What Are Localization, Internationalization and Globalization?

December 11, 2019
What Are Localization, Internationalization and Globalization?

Do you translate for companies that have their sights set on going global? If so, it’s time to embrace the benefits that your professional language services can provide to those in need. Let’s start by looking at localization, globalization and internationalization. All three of these are essential for businesses that want to conquer the world, but what are they and when should they be used? Read on to find out! 

What Is Localization?

Localization is the process of adapting something to a specific, local audience. The item in question could be a website, a video or a product range – the process of moulding it to fit the cultural expectations of the desired audience remains the same. 

Localization is about seeing a product through the target audience’s eyes. Successful localization will result in a product that feels as though it was originally created for the audience in question (rather than adapted from elsewhere). 

Imagine you’re working with a US-based business with plans to expand into Latin America. Localization would help the company to view its products, website, marketing materials and more from a Latino perspective. 

This is about far more than language. Yes, you will need to convert the written materials to Portuguese in order to court Brazilian customers, or to Spanish in order to engage with Mexican buyers. However, you will also need to understand what motivates those customers. What will prompt them to buy the company’s product? What is it about the brand that will inspire trust? What’s important to them from an ethical or an ecological standpoint? 

Then there are the practical aspects of localization. From currency and date formats to the payment provider that the business’ website uses, every aspect has to be adapted to suit local requirements. 

Imagery is key to the localization process as well. Marketing materials that show exclusively non-Latino individuals enjoying a brand’s products are unlikely to resonate strongly with Latino customers. Again, it’s about adapting the materials to evoke a localized sense of connection to the brand and its products. 

At Tomedes, our localization services provide specialist insights to help businesses connect with highly targeted audiences. We cover everything from translation and imagery to punctuation, measurement systems and symbols – along with everything in between. This allows the businesses that we work with to maximise their chances of connecting with their new target customer groups. That’s why we work with specialist translators and localization experts around the world, as part of our global network. You can read more about the advantages of finding the right localization service – and how to do so – by clicking the link below. 

Read more: How to Find the Right Localization Service 

Tired of reading? Rest assured, we have compiled this post into a short video just for you.

What Is Internationalization? 

Internationalization is, in many ways, the opposite of localization. It refers to the process of making products as adaptable as possible, so that they can be viewed, purchased, used and enjoyed by a diverse range of audiences. The idea is to make a culturally neutral product, so that whoever engages with it will be able to properly connect with it, even if they’re on the other side of the world.

This can be a highly complicated process. From imagery to data encoding, it is often difficult to adapt a product to appeal to the entire world. As such, it’s essential to work with experienced professionals – such as the Tomedes team! 

The value of internationalization is clear to see. Many businesses dream of having products that hold mass appeal and internationalization is one way to move closer to precisely that. More than half of the world’s population is now online, so a single, beautifully internationalized website has the power to catapult a business to success incredibly quickly. The stakes are high! 

What Is Globalization? 

No discussion of localization and internationalization would be complete without a word on globalization. Globalization is a broad term that can refer to the way that many businesses are expanding to embrace customers around the world. The internet (along with cheap flights and the implications of these for international distribution networks) means that businesses are now able to serve an almost global customer base. 

Those selling services rather than physical products are particularly well placed to take advantage of globalization. Consider Netflix. The television streaming service is available in all but four countries (China, Crimea, North Korea and Syria), meaning its globalization efforts have seen it conquer almost the whole planet. 

Netflix is, in fact, a great example of globalization in action. It uses both internationalization and localization in order to connect with as many potential customers as possible. In some instances, that means creating subtitles in a huge range of languages, in others it means creating programmes specifically for the local language. Netflix also offers an increasing range of dual-language programmes, with Narcos being one of the most high-profile examples of this. For more examples of globalized businesses, click the link at the end of this section. 

