Software Localisation: A Beginner’s Guide

By Juliet D'cruz

Have you ever used a software application that wasn’t in your language? Chances are you probably haven’t. Software localisation is the process of adapting a software application to work in a specific language and cultural context. This often includes translating all text strings into the new locale and customising graphics and other elements to match the new context. In this article, we’ll provide a beginner’s guide to software localisation – including key terms and processes involved. Stay tuned for more advanced tips down the track!

This beginner’s guide will walk you through the fundamentals of localising a piece of software, providing some examples along the way. There are many ways to go about this task, so this article discusses some complexities. 

A broad term used to describe the process of adapting a piece of software so that it works in a different locale or language. 

Given the global nature of modern computing, this has become an increasingly important part of many technologists’ daily lives. From web browsers (notably Mozilla Firefox) to operating systems(both GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows), and even to software applications (such as and Mozilla Thunderbird) — localisation is a topic of near-universal relevance in modern computing.

There are many types of software that require localisation, such as games, web browsers, word processors, spreadsheet programs, and so on. This article will be limited to applications that technical professionals typically use, so it’s possible that the concepts discussed herein may not apply directly to other types of software.

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The localisation process consists of several steps:

  • Identifying all words or phrases that need changing for the user interface to work in a different language.
  • Finding replacements or adaptations for those words/phrases in the new language.
  • Changing any relevant code to use these newly-translated word/phrase strings.
  • Testing that this new version works properly with all desired languages.

In practice, these steps are not performed as discrete tasks but rather as a single continuous process.

Localisation is a challenging but rewarding process. It can be challenging to find the right balance between translating word-for-word and keeping meaning intact, so you must have someone on your side who understands both languages well enough to guide you through this process. 

So far, we’ve given some basic guidelines for getting started with software localisation, breaking down the steps involved in the process. 

If you need help launching your software products in another country or require more information about how localisation works and its benefits, get in touch with us today! We know all there is to know about international marketing and look forward to working together soon!

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