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32052Re: [Czechlist] Please recommend a rotten website

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  • Michal Boleslav Měchura
    Oct 12, 2006
      Czech embassy websites worldwide are actually quite a good example of bad localization. They use (uncaptioned) flags consistently for languages. In Ireland, they have the Union Jack for English. In Austria, they have the German flag for German. In Canada, they have the Union Jack for English and the French tricolour for French. You'd have to wonder are they not getting tonnes of hate mail?

      Another problem I often see is the question of which language does the website present first? Apart from actually asking you, not many website authors know that most browsers have a feature for passing on the user's preferred language, and the website can use this information to present content in the user's language straight away. Many websites here in Ireland have the nasty habit of always throwing the English version at you first, with the Irish-language link hidden somewhere in the corner. Some examples: http://www.oasis.gov.ie/ http://www.irlgov.ie/ http://foreignaffairs.gov.ie/

      A related bad practice is when a website reads the user's IP address, guesses his or her geographical location from it, and then further guesses the language. I can't think right now of a website that does it, but I've seen it and it's wrong. Just because I'm in, say, Italy today does not mean I speak Italian or want to read content in it.

      And then there is the whole issue of date formats, currency formats, address formats, and so on. I live in a country that does not use postcodes, but many website simply won't let you submit an online order without filling in something for postcode. I usually put in a series of dummy zeros or ones, but the thing is, I shouldn't have to do that.

      How websites (and other types of software) handle people's names can also be a problem. Not all languages have names in the neat "name + surname" pattern.

      I could just go on - but I won't because I would be boring you :-)


      > ------------ Původní zpráva ------------
      > Od: James Kirchner <jpklists@...>
      > Předmět: Re: [Czechlist] Please recommend a rotten website
      > Datum: 12.10.2006 13:40:20
      > ----------------------------------------
      > I plan to bring up the problem of flags and language selectors in the
      > class today. I have the same problem with the Union Jack being used
      > as a symbol for English, because I grew up near the border between
      > two English-speaking countries, neither of which is under the Union
      > Jack. It never occurred to me that that flag would symbolize a
      > language, so the first time I was in Germany, I read the German
      > instructions over the pay phone, because I assumed the instructions
      > under the Union Jack were only for people phoning Great Britain. Now
      > that I know it's used to symbolize the English language, it always
      > strikes me as a little insulting, as if the owner of the website is
      > saying, "We're only interested in British visitors, