Internationalization--the next generation

From: Suzanne Topping (
Date: Wed May 26 1999 - 13:43:43 EDT

Hello all,

Last week I attended an internationalization workshop that piqued my
interest in a seldom discussed aspect of the topic.

The workshop was heavily focused on cultural research and usability, and
there were virtually no discussions of "typical" internationalization
issues. No mention of text isolation, encoding methods, Unicode, DBCS,
tools, or any other subject that one might expect at an internationalization

The focus instead was on the why's of customizing products for use in other

That led me to a theory and set of questions about what might be the
evolution of internationalization.

It seems as if we've mostly mastered the technological aspects for creating
software that can be localized (by addressing the issues I listed above.)
The methods for doing these things is becoming widespread knowledge, and
tools for ensuring internationalization are even getting pretty darned

But the focus of all that work and achievement is really on translation;
allowing all text within the UI to be easily changed. Ok, we also make sure
that icons can be changed, but they are a minor factor in the overall
picture. Localization tasks are primarily centered around translation of the

Therefore, are the UI's truly localized?

The conference discussed a wide variety of cultural issues like color, use
and perception of metaphors, teaching methods, eye movement patterns, etc.
All kinds of issues that are typically never changed during the localization

(Now I finally get to my theory and question). Could it be that the next
stage of internationalization evolution will be to modularize the
development a step further, to allow for changes in metaphors, colors,
button locations, etc? Is it possible that localization companies will do
more than translate the text and perform engineering tasks required to make
the translated UI match the source language UI? Is there a way of
establishing a base set of rules for various locales and/or cultures, so
that localization companies could apply these rules to truly localized the

Is anyone out there doing any work or research along these lines?

Comments would be welcome.

Suzanne Topping
Localization Unlimited
(Globalization Process Improvement Consulting, and Resource Recruiting)
28 Ericsson Street
Rochester, New York, 14610-1705
Phone: 716-473-0791
Fax: 716-231-2013

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