Computers across the globe speak the same language – a dialect composed solely of zeros and ones - but we humans make numbers much more complicated. If you are in software and have global ambitions for your program, sooner or later you will have to tackle international treatment of numbers.
Whether dates, financial figures or something as simple as the time of day, global-ready software must accommodate different linguistic protocols for handling numbers. The earlier you approach this process in your software development cycle, the more money you will shave off of your production costs.
Let's take time for example. Did you know that there are time zones with half hour increments? New Delhi is currently 10 ½ hours ahead of New York. Time zones in Europe are more standard but time is told differently there than it is in the U.S. 15:30 would seem like a ratio in the States (i.e. there are 15 children and 30 people total on the bus) but in Italy, this number would be interpreted as a time of day: 3:30 pm.
Take today’s date as another example: February 14th, 2011 (Happy Valentines Day!). Here are three different ways to transcribe this date, according to country:
Getting time and date to display correctly in each language market is essential.
How about the number 2.468? In the U.S., this would read as two point four six eight. In Germany, however, it is two-thousand, four-hundred and sixty-eight and in France, a comma would be used instead of the decimal point to communicate the same number.
In Japanese and many other languages, the actual word for “two” varies according to the type of object it qualifies. In Hebrew, there are four different ways to say “two”, depending on the context. In Islandic, numbers vary as a function of case and gender.
All of these various ways of handling numbers are part of what we call “locale-awareness” in software internationalization. A sensitivity to these locale differences is one of the keys to correctly preparing your software for localization.
The process of localizing software seems daunting, but if you learn the basics such as locale-awareness in the initial phrase of development, you will reap the rewards on a global scale. Perhaps the best way to demystify these complexities is to attend a webinar and gain knowledge from an industry expert. Sign up for our “Taking Your Software Global” webinar on Thursday, March 3rd and equip yourself with the tools to successfully adapt your software to foreign markets. With this foundation, you will be able to skillfully work alongside your language partner to create your international roadmap...and get your numbers right across borders.
For more information on software localization, check out our Top Ten Tips.
Photo attribution: Pink Sherbert Photography