Internationalization vs Localization (I18N vs L10N): What Are the Differences?

If you are considering expanding your already successful product, the first step is to make sure you have an organized internalization and localization strategy in place.

The secret to the success of large corporations is their successful internalization and localization processes, which create a wealth of opportunities for company growth and expansion. 

In this article, we’ll briefly explore the main components of Internationalization vs. localization and help you guide which strategy is suited for your business for global expansion. 

What is Internationalization (I18N)?

Internationalization, is defined as the process of designing and developing a product, or service offering in a way that it can be easily adapted by different cultures, languages, and regions. 

I18N, the abbreviation of internationalization, means first letter “i”, and last letter “n”, between them includes eighteen letters. 

Whether it is setting up services, products, websites, apps, and software products, internationalization is the expansion of them into other regions of the world. 

In simple words, i18n means to expand your homegrown product or service by adapting them to fit a universally applicable form. 

A successful Internalization procedure requires a strategy that supports an intuitive plan; it should have a user interface and overall formation that supports various languages to target multiple audience segments. 

With a large audience comes endless possibilities for business growth; however, to internalize, businesses need to start from scratch. This means Internalization needs to be an integral part of your product’s design, development, and maintenance. 

For instance, if you are an app developer focused on developing dynamic mobile applications, and there’s a business requirement to launch your website in China. Before you launch, you will need to research the Chinese market. 

Additionally, you’ve got to adapt your app to the app’s user experience with special characters in the Chinese language. 

Your product or service will be fully scalable if you implement a successful internalization strategy, making it more straightforward to appeal to various markers. 

Real-World Examples of Internationalization

If you’re unsure of how successfully I18n operates, we’ve listed a few examples of real-world internationalization processes from a few big global companies. 

Foreign Language Landing Pages with Duolingo

Duolingo is a well-known language learning platform; the learning app incorporates Internationalization on its website to make it easier for learners from every corner of the world to understand. 

duolingo english website

The language learning app diligently makes use of I18n on the homepage of the website; when using Arabic, the language flows from right to left instead of left to right. Due to its user interface, Duolingo has become popular in Arab nations as a language learning tool.

duolingo arabic website

IKEA’s Internationalized User Manuals

The largest furniture retailer, IKEA, is successful in its internalization tactic. Instead of translating their assembly manuals, IKEA internationalizes their guides. 

IKEA uses diagram-based instructions rather than language-based ones, which is a great way to make it accessible to all consumers worldwide. 

When Should You Internationalize?

When you have decided to take your product to a global audience, There are a few factors you should consider before the internationalization process. 

  •  You have a product, service, or software that would perform well in all regions and is successful in your home market. 
  • You are aware of the geographic regions you are expanding, for instance, their interests and buying habits. 
  • You are ready to lay the foundation for international growth.
  • You have the financial backing to help you elevate your audience. 

What is Localization (L10N)?

As opposed to Internationalization which adapts to different regions of the world, Localization is defined as the process of designing a product, or service offering to meet cultural, and language requirements of a specific region. 

Localization is abbreviated as L10N, means the first letter “l”, and last letter n, between them includes 10 letters. 

A successfully localized product should feel original and culturally authentic as if it were created specifically for them. In essence, Localization ensures that brands tune up a product to make it an ideal fit for their audience. 

Here’s an example to better understand the Localization definition: suppose you are an e-commerce seller expanding your site to China. The website must be translated into Chinese, but localization extends beyond this. To make everything perfect for your potential Chinese customers, you must redesign your website.

This will not only include just translating the website to Chinese but also setting up local payment methods, displaying region-specific products, and redesigning images and videos targeted at Chinese audiences. 

With these factors in mind, the localization process will ensure that your products are tailored for a specific location and audience. 

However, if you are still unsure if you need translation or localization, check out this article to know the key differences of Translation VS Localization.

Real-World Examples of Localization

Most businesses find localization a complex process to adopt, so we’ve listed a list of some of the most successful localization efforts. 

Localizing Regional Websites with Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola, the most successful soft drink company, utilizes localization strategies to serve more than a hundred countries. 

