Software internationalization, often abbreviated as i18n (where 18 stands for the number of letters between ‘i’ and ‘n’), is the process of designing and developing software in a way that enables easy adaptation and localization for different languages, regions, and cultures. It involves making the software flexible and adaptable to handle various language-related aspects, including text rendering, character encoding, date and time formats, numeric formats, currency symbols, and other cultural conventions.
The main objective of software internationalization is to create a foundation that allows for efficient localization, which is the process of adapting software or content for specific languages or locales. By internationalizing the software, developers ensure that it can be easily localized without requiring extensive code changes or redesign.
The key aspects of software internationalization include:
- Separation of User Interface and Logic: The user interface elements of the software, such as menus, buttons, and messages, are separated from the underlying code or business logic. This allows for independent translation and adaptation of the user interface elements without impacting the core functionality.
- Unicode Support: Unicode is a character encoding standard that provides a universal character set, accommodating characters from various languages and scripts. Software internationalization involves ensuring proper Unicode support throughout the software to handle multilingual text correctly.
- Localization-Ready Resource Management: The internationalized software employs resource files or databases to store localized content, such as translated strings, images, audio files, and other assets. These resources are organized and managed in a way that facilitates efficient localization.
- Locale and Cultural Awareness: Internationalized software incorporates mechanisms to recognize and adapt to different locales, including language, country, and cultural conventions. This includes formatting dates, times, numbers, and currencies according to the user’s locale settings.