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Primer: Character encoding

Primer: Character encoding (medical translation)
Our friends at Lingoport produce great internationalization services and valuable educational materials. They have done this again with a terrific little quick reference guide to character encoding.

In response to confusion among translation sales people and those who are new to the internationalization process, Lingport presents this primer on encodings:
ASCII Encoding: English alphabet and numbers are fine. Breaks if you add accented characters and additional characters. 128 characters supported in total. 7 bits per character. Don’t use it!

ISO Latin-1 Encoding (also referred to as ISO 8859-1): In addition to English alphabet and numbers (codes are the same), adds support for Western European Languages (i.e. French, Italian, German, Spanish). 8 bits per character (single byte).

Unicode Character Set: A super character set that includes digital support for all the world's commercially used languages and more. Unicode characters can be supported using the following encodings:
  • UTF-8: This is a common encoding for supporting Unicode characters. Uses a single byte (same codes as ASCII), adding additional bytes (up to 6) to encode additional characters.
  • UTF-16: This is another common encoding for supporting Unicode. Uses two bytes per character and can be combined with a second set of bytes for more complex characters.
  • UCS-2: The older version of UTF-16, and compatible with UTF-16 as well. Used on Microsoft's SQL Server Database for supporting Unicode.
Why is this important? If you don't understand encodings - or get them mixed-up - it can really foul up your software localization efforts. Your client won't be happy!

For more about character encodings (including links to further resources and a brief video by Adam Asnes), head over to Lingoport's quick reference guide to character encoding.

And for some further reading around software internationalization, take a look at the following articles:
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation and software localization services to medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Contact us for a detailed proposal on your next assignment!


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