Best Practices

Four Biggest Software Internationalization Challenges

Internationalization, or i18n, is necessary for adapting software to multiple languages for various market entries.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min

Internationalization, or i18n, is necessary for adapting software to multiple languages for various market entries.

It focuses on ensuring the code and content can be easily changed to conform to each language’s linguistic and cultural norms. Assessing the benefits of entering a market and adapting a product to it is challenging in itself. However, implementing an internationalization strategy to assess how linguistically scalable a product can be across global markets is considerably more complicated.

Understanding some of the biggest pitfalls associated with software internationalization can help companies mitigate them and optimize the ROI for each new market.  

What is Software Internationalization?

Software Internationalization is the tactical approach to providing a framework for global localization. It covers the broad spectrum of how to adapt a software’s contents to different languages without significant efforts to redesign for every new language. Internationalization is just one aspect of making a company a global success and goes hand-in-hand with globalization and localization. Globalization is the strategic business approach to global market entry that assesses the profitability of each market and how to optimize it. Localization is the “boots on the ground” approach to market entry that adapts the product to each specific market’s linguistic and cultural standards.  

The Four Biggest Challenges for Software Internationalization

Successful internationalization ensures your software has a solid foundation that can support easy adaptation to different languages to scale your profit. Preparing for these challenges before beginning your strategy can help streamline internationalization.  

1. Developing Software with Internationalization in Mind

While internationalization can seem straightforward, it’s an extensive process, often complicated further by your software’s architecture. Understanding how your software’s programming language, like Java, Python, Ruby, etc., affects its translation adaptability can help you develop your code in a way that’s internationalization friendly. It can also bring import and export options into question to ensure your strings can be translated and easily re-integrated back into your software without excessive file engineering. Internationalization also requires addressing various UI and UX concerns across different languages. This process includes aspects like adjusting date and time to regional preferences easily and how multiple languages fit into text boxes without needing design changes for each one. Considering these things beforehand can help reduce efforts to fix these issues when localizing your product for each market.  

2. Assessing Linguistic and Cultural Differences

While global expansion is the goal for most companies to begin their internationalization plans, it can be problematic to localize to certain languages without the associated linguistic and cultural differences. For instance, translating from English to Arabic requires more than translating to German because the Arabic script is written from right to left. Another example is localizing non-character-based languages to character-based ones like Chinese and Japanese. Both challenges require minimizing coding issues during translation and ensuring the languages fit easily into your UI design. Additional considerations include making sure colors and tone fit various cultural standards and assessing how to handle gender neutrality in languages with gender-specific vocabulary. The levels of difficulty associated with adapting content to different languages can be categorized by five increasingly challenging levels of difficulty.

3. Budgeting for Internationalization Expenses

Companies usually prepare for internationalization as an after-thought to global expansion when the software’s architecture is already in place and there’s more code to adapt to different languages. This situation can significantly increase the cost of internationalization. In the case of start-up companies, internationalization can be a quick undertaking, leading to greater error and inefficient practices that quickly burn through budgeted expenses.

For more established companies, this means more code to adapt. If the company is looking to quickly make money on new markets, it also increases inefficiency and can exhaust cash flow quickly. The best way to optimize costs is to prepare for internationalization early on and without rushing the process.  

4. Timing Internationalization

While you can decide to internationalize your product at any time, doing so later in the process can significantly increase the expense. It means localizing more code which increases costs and translation time. It can also mean a much larger file engineering expense if your software’s architecture involves code that’s harder to localize and re-integrate. Starting the internationalization process early can help you eliminate any later architecture issues and involves less code. Both benefits can drastically reduce the initial cost of internationalizing the content.  

Understanding the Importance of Software Internationalization

The challenges associated with successfully tackling software internationalization can bring into question the benefits. There is significant profitability and company growth to be had by entering new markets, and the only way to do that successfully is to internationalize your product.

Establishing a solid foundation for adapting your product across markets is the most efficient way to create a product that’s well-received in any market. Working with a localization management platform that can help you navigate these challenges can provide you with a cost-effective route to internationalization that gives you the best chances at reaping the rewards.  

Bureau Works is a robust platform that provides you with all the tools and knowledge you need to make your product a global success. Contact our team for more information on how we can provide a better solution for software internationalization.

Gabriel Fairman
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