Confusing terms: globalization, internationalization, translation, and localization

At work there’s been a move afoot to tag items in our roadmapping tool as “globalization,” “internationalization,” “localization,” or “translation.”

The executive level thinking here is that we are not offering our products globally, and need to be. So what do you do about that? You globalize!

To my thinking, though, there are universal requirements, things that the underlying product should do everywhere, and requirements borne of local data formats, terms of art, regulatory environments, etc. Universal versus local. Then there’s the work of offering interfaces and commendation in a newly-supported language, and the things you must do technologically to make your application able to deliver these universal and local requirements and serve interfaces and documentation in the correct languages.

To my thinking, a universal requirement is just a requirement. The special ones, therefore interesting to tag, are

  • localization: things that need to be done differently due to a locale’s needs – preferred data formats, regulatory environment, terms of art, etc.
  • translation: the actual translation of interfaces and documentation into a newly-supported language or English variant
  • internationalization: things that must be done technologically to enable us to address either of the above

A tag that would be applied to all or almost all of the items seems like it might not be that useful. Globalization is the goal, not a specific type of work. It probably doesn’t make sense to separately call out universal requirements, as these should be numerous. Most work should be universal.

Meanwhile, globalization also includes marketing and sales and support and other things. Trying these terms on wrt marketing: we want to globalize our marketing, so we consider the universal messages we want prospective customers to understand (which should not be a special effort), then we look at how these might need to be localized (made locally specific/applicable) and translated (in the right language), and what processes we need to internationalize (tech/process/people to enable the above) to make conveying these messages possible.

I might be thinking about this wrongly, but this is my current understanding.