Most of all, The commercials for the soft drink company show how much they value regional customs and cultures. This enables it to connect emotionally with its intended audience. 

In addition, Coca-Cola adapts its products to local tastes and experiments with new flavors and products in various locations to better cater to local preferences. 

Netflix’s Internationalized Content Integration

The biggest streaming service, Netflix, utilizes localization to provide a more personalized and culturally relevant streaming experience to its users. 

netflix us site

Netflix creates content that is tailored to regional preferences and passions. This covers everything, including translating foreign films into local dialects and creating stories in regional languages that reflect the local culture.

Not only Netflix cares about producing local content, but it also customizes its user interface and website experience to the local language and content. 

netflix japan site

When Should You Localize?

If you have understood what l10n is and the potential it brings for your brand, then Localization should be great for you. Let’s consider the elements that decide if doing localization is excellent for you. 

  • You’ve established yourself in internalization, and you’re moving forward by adapting your material to cater to specific demographics and context.
  • You know what needs to be done to adapt your product to a different cultural setting.
  • You have the resources to hire local markers and native speakers to understand the audience better. 

Localization vs. Internationalization 

Are you looking to expand your business to the next height? Before that, it’s essential to understand the difference between l10n and I18n. 

Internationalization is the design and processing to be adhered to quickly, adopting your local product or service worldwide to cater to a wide range of demographics. It can also be understood as the first step for localization. 

Localization refers to adopting a product to a specific location, for instance, expanding your e-commerce store from the United States to a different locale. 

Not to mention, once your product or site goes through the internalization process, you can then switch to a more focused locale process, localization multiple times. 

Also, An already internationalized product can be easily localized without much effort and with fewer errors. 

Let’s take an in-depth look at l10n vs. I18n to determine which is better for the expansion of your business. 

What are the Challenges of Internationalization and Localization?

Internationalization and Localization can present several challenges and hurdles for corporations to expand their growth. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Linguistic and cultural adoption 

One of them is linguistic and cultural adoption. The process not only involves accurately translating words and phrases to the local language but also adopting the local slang, idioms, trends, images, and cultural behavior to resonate with the target audience. 

  • Technical constraint 

To support internationalization and localization, your website must be developed and redesigned to ensure an excellent user experience. 

  • Quality maintenance

Once you have ensured a successful internalization and localization procedure, the next step is to ensure that the translated content integrates with the UI components, performs as intended, and maintains usability. 

How Can I18N and L10N Be Used to Improve User Experience?

I18n and l10n play a significant part in improving the user experience of software products. As you expand your website to a different local, you will be required to transform it in line with their local preferences. 

Internationalization entails translating the website to the local language, whereas Localization goes beyond just that; it consists in adapting the software with payment methods, displaying region-specific products, and redesigning images and videos targeted. 

What Are the Goals of Internationalization and Localization?

Localization and internalization serve a common goal, that is, globalization.

The process of developing and promoting multilingual products to consumers worldwide is known as globalization.

This means that if you are developing a software application or a mobile app, and if you intend to make it available in multiple locales, you are essentially trying to “globalize” your product. Internationalization and localization will help you achieve this goal – globalization.

Bottom Line: Which is Better?

Now that you have an understanding of internalization vs. localization and the benefits they offer for the expansion of your business. Knowing which is more appropriate for your business is crucial. 

Internationalization is the process of preparing products and services for the global market. In comparison, localization is adopting a specific product to target a unique locale as a complete expansion. 

Above all, I18n is the first brick for a global expansion, while l10n helps you capitalize and transform your product to a locally fine-tuned one to target the domestic audience. 

Wordspath can help

Wordspath provides highly reliable human translation and state-of-the-art machine translation services for content related to diverse subject matters with accuracy and consistency. With over 20-years experience, we are confident to handle your localization projects to boost international market share.

We take pride in our quality-driven workflow that combines the excellent work of our linguists, desktop publishers, project managers, customer service, and technical team. Their endless support allows Wordspath to provide first-rate language solutions in 150+ languages for thousands of customers who need to connect with the world.

Before deliver the final translation to you, our in-house/contracted linguists review, edit, polish, and proofread the results, as well as professionally format by our desktop publish team.

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