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Free/Open Source Software Localization Primer Published
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on June 11, 2005  in the following blogs: Translation and Localization
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The polarity of localization is shifting -- for decades developers have transformed English-language software into French, German, Japanese, and Chinese. Now we find that development shops around the world are thinking about what domestic software they should prepare for the world stage. Last year at the first ever localization conference in Brazil, we emphasized the importance of "reverse localization" in marketing and selling software that was originally developed for Brazil but which could find happy users in North America and Europe. The FOSS primer is a step in that direction.

This UNDP primer unfortunately focuses on localizing open source software only from English into local languages, but the issues it raises are critical for localization from other languages into English and other megalanguages such as German and Spanish. Traditionally application developers have focused on localizing English-language operating systems and software applications for prospering European and Asian markets. Now we should look to Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) to adapt software from their own languages into English and other commercial languages.

Software entrepreneurs in developing markets should remember that localization is not just a question of translation, but it also requires dealing with the many location-specific details -- like time, day/date, currency, and cultural issues -- that underlie most software and products like BMWs, heart monitors, Airbus 380s, and iPods that rely on software to make them work.

With the growth of major software and product development teams around the globe, the pendulum of localization will swing and dramatically increase the number of consumer devices, industrial products, software applications, packaged software, and websites that start their commercial lives in Chinese, Portuguese, or Russian. This movement will go far beyond localizing open source GNU and LINUX into Tamil and Thai but will make ambitious developers think about broader markets and give international software companies a new source of applications to harvest for their portfolios. If they haven't already figured it out from their outsourcing deals with Infosys, Symbio, and Tata, these global software vendors headquartered in North America and Europe will find that American and German software engineers don't own all the world's best practices and algorithms for developing innovative applications.


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Keywords: Localization, Open-source translation technologies, Software localization

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