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Posts Tagged ‘localization’

Providing a Language Selection List

January 14th, 2012 joconner No comments

Lang listThe questions pop up often enough in internationalization circles so I’ll address them here:

1. how should I localize a language selection list?
2. how should I sort it?

Localized Language Lists

Customers use a language selection list to change languages. You must assume that the currently selected language is inappropriate for some reason. One possible reason is that the user cannot read the page content. This means that a localized language list that displays all target language options in the language of my current page probably won’t be understood. For example, let’s pretend that I speak English but am on a Japanese web site. Presenting me with language options that include ” 英語” will not help me if I don’t read Japanese. I can’t be expected to know that those characters mean “English” to a Japanese person. This option is unhelpful. What is helpful?

The right way to represent any language selection list is to display languages in their own language and script. For example, English should be English, Spanish should be Español, Japanese is 日本語, etc. You don’t need to localize this list into every language. One list using the target language’s own language and script for each language choice is both sufficient and optimal. This guarantees that I’ll be able to read and select my target language regardless of the current page’s language setting. This is the most universal option you have, and I consider this a best practice for creating language selection lists.

Sort Order

I don’t know how better to prepare you for my answer…so here it is. The actual sort order is less important than consistency. Two points make this obvious to me:

1. if your customer wants to choose a different language, they probably don’t speak the current one, and the current language’s sort rules won’t be particularly useful anyway.
2. you can’t accurately guess what language rules you should use because you don’t know which language the user will select.

With these points in mind, I don’t think the sort order matters. Correct linguistic sorts for this list are not critical, and anything you choose will be inconvenient to someone. For this reason, I think you simply have to choose a sort order and be consistent every time you show the language list. My suggestion is that you simply order the list in U.S. English order if you consider U.S. English to be the base language of your product. If you consider your base language to be something else, use that. My point is that it doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll be tempted to provide this list in the sorted order of the language of the current page or host OS setting. Sure that’s an option, but it’ll be incorrect more often than correct when it’s needed. Save your sanity. Choose an order. Be consistent. Don’t worry about localizing this order.

So this sort issue is bothering you still? You just can’t accept it? Ok, that’s fine, but consider this. The solution I’ve described is already used by some pretty big players. Since I just finished evaluating Facebook, let’s use it as an example. Regardless of which localized site I visit, regardless of my browser language preferences, Facebook shows the same list of languages in the same sort order. They don’t even use a US English sort. Their choice is something different, something almost like a US English sort, but maybe using the Romanized version of the target language? Here’s an example — Japanese is sorted with other languages that start with an “N” sound. The Japanese pronunciation is romanized as “nihongo”. So, “nihongo” starts with an n and sorts with other languages that start with n? I can’t quite figure the sort rules out BUT that’s my point…it doesn’t matter. Its consistent every time I go to the page, and it works. Here’s a shot of that Facebook page:

Fb lang selection

Conclusion

Providing a language selection list for your multilingual product is a great idea. It lets customers conveniently change the UI language of the product. Don’t over-think this problem. You can provide this feature without spending countless hours of debate. Follow my suggestions:

  1. Provide a single language selection list in which each entry is translated into the target language and script.
  2. Choose a sort order, any order. Be consistent in displaying this order.

Have a suggestion or comment? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

 

 

 

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Job Post: Localization Engineer in San Jose, CA

January 4th, 2012 joconner No comments

Please comment on this post or email me if you are interested in this localization engineer position. I’ll put you in contact with the recruiter.

Direct from the recruiter:

The requirement is for a Localization Engineer in San Jose working for one of the leading Web Commerce companies.  They are looking for more than the typical Localization Engineer as they need someone who has done some programming, not just scripting.   I have attached a description and also listed below some things the manager said they have been missing in the candidates so far.

What I’ve been missing so far in candidates is

-        Experience with web localization (more a focus on i18n engineering, but then without real coding skills), and enterprise localization tools (e.g. WorldServer)

-        Significant modern coding skills (going beyond a simple VBA macro or Perl script), e.g. ability to write some Java application, understand/fix/enhance existing code, or a simple plug-in against a documented SDK (more than just passive knowledge of Java, etc)

-        Ability to clearly articulate concepts or thoughts, describe processes

 

If this sounds like a good fit, I can email you more details. Good luck!

//John

 

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Offensive Hand Gestures of the World

October 5th, 2011 joconner No comments

Recently I told some colleagues that I wanted to write a book about offensive hand gestures around the world. In my business, it’s common knowledge that icons of hand gestures just don’t localize well. We’re told to avoid using icons of hands and fingers because we might offend someone in a different culture. I’ve always known that anything can be offensive to someone somewhere, so of course I’ve accepted this as truth. Seems reasonable to avoid hand gestures when I can.

However, in all my years working in globalization and localization, I’ve never once been provided a comprehensive list of gestures that should be avoided. And not surprisingly, I’ve always wanted to see that list! In fact, I’ve wanted that list of offensive or rude gestures so much that I promised I’d write a book on the topic.

Oddly enough, it turns out that someone else has already beat me to the task. And I’ve discovered this not a moment too soon — I was already interviewing hand models. :) So, now that I know that someone has already beaten me to the job, I suppose I can now take that book off my todo list and just get a copy of it.

In my extensive research on the subject, I’ve found 3 books. THREE! On one of my late-night runs to Barnes and Noble, I saw the first one on my list — it was in the old discounted book pile. What a pity! Now pull out your credit card and take a look at these gems. I know I’ll order at least one of these:

  1. Rude Hand Gestures of the World
  2. Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World
  3. 70 Japanese Gestures: No Language Communication

It’s really too bad too…I could really feel myself being pulled into this work. Maybe I can hope that the original authors do a 2nd edition and allow me to help? Man that would have been a fun book to research and write! But alas, I’m too late! But finally I’ve found the book I’ve wondered about for so long!

 

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Twitter begins crowd-sourced translations

February 15th, 2011 joconner No comments

Recently I became aware of Twitter’s new translation initiative that enlists the help of its user base. I think it’s a unique and possibly worthwhile gamble. After all, the translations are free, and twitter pays it users by giving them a …. “special badge on their public Twitter page displaying their status as an official Twitter translator.”

The idea is simple enough. An invited twitterer/translator logs into their site. Having been identified as a translator, the user sees additional buttons on their twitter web UI…buttons that allow you to translate the page labels and text. Cool.

Twitter wants to translate into all the world’s language eventually. For now, however, they’ll settle on these in the short term:

  • French
  • German
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Spanish

Hey, great idea, Twitter. I wonder if the “special badge” of honor will be enough to enlist talented, real help?

 

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