Lesson: Introduction

Internationalization is the process of designing an application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Sometimes the term internationalization is abbreviated as i18n, because there are 18 letters between the first "i" and the last "n."

An internationalized program has the following characteristics:

  • With the addition of localized data, the same executable can run worldwide.

  • Textual elements, such as status messages and the GUI component labels, are not hardcoded in the program. Instead they are stored outside the source code and retrieved dynamically.

  • Support for new languages does not require recompilation.

  • Culturally-dependent data, such as dates and currencies, appear in formats that conform to the end user's region and language.

  • It can be localized quickly.

Localization is the process of adapting software for a specific region or language by adding locale-specific components and translating text. The term localization is often abbreviated as l10n, because there are 10 letters between the "l" and the "n."

The primary task of localization is translating the user interface elements and documentation. Localization involves not only changing the language interaction, but also other relevant changes such as display of numbers, dates, currency, and so on. Other types of data, such as sounds and images, may require localization if they are culturally sensitive. The better internationalized an application is, the easier it is to localize it for a particular language and character encoding scheme.

Internationalization may seem a bit daunting at first. Reading the following sections will help ease you into the subject.

A Quick Example

This section shows you how to internationalize a simple program, step by step.


So you've inherited a program that needs to be internationalized or you are planning to determine the requirements for a newly-developed software. You probably don't know where to start? Check out this checklist. It summarizes the necessary internationalization tasks and provides links to the relevant lessons in this chapter.