Technical writing i18n l10n and g11n
Back to Technical Writing Level 2
Localization, Globalization, and Internationalization
With the same products being used around the globe, it is important to adapt products to local markets particularly where the original comes from a different culture and language. Not only does the product require adaptation, but the technical guides and Help system associated with those products require adaptation. The adaptation of a product includes shortening UI descriptions, creating UI's with a global appearance, and so on.
The abbreviations for globalization, localization, and internationalization are based on taking the first and last letters of the word, using the lower case form, and the number of letters in between: g11n, l10n,and i18n respectively.
- g11n - globalization is the process where entities sell their products in many markets around the globe.
- Globalization led to the need for localization (l10n).
- l10n - localization aims to make a product and documentation suitable for cultures other than the one it was created in.
- l10n takes into account factors such as:
- Language differences (such as British and American English, coloquillism, jargon, and so on)
- Different abbreviations
- Different alphabets - Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, additions to Latin
- Varying calendars - Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, Gregorian etc
- Measurements - metric and imperial
- Cultural traditions and customs
- Religious holidays
...to name a few
- i18n - internationalization allows the process of localization (l10n)to begin. It includes:
- the process for making software which supports all the world's languages.
- software that must also be aware of local cultural norms and traditions.
- the first step in the process of making a product suitable for varying cultures and traditions.
Why Write with Localization in Mind?
Considering the global playing field, for any entity to be successful, product and documentation must be geared to any culture. For example, Microsoft was one of the first companies to globalize its products so that sales in foreign markets would excel. Had Microsoft not incorporated g11n and l10n into its development process, translation and use of their products may not have been successful; in fact, product sales may have failed. When writing with localization in mind, it is easier for users to understand processes and procedures, and products are more widely accepted when they (and the documents that accompany them) are developed without cultural bias.
Another important reason to write documents with localization in mind is that it reduces the cost of translation. In some cases, a single word can cost USD .25 to .33 to translate. Using a localization technique called "Simplified English" reduces the amount of words used, thus the cost of documentation.
How to Write for Localization
Simplified English (or Plain Language) is one of the key elements to writing for localization. It incorporates the use of simple terms, grammar, and punctuation that can be easily and accurately translated into different languages (not to mention, it is less costly). In addition, global syntax, global art, jargon, gender specifications, and so on all play a role in writing for localization.
Further Reading for the Technical Writer
Further Reading for the Developer
- l10n and i18n
- Documentation Life Cycle pdf
- Cost Estimating Methods for Large Projects
back to Technical Writing Level 2