Internationalization and localization

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{language, word, form}
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In computing, internationalization and localization (also spelled internationalisation and localisation, see spelling differences) are means of adapting computer software to different languages, regional differences and technical requirements of a target market. Internationalization is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Localization is the process of adapting internationalized software for a specific region or language by adding locale-specific components and translating text.

The terms are frequently abbreviated to the numeronyms i18n (where 18 stands for the number of letters between the first i and last n in internationalization, a usage coined at DEC in the 1970s or 80s)[1] and L10n respectively, due to the length of the words. The capital L in L10n helps to distinguish it from the lowercase i in i18n.

Some companies, like IBM and Sun Microsystems, use the term "globalization" for the combination of internationalization and localization.[2] Globalization can also be abbreviated to g11n.[3]

Microsoft[4] defines Internationalization as a combination of World-Readiness and localization. World-Readiness is a developer task, which enables a product to be used with multiple scripts and cultures (globalization) and separating user interface resources in a localizable format (localizability).[5]

This concept is also known as NLS (National Language Support or Native Language Support).



The support of multiple languages by computer systems can be considered a continuum between localisation ("L10n"), through multilingualisation (or "m17n"), to internationalisation ("i18n").

  • A localised system has been adapted or converted for use in a particular locale (other than the one it was originally developed for), including the language of the user interface (UI), input, and display, and features such as time/date display and currency. Each instance of the system only supports a single locale, and there is no explicit support for languages that are not part of that locale (although the character set may coincidentally be usable for other languages).
  • Multilingualised software supports multiple languages for concurrent display and input, but has a single UI language which cannot be changed. Multi-locale support for other features like date, time, number, and currency formats varies as the system tends towards full internationalisation. In general, a multilingualised system is intended for use in one specific locale, but is capable of handling multilingual content as data.
  • An internationalised system is equipped for use in a range of "locales" (or by users of multiple languages), by allowing the co-existence of several languages and character sets for input, display, and UI. In particular, a system may not be considered internationalised in the fullest sense unless the UI language is selectable by the user at runtime. Full internationalisation may extend beyond support for multiple languages and orthography to compliance with jurisdiction-specific legislation (in respect of copyright, for instance) and other non-linguistic conventions.

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