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Globalization vs Internationalization vs Localization: What Is the Difference?

Defining Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization

Did you know? These three definitions can determine your potential longevity and success in business. Understanding how to use the concepts of globalization, internationalization and localization is essential to your business’s overall trajectory for growth and expansion on the global stage. 

These three elements are what set you apart—helping you win the hearts of prospects and turning them into long-term brand advocates for your business. To fully understand how to use these, though, we have to define them in the context of the GILT framework. 

Internationalization is considered a broader process, which entails making a product adaptable for a wider global audience. Globalization is a bit different, as the process details how businesses choose to roll their products out to the world. Finally, localization is the process of translating and optimizing specific products to match what a native speaker would expect, bringing them to a higher level of brand awareness and perception. Translation plays a significant role in every element of GILT, specifically in the tasks related to localization. 

Below, we’ll explore what the GILT framework is in detail, and we’ll also cover examples of these concepts in action—giving you a starting point to include these concepts in your own expansion plan.

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The GILT Framework

The GILT framework is often used when businesses wish to expand into international markets. It offers key areas of focus that will help products and brands resonate in different countries and global markets, giving them a new type of relevancy across different cultures. The four elements of GILT include: 

  • Globalization 
  • Internationalization 
  • Localization 
  • Translation 

As you move your operations cross-border into different national markets and foreign markets, you’ll be able to tangibly experience what GILT pre-work can bring to your bottom line. 

What are g11n, i18n, and l10n?  

As you continue to do your research regarding different cultures and GILT, you may come across different references to globalization, the process of internationalization and localization—otherwise known as g11n, i18n and l10n, respectively. These abbreviations use the first and last letter of each word, and compile the letters between the two into numerical, quantitative formats. This form of notation is called a numeronym, and it’s a form of English language contraction. 

Consider keeping this in mind to make your research more impactful and relevant to your area of need. 

Looking for examples of these concepts in our world economy? We’ve summarized some key examples below. 

Globalization in Action

If we were to view the process of international trade readiness as a shape, it would be an inverted pyramid. Your globalization strategy is essential and is generally deemed the “largest” task, as it lays the groundwork for successful subsequent steps to your expansion. It’s no small task either, as you’ll be preparing your business to impact new global markets. The key in this step is to break this large goal down into single, small subtasks that can be seamlessly delegated and executed. 

An example could be built around something as simple as a product launch. If you’re a rapidly expanding food brand, you may consider expanding beyond national borders to new, international audiences. But what would that look like at a tactical level when you touch down in those countries? 

You may consider breaking this task down into smaller groupings of tasks around HR, customer service and product production needs. As you do this, you may consider that you’ll need to hire large numbers of people to launch quickly and successfully for your international audiences in the region. With this in mind, you might consider focusing on amplifying hiring efforts, creating assets to attract high-quality candidates with the specific know-how you need to make the launch a success in the global economy.

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Internationalization in Action

Internationalization focuses on preparing your brand to be as impactful as possible in new markets, taking into account its total versatility and adaptability beyond what you’ve seen in your local market range. This concept focuses on the longevity and sustainability of your currently standing systems, making them resilient and ready for any key differences you’d need to account for as you continue to grow. 

McDonald’s is an excellent example of internationalization in action. While certain menu offerings remain the same in every country (possibly for novelty’s sake), customers can step in and enjoy a completely internationalized experience across 118+ countries. An example of this includes the Bulgogi Burger, available at McDonald’s locations in South Korea.

Additional examples include the brand’s special offerings that are given to suit specific taste preferences and dietary needs, erasing possible purchase barriers with their target audiences. Menus are translated and remain completely adapted to local tastes. Design and decor match what one would expect to see in a local region, while maintaining McDonald’s branding and design elements. 

Another popular example is IKEA’s famous pictorial assembly guides. Translating instructions to various languages can be challenging, so instead, the Swedish furniture maker produces clear diagrams instead.

Localization in Action

Localization is the next step in the GILT framework, showing interdependence on the preceding steps of globalization and internationalization steps before it. While those two steps lay the foundation for a solid globalization process and marketing strategy, localization takes it another step further and focuses on the details—identifying possible pitfalls and optimizing the user experience to suit the expectations of a certain culture or region. 

Examples of localization steps include translating assets to the local language of the country you’re expanding to, while remaining adept at including new languages and dialects that you’ll find throughout the region. This is an especially important concept in telecommunications, as it directly impacts your brand perception and marketing success. 

While this can seem complicated, we’ve simplified the localization process into a few simple steps to build into your global expansion plan: 

The Localization Process

  • Create a strategy. No marketing overhaul can be done successfully without a comprehensive guiding strategy. As you create this, consider collaborating across departments to ensure that nothing is missed. 
  • Prepare your files. Depending on the flow of your language (such as left-to-right vs. right-to-left, as you’d see in an English to Arabic translation), your files may not be optimized for the final GILT step of translation. Having development look over your assets, site and other digital files can make your rollout much smoother. 
  • Translation and localization. Localization is an important concept for both translation and localization. Consider bringing on human translators to check anything you do that is machine-generated to ensure that it presents natively for your audience. 
  • Integrate your translations. After you translate, it’s time to integrate. Consider leaving yourself plenty of time to work out any last minute wrinkles that may occur prior to launch. 
  • Localization QA and testing. After your rollout, consider ongoing analysis for localization quality assurance and testing. This can help you to consistently build brand perception, making you stand out as the best possible choice to your locale. 

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Globalization vs Internationalization vs Localization

While the three steps of globalization, internationalization and localization are interdependent, they all offer unique benefits and processes to bring your brand effectively into new global markets. 

  • Globalization is the step that comes before internationalization, which encompasses the strategic concepts that will drive other steps in the GILT process. It’s the planning and resource allocation step that makes the rest possible, keeping the goal of global expansion and acceptance top of mind. 
  • Internationalization focuses on adaptability of process, focusing on tasks that are considered foundational and essential for subsequent steps. An example of such a task would be ensuring that assets such as webpages and product guides are ready and formatted for variation between different language styles and flows. 
  • Localization is the more tactical and direct process of translation and optimization for new regional dialects, ensuring accuracy and limiting brand liability with every published asset. 

Choose OneSky for Localization Services

Mastering each step in the GILT framework is essential for your brand’s presence as you begin to expand into other countries. While the process can be complex, strategic outsourcing and collaboration can help. Connect with the team at OneSky today to start for free — and explore our proprietary translation management service, supporting 50+ languages and staffed 1,000+ master translators.

Mandy Fong

Head of Sales, OneSky

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