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The proliferation of the Internet and the World Wide Web has made access to global markets ( especially for software products) easier today than ever before. For companies to capture market share in non-English-speaking countries , it is critical that their software products support languages other than English. Unfortunately, software developers who are not aware of software internationalization issues can build cultural biases into the products they develop. These built-in cultural biases will have a negative impact on the company's ability to localize the software product for foreign markets. Having an understanding of the issues associated with various cultures, languages, and writing systems will minimize or eliminate cultural bias and make the process of delivering localized software to global markets a realizable dream.
Software internationalization is the term used to define the architecture and design of software for which only one set of source and binary code is produced to support all the markets in which the software will be sold. Internationalized applications require planning, forethought, and proper design. Trying to retrofit an application to be internationalization-ready requires much more time and money than designing the application correctly in the first place. Retrofitted applications also usually end up being far more difficult to maintain.
Enterprise applications add yet another layer of complexity to the issue of internationalization. In most cases, enterprise internationalization involves developing multilingual applications. By this we mean that one application, sitting on a server, must simultaneously handle data appropriately for users who might be geographically distributed and who might have a preference for a given language or cultural convention.
Imagine, for a moment, a Pan-European travel agency with travel agents all over Europe. This agency wants to have one enterprise application to support all its offices. Clearly, the agents in France want to be able to interact with the system in French, while the agents in Italy want to interact with the system in Italian, and so on for each office in the other European countries. The enterprise application needs to be designed in such a way that it recognizes the local needs of each agent. This requires that the session be conducted in the correct language and data such as numbers , dates, and currency be formatted appropriately. Also, lists displayed to the user must be collated according to the rules for the given language.
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