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Globalization, the alter ego of Localization.

Globalization, the alter ego of Localization.

As a small kid, there was a little toy that I remember with deep affection. It was a matryoshka and I was fascinated that I could hide more matryoshkas inside!

I saw a matryoshka for the very first time not in Russia, as we might expect, but in Valencia, the paella land!

My uncle lived in Valencia and we went to visit him during one of those popular Fallas celebrated every 19th March. He gave me a present. It was a little box, and in that box, there was a small gift. A gift that I still own. When I opened that tiny box I found a hand-made, hand-paint matryoshka. I was amazed by that little Russian doll.

It was beautiful!

Now, you might be wondering what’s the relationship between matryoshkas and explaining the different type of services in the Globalization industry (formerly known as Localization industry :).

Keep reading and you will discover … because I think there’s a connection between the different levels of Globalization and the matryoshkas J

Last Thursday I was talking to a colleague and we were having ourselves even difficulties to really align between the differences of some services in our industry.  What a wordsearch !!! G11n, I18n, L10n, T9n, C13n …. argh!

We talked about (“Culturalization”, “World-Readiness”, ”GLocalization”, “Transcreation”, “Dubbling”, “Translation” and “Asianization”(does this word even exist?) ….and actually, while talking to my colleague I realised that we should define what we do as Globalization not as Localization anymore.

We keep referring to most of the professionals of our industry as Localization professionals, but actually, I think that’s a name with a heritage from the movement of the 80’s, ’90 or early 2000.

In the ‘80s it was just named as Translation. It was the years where Sun Microsystems (Java) started one of what it’s considered the first efforts of the history of Globalization! They expanded from USA to Europe, and later AsiaDuring that decade, we saw also how Microsoft increased their presence in Europe.  I was quite fortunate of joining the Localization movement mid-'90s when I was working in Dublin providing linguistic testing services for Windows ’95 and MS Excel. I think in the '90s is when it was started to be named as Localization … as we were doing the first effort to adapt to specific cultures/countries. And we have been using these terms as synonyms during all these years; but now I have a different vision of this, and in in my opinion, we are bringing Localization to the next level, and that next level is Globalization.

So instead of Localization teams, we should refer to ourselves as Globalization teams!

This post will demystify the differences between these services and I will explain why Globalization is the next big opportunity for the Localization industry.

But, first thing first what’s the difference between Localization, Transcreation and Globalization anyway?

Here we have the first problem because there are different definitions and many of them are conflicting!

For me, Globalization is more related to mindset and strategy. The strategy to launch a product globally, while Localization or Transcreation focus more on the product.

But actually, I like to consider Globalization like an equation with different variable or like a matryoshka!

In my touching matryoshka, Globalization services would encompass


From a math angle the formula would be something like this :

Globalization=Internazionalization + Localization + Transcreation


How are these variables related?

  • Internationalization (I18N) is the process of planning and implementing products and services so that they can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures. I18N is the first step (and mandatory) for future Localization efforts. So even if at one specific point of our development efforts we are not sure if we will be localising our software to more languages in the future, we should prepare anyway our files for future Localization activities. This step would include for example :

oAllowing space in user interfaces for translation into languages that require more characters

oEnsuring data space so that messages can be translated from languages with single-byte character codes (such as English) into languages requiring multiple-byte character codes (such as Japanese Kanji

oIntegrate locale files for different languages

oIntegrate support for local time zone and date

If you want to dig deeper about how to Internationalize your application our Apple friends are here to help us :)


In this link we find great resources to master the art of I18N.

  • Localization. To make simple the definition of Localization will be as follow: it is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or desired population's "look-and-feel."  

There are hundreds of pages and resources across the Internet so I will not extend here much.

For many people, not very familiar with Localization, this is what they will name Translation. However, Translation and Localization are quite different. I like to see it as being Translation the first step to achieving a full Localization product. Translation is an effort done word by word, with a literal translation while Localization takes into consideration different cultural factors such as sex, religion, ethnics or beliefs among others.

  • Transcreation is a little bit unknown in our industry. There’s often confusion between the term Transcreation and the term Localization. Let’s break down the mystery and let’s have a look how different these services are. Transcreation is the process of taking a message in one language and transporting it to a different language. This means that for Transcreation the professionals we need are writers. Usually, people who provide Transcreation services are copywriters in other languages instead of translators. The process of Transcreation means that we must look at the message as a whole, and then later adapt it to our target audience. This is done through a creative brief. This is quite different form Localization.

In Localization, we start with a source text, Transcreation starts with a creative brief. This brief includes ideas of the creative concept, images and the desired action we want to achieve with the copy. In Transcreation the copywriters have total freedom to produce a message totally different than the original words. A good example of Transcreation might be this Live Op campaign from a famous videogame.

Source: Freedman International

Source: Freedman International


In video games, Transcreation is a service in high demand due to the increasing popularity in Live Ops events. Transcreation is all about translating ideas and concepts. And the transcreated copy will not match the original version, and that’s ok. It’s exactly how it should be.


  • Globalization is the last layer. It’s our biggest matryoshka! It includes other business-related activities outside the product itself. Activities such as considering the legal needs or the customer care needs that our product has.
Globalization is not only a process or an activity. It’s a new mindset, it means that we need to look our internationalization activities with new eyes and fresh mind. Globalization is more a strategy that a process.

And here we will need to deal with all aspects related with a global launch. We will pay attention to different businesses stakeholders and different activities they run in their teams. This will include, but it’s not limited to:

  •  marketing
  • legal
  • customer support
  • image branding
    • Colours. Colors are important for humans. They bring us memories but they also shape how we feel. But when it comes to what different colors mean in cultures around the world, the meaning will be quite different. Here we can have an excellent guide about how to approach the color branding created by the Andalusian company Global Propaganda
    • The accuracy of our name in different languages. This is an important factor we need to consider. We should run a sanity check for the name of our brand to ensure that it sounds ok in different languages. What it’s important when it comes to branding and accuracy of the names is that we should stay away from brand names that can hurt our business. We don’t want to be in the media as part of an Epic Globalization name (see here some of the horror Globalization examples) fail. We want to be in the media because we have created a good product or service. Not because of a poor Globalization strategy. Companies such as Nimi can help you to check the accuracy of your name globally


In summary, we can look at Globalization with different layers.

The basic Globalization level will be I18N where we ensure that the software is ready to be translated later.

The next level will be Localization where we adapt the game to meet requirements in different countries.

Transcreation will focus on transmitting an idea.

And Globalization will prepare a strategy to integrate all previous processes to launch a global campaign.

Globalization, Transcreation, Localization, Internationalization are all related but they are different activities. While the last 3 focuses more on the product, Globalization focuses more on the mindset, it focusses on being more part of the NDA of the company. When we combine all these processes all together we are ready to have a memorable product that it will be never forgotten, like that little matryoshka doll that traveled from a small city of Russia to Valencia during 4000 km, a doll that I still own bringing fond memories from my childhood :)

#LocWorld34, liquid gold for my brain (or why it's worth attending to industry events)

#LocWorld34, liquid gold for my brain (or why it's worth attending to industry events)

My Top 5 facts to promote Localization

My Top 5 facts to promote Localization