The ‘native language’ (the mother tongue) is one of the most decisive identity factors of a nation. Besides being of political importance, it carries a high emotional value and is strongly related to culture. Due to technology, particularly the Internet and due to individual ownership of computers people have more opportunities to interact and cooperate with others outside their local community (Nakakoji, 1996). As a consequence, software products must be used in different countries. As early as 1960, the first technological steps were made by IBM (Hensch, 2005) in order to find ways of processing and displaying Japanese characters. Initially, the prime concern was an adequate representation of national characters (including diacritical characters of European languages), typically called national language support. In the meantime, an ever increasing number of people are in need of using software products. Technological progress allows communication via pictures and also via colorful, animated displays showing people in their natural surroundings, resulting in software products becoming a part of their daily environment. Computers today execute more complex tasks in closer imitation of human behavior. As a consequence people expect the computer to adapt to their individual culture.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Locale: A subset of a user’s environment that defines conventions for a specified culture (He et al., 2002; Herden, 2006; Kubota, 2003; Trager, 2006) which affects the representation of many concepts and objects. • Text representations (characters, punctuation, symbols, addresses, currency symbols ...); • Numerics (date/time, currency, telephone numbers, measures, decimal and list separators...); • Sequencing (character sorting order, character search orders, word wrap...); • Graphics (icons, banners, colors, buttons...); • Sounds (type, intensity,...); • Translation for geographic names
National Language Support (NLS): Historical term for localization, essentially only considering the representation of characters (Hensch, 2005).
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): The interdisciplinary study of interaction between people (users) and computers in all its aspects ranging from hardware and software interfaces to questions of information presentation, of psychological and ergonomic issues.
Culture: We understand culture as the shared complex system of language, value system, norms, religion, myths, beliefs, manners, behavior, and structure which is characteristic of a society or part of it.
Cultural Divergence: Hampden-Turner & Trompenaars (2000) describe six basic culture-defining dimensions (“cultural dilemmas”) differencing various cultures on the sociological and cultural level (Changing Minds, 2006): • Universalism-particularism; • Individualism-communitarianism; • Specificity-diffusion; • Achieved status - ascribed status; • Inner direction-outer direction; • Sequential time-synchronous time. In a similar study (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005) identified five “Cultural Dimensions” which are to some extent overlapping with the previous list. They are: • Power distance index; • Individualism (with the opposite, collectivism); • Masculinity (with the opposite, femininity); • Uncertainty avoidance index; • Long-term orientation (with the opposite, short-term orientation)
Code Page: Maps a maximum of 256 characters of a given alphabet, including control characters and diacritical characters to a string of eight bits (Barbour & Yeo, 1996; Davis et al., 1996). Switching between alphabets for different languages means switching the code page. Most code pages are standardized in ISO\IEC 2022.
Localization: (also called i10n (He et al., 2002)) is the process of adapting a product to reflect the local standards, culture and language of a specific other market (Ishida & Miller, 2005) (GSSI, 2000). It includes translating the user interface, customizing features, exchanging culturally dependent texts, pictures, animations and metaphors (see also SDL International, 2006).To circumvent the non-uniformity of the mapping of national characters into code pages (Barbour & Yeo, 1996; Davis et al., 1996) Unicode as an industry standard and the parallel standard ISO/IEC 10646 (‘universal character set’) try to consistently represent all existing writing systems using a word with several bytes.
Internationalization: (also i18n) means the enabling of a software artefact to be adaptable (He et al., 2002; Kubota, 2003). A first step is the separation of text and code. IBM called this step ‘NLS enabling’. Sometimes it is also understood as ‘eliminating as many culture specifics as possible’ (Nakakoji, 1996).