Basics of internationalizing applications

The terms globalization and internationalization are sometimes used interchangeably. But most definitions of these terms say that globalization refers to a combination of business and engineering processes while internationalization refers to engineering alone.

Here are some definitions for important terms:

Globalization
A broad range of engineering and business processes needed for preparing and launching products and company activities globally. Globalization consists of engineering activities like internationalization, localization and culturization and business activities like product management, financial planning, marketing, and legal work. Globalization is sometimes abbreviated as G11n (which stands for the letter G, then 11 more letters, and then the letter n). “Globalization is what businesses do.”

Internationalization
An engineering process for generalizing a product so that it can handle multiple languages, scripts and cultural conventions (including currencies, sorting rules, number and date formats, and more) without the need for redesign or recompilation. This process can be divided into two sets of activities: enablement and localization. Internationalization is sometimes known as world-readiness, and sometimes abbreviated as I18n. “Internationalization is what engineers do.”

Localization
A process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local appearance. Localization is sometimes abbreviated as L10n. “Localization is what translators do.”

Culturization
An engineering process for developing or adapting specific features for the unique needs of a culture. Examples include the Japanese publishing features available in Adobe InDesign, and the Hanko support feature in Adobe Acrobat.

Some other important internationalization terms can be defined as follows:

Character Set
The characters used by a language or by a group of languages. A character set includes national characters, special characters (such as punctuation marks and mathematical symbols), numeric digits, and computer control characters.

Collation
The sorting of text into a proper order for a given locale.

Locale
A value that represents the language and cultural conventions used in a geographical, political, or cultural region (which in many cases indicates a single country). A unique locale identifier (locale ID) represents this value. The locale ID is used to look up a set of locale data that provides locale-specific support. This support applies to measurement units, the parsing and formatting of numbers and dates, and so on.

Resource Bundle
A stored set of locale-specific elements that are created for a locale in which an application is used. A resource bundle typically contains all text elements in the application’s user interface. Within the bundle, these elements are translated into the appropriate language for the given locale. It can also contain other settings that alter the layout or behavior of the user interface for a specific locale. A resource bundle can contain other media types, or references to other media types, that are locale-specific.