in the target audience. Manuals, instructions, and help files must also be recreated in another language.

This is an extraordinarily detail-oriented and labor-intensive process. Every detail must be practically recreated to reflect the culture and language of a different culture. Units of measurement and currency must be converted. Text must be translated. Menus and dialogs must be rethought. Graphics and icons must be reconsidered for relevancy and ease of understanding. Cultural cues must be respected and the software should be combed for anything that could remotely be construed as offensive. Even the packaging and marketing materials will have to be transitioned into the target language and culture. All of this and more must be accomplished without sacrificing the look, feel, and functionality of the original product.

Despite the difficulty presented by software localization, its importance cannot be denied. Few, if any, software projects can become viable and profitable if designed for single culture. The market is, by its very nature, without borders. Software localization has become a necessary part of the development process.

Each software localization project is unique and deserves a customized plan. However, there are a few things that can be done in the development phase that will make the localization process a little more streamlined.

  • Design the product to be adaptable. Write the software so that language is separate, when possible, from code.
  • Don’t assume. The smallest details can often be the most telling flaws in a localization project. For example, don’t assume all countries write names, dates, or times in the same ways. Leave room for the differences.
  • Involve a localization expert in the development phase. You’ll only extend your release dates if you wait too long to enlist assistance with the localization of your software product. It’s always better to start thinking internationally from the beginning of development rather than the end.
  • Make sure your translation services team has the skills to complete the complex process of software localization. It takes more than just translation to bring a software product into a global marketplace.
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