Localisation and Internationalisation

In order to localize a product it is very important to find out if it is internationalized. Confused? An internationalized Product/application design is the one that can accommodate localized content such as characters in non-western letters, double byte languages, ability for text to expand as in European languages and contract as in Asian languages, display Unicode characters and have database that supports Unicode characters etc.

We will discuss both localization and internationalization below in detail.

What is Localization Testing?

Localization is defined as making a product, application or document content adaptable to meet the cultural, lingual and other requirements of a specific region or a locale.

Localization is abbreviated as l10n, where 10 is the number of letters between l and n. When thought of localization, what comes to mind is that the user interface and documentation of an application is in a specific language or locale. But localization is more than just that.

When localizing an application, the following important areas are to be customized:

  • Date and time formats (including numeric formats)
  • Currency used
  • Keyboard usage
  • Sorting, aligning and collating data
  • Colors schemes, symbols and icons
  • Text and graphics which, in a given culture, may be viewed as sensitive or can be misinterpreted.
  • Diverse legal requirements

The main aim of localization is to make the product look and feel such that, to the target audience, it looks like it is specially created to meet their needs.

Localization and internationalization are together referred to as globalization. Globalization is at a broader level. Internationalization is making the application such that it supports multiple languages/locales. Localization is making an application support a particular locale and language.

The following figure will help you understand how localization and internationalization together make a globalized a software application.


What is Internationalization?

Internationalization is the process of designing and developing a product, application or document content such that it enables localization for any given culture, region, or language.

Internationalization is also written i18n, where 18 is the number of letters between I and n in the word internationalization.

Internationalization typically entails:

  1. Designing and developing the application such that it simplifies the deployment of localization and internationalization of the application. This includes taking care of proper rendering of characters in various languages, string concatenation etc. which can be done by using Unicode during development
  2. Taking care of the big picture while developing the application in order to support bidirectional text or for identifying languages we need to add markup in out DTD. Also, we use CSS, to support vertical text or other non-Latin typographic features.
  3. Code should be able to support local and regional language and also other cultural preferences. This involves using predefined localization data and features from existing libraries. Date time formats, local calendar holidays, numeric formats, data presentation, sorting, data alignment, name and address displaying format etc.
  4. Making localizable elements separate from the source code so that code is independent. And then as per user’s requirement, localized content can be loaded based on their preferences.

Internationalization basically consists of design and development of an application to make it ready for localization. It is not necessary that language, culture and region related translation takes place. It is to make an application ready for migration in a later stage if, localization is to take place.

The following diagram will help explain the difference between nationalization and internationalization.

(Click on the image for enlarged view)



Let’s summarize the difference between localization and internationalization in the below table:

Localization Testing Internationalization Testing
1. Localization is defined as making a product, application or document content adaptable to meet the cultural, lingual and other requirements of a specific region or a locale. 1. Internationalization is the process of designing and developing a product, application or document content such that it enables localization.
2. Localization is referred as l10n 2. Internationalization is referred as i18n
3. Localization focuses on online help, GUI context, dialog boxes, error messages, read me/ tutorials, user manuals, release notes, installation guide etc. 3. Internationalization focuses on compatibility testing, functionality testing, interoperability testing, usability testing, installation testing, user interface validation testing.
4. Localization itself means a specific local language for any given region 4. Application code is independent of language
5. Localization is not at user interface level 5. Internationalization is at design level

Scope of Testing

Major focal points to be considered for localization and internationalization testing are as follows:

1) Language

  • Unicode text to cater to character encoding
  • Number systems
  • Writing directions
  • Spelling variants
  • Capitalization and sorting rules
  • Keyboard shortcuts and layouts

2) Culture and region

  • Names and titles
  • Government numbers (Social Security number is USA) and passports
  • Colors and images
  • Telephone numbers, zip codes, Address formats
  • Paper sizes
  • Weights and measures
  • Currency symbol and currency market position

3) Dates and important Events

  • Date and time formats
  • Calendar types (Gregorian, Lunar etc.)
  • Number formats (decimal separators, grouping of digits etc.)

Testing Best Practices for testing Internationalization

Various areas are impacted when an application is internationalized. In order to ensure complete testing coverage, we need to concentrate our testing on following important aspects.

#1) Content localization

Localized content includes graphics as well as text. Static and dynamic content displayed in the interface. Static contents like Tabs, buttons, labels and nomenclatures of web elements, Welcome message, help text, tool tip etc.

Dynamic contents like the message displayed when a form is filled, validation message in case of errors or mandatory field not populate other user specific messages etc. This kind of language testing is done by either language experts or is verified against language specific properties file sent by the client which contains English to another language word meaning mappings.

#2) Feature based

Depending on the region some features are available and some are not. Testers need to ensure the feature is hidden for the region to whom it is not applicable and should be displayed and functional for the regional users to whom it is applicable.

#3) Locale/ Culture awareness

Locale/ Cultural awareness includes understanding the difference between Dates and number formatting used in various regions. This includes Calendar differences, holidays and festivals, Date formatting, time formatting, Currency, Number formatting, address, telephone numbers, zip codes or no zip codes, units of measurements etc.

Since we are dealing with different locale data conversion from one encoding format to other must happen. Very good understanding of encoding formats and converting to and from a format is crucial as it can also result in data loss.

#4) User Interface

User interface should be tested for adaptability to all language content. It should change accordingly to accommodate text with larger lengths without distorting the alignment.

Some language specific text takes more space than others, so interface should be able to adapt to this change without getting distorted. For Example, German text takes more space to convey the same information in comparison to English. Hence, interface should be adaptable.

We need to test user interface of an application to ensure it contains no defects like truncated strings, overlapping or misaligned controls, duplicate hotkeys, etc. Also, everything needs to be translated in the respective language.

This includes the following:

  • Menus in menu bar
  • Prompt, alert and warning message
  • Dialog boxes (titles, buttons and help messages)
  • Images
  • Toolbars (tool tip for tools in Tool bar)
  • Status info in Status bar

#5) Rendering

It is important to check whether all the supported scripts are correctly displayed according to the language specific characters associated with them. When viewing a page in a specific language the scripts should get properly executed i.e. no script error should be displayed as well all the characters should be displayed in the specific language.

Various characteristics of character rendering include bi-direction, shaping as per context, reordering and combining characters. Others include word break, line break, formatting like a justification or left/right alignment etc.

#6) File transfer

If the application includes a file transfer operation, we need to test whether a file transfer interface is localized according to the language selected. File is getting transferred successfully or not and transferred file is not corrupted.

It is important to specify the encoding format while reading a file that contains Unicode characters. Default encoding is UTF-8, when nothing is specified. Text files which are saved in encoding format UTF-16 when read using UTF -8 will display unintelligible text. Hence encoding plays a very important role in file transfers.

#7) Database

Database testing for internationalized application will consist of support of Unicode characters in the database. Special data types are available for this purpose. Data types like nchar, nvarchar and ntext are defined by SQL server that helps store Unicode characters.

The n prefix stands for National Unicode data types. These n prefixed data types are used in the same way as the original char, varchar and text data types. The only difference is n prefix data type also support the following:

  • More disk space is needed
  • More characters are supported
  • Maximum size of nchar and nvarchar is 4000 but for char and varchar is 8000

Working with N-prefix data types is same as regular ones. Care must be taken during database migration. Proper data types should be mapped during migration or data will get lost.


Source: http://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/localization-and-internationalization-testing/


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