Objectives of software localization

To ensure successful promotion of a software product in a national market, it must have a localized version. Generally, after software is localized, its sales can increase several-fold. Software localization is required for both mass products and bespoke corporate software designed specifically for the needs of a particular company. The process of developing and releasing new versions of software programs in the modern IT market is moving faster and faster, requiring a software translation service provider to be able to quickly translate large amounts of information. Another important condition for high-quality software localization is to ensure the consistency of terminology in translation of different versions or updates.

Definition of software localization

Software localization means translation and adaptation of interface elements, reference and supporting files (for example, ‘readme’ file translation), documents. High-quality software localization may be carried out only by engaging specialists of various qualifications (translators, editors, engineers, desktop publishers) and is at the interface of linguistic and technical disciplines. In addition to translation of the program into the English language, localization includes several supporting activities relating to cultural and technical adaptation of the translation:

– change the formats of dates, times, and decimals.

– convert measurement units, currencies, telephone codes in accordance with the national system.

– sort alphabetical lists correctly.

– take into account the specifics of national legislation (for example, the details of a legal entity used in a given country, the number of characters in the postal code or taxpayer’s identification number);

– perform correct placement and alignment of interface elements.

– match word forms.

– consider the national mentality and specifics of the national humor (for example, when localizing computer games).

– redraw graphics to take into consideration traditions and customs of a certain country (for example, in the UK, a turned-off switch has a lower position while in UK and CIS countries, it is the upper one).


In contrast to localization, software internationalization is a set of actions taken at the development stage, which facilitates further translation and localization of the software. Internationalization involves use of consistent encoding (for example, Unicode), separation of all translatable text into a separate file (localization kit), enabling program-based change of time, numeric, currency formats, list sorting, etc. In most cases, internationalization is carried out without involvement of linguists and is the responsibility of the software development.


Paper localization means translation of information specified on the box, package, cover or booklet, registration card, translation of posters, flyers, presentations, translation of instructions and pages or translation of a website for a game or software on the Internet. In contrast to software localization, paper localization may be carried out without involvement of technical specialists, using the resources of our translation agency Manchester only.


Game localization has certain specifics that distinguish it from localization of other types of software and constitutes a complex process involving translation of files of different types (textual, audio and video). Game localization includes translation of texts, game dialogs and subtitles, translation of pop-ups, descriptions and messages, translation of character names, item names, start-up screens, interface and menu items, redrawing of textures and graphics, selection of actors, audio files voiceover and recording, integration of localized materials into the game, testing of the localized version, localization of the project website and printing, translation of advertising materials (news, press releases and marketing materials), as well as support for the game after the release of the localized version (upgrades, news and patches).

Challenges of software localization

Software localization is associated with the following issues that can be addressed only in close interaction between the translator and the software testing engineer:

1. The translated text does not fit into the screen.

When translating from English into German, a typical menu item becomes, on average, 20–30% longer. This problem can be solved either by increasing the space on the screen for the menu item, or by reducing the translation using abbreviations or synonyms containing fewer characters. In most cases, the identification of this problem is possible only at the localized software testing stage.

2. Harmonization of sentences generated by the program from separate pieces.

The problems relating to compatibility of individually translated phrases, which the program can assemble in various combinations, are no less difficult for translators. In some cases, it is impossible to address this problem without changing the software code.

Software localization stages

Generally, the software localization process consists of several stages. This is the only way to ensure high quality of software localization:

1. Analysis of technical capability of software localization.

This stage is about analysing possible challenges that may arise during software localization, including:

– restrictions on the size of interface elements, the use of fonts that do not contain Cyrillic characters, etc.

– option to change regional software settings, including alphabetical list sorting, display mode for date and time, numbers, and currencies.

– correctness of the program operation and technical possibility of its subsequent debugging.

2. Software translation and translation adaptation.

This stage involves performance of the following tasks:

– create glossaries to ensure consistent terminology in the translation.

– export the text into a format convenient for translators.

– translate the interface and service messages from the foreign language into UK preserving the data structure and all service characters.

– translate and edit help files and documents.

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