For effective globalization work, incorporating both internationalization and localization services, there are multiple strands to consider for each project. These include, but are far from limited to: 

• Language

• Cultural, political and religious references 

• Graphic design and layout, including adapting the space taken up by the text

• Bidirectional text 

• Imagery 

• Currencies and units of measurement

• Punctuation

• Date formats

• Address and phone number formats

• Naming conventions

• Symbols and colours

• Pictograms and infographics

• Icons

• Keyboard usage

• Unicode use 

• Product modification, such as changing the types of plugs used 

• Legal requirements 

Read more: Web Globalization – Is Your Business Doing All It Can?

Why Are Localization, Internationalization and Globalization So Important?

For any business that is trying to court a global audience, finding the right support with localization, internationalization and globalization is essential. Doing so can lead to greater brand awareness and loyalty, as well as increased sales. A superb translation agency is at the very core of the ability to do this. 

But there is more at stake than social media likes and sales figures. Companies that globalize their structures can enjoy greater freedom can improve their bottom line in various other ways. For starters, they have far more scope to free themselves from geographic restrictions. If manufacturing costs too much in one country, a business that has become a globalization expert has the potential to move its production elsewhere. Doing so can save significant sums of money – and what business doesn’t want to do that? 

Then there’s the cost of hiring a staff team. Why choose only from the talent available in one country when your business could benefit from access to the global talent pool? This is another area where globalization can lead to reduced costs, as well as supporting businesses to find just the right expertise. 

Globalization in a Global Context 

While we often think about how globalization can and does impact individual businesses, it’s also worth stepping back and considering it from a global perspective. Forbes reports that “globalization has been a good thing for many developing countries who now have access to our markets and can export cheap goods,” as well as for multi-national corporations and, of course, Wall Street. 

But is there a downside to globalization? Many blue- and white-collar workers in leading global economies might argue that there is. After all, the outsourcing of jobs to a ‘cheaper country’ means that those jobs cease to be available in the country where they originated. That means individuals – and sometimes entire families – losing their income. 

When this situation perpetuates over many years, it also leads the nation exporting the jobs to lose its industrial expertise. Deindustrialization of this nature can be seen across America, where many workers who have lost out, during the outsourcing of everything from manufacturing to telesales, would surely be able to point out the downside of globalization. 

On the one hand, globalization encourages free trade, economic growth, price reduction through international competition and the flow of capital and technology between nations. There are social benefits too, from increased tolerance towards those from other countries to enhanced communication. 

The other side of the coin, however, all too often sees globalization benefitting the rich more than anyone else. Import, export and other taxes serve to eradicate any potential price reductions. Workers can end up facing salary reductions, under threat of their jobs being exported if they don’t agree. Elsewhere, children, prisoners and other vulnerable individuals work in unsafe conditions in the quest for the ever-cheaper production of goods. 

And, of course, some large multinational companies use globalization to avoid paying taxes, exploiting global tax havens simply because they can. And that’s not even touching on the whole blending of commercial endeavours with global political movements and the potential for creating self-serving havoc that this creates. 

It’s a pretty bleak picture, but not one that necessarily needs to play out. Businesses that take a responsible approach to globalization can still benefit from it while respecting global human rights, the environment and their fiscal obligations. If every company takes the moral high ground, there is much to indicate that the advantages of globalization can outweigh the disadvantages. 

Examples of Globalization in Action

According to the Web Globalization Report Card, which ranks the world’s top 25 websites in terms of their global credentials, Wikipedia is the most global website in the world, followed by Google and then NIVEA. Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook, Booking.com, Philips, Hotels.com and Nestlé made up the rest of the list of the ten most global websites. 

This ranking shows that even complex websites can get globalization right – and this is where Tomedes comes in. Our high quality translation services are available to customers around the world, along with our localization, internationalization and globalization expertise. We have worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes over the years, from small, independent companies to Fortune 500 players. 

No matter how small or large your business is – or which sector you work in – our expert localization, internationalization and globalization services are at your disposal. Why not contact us to find out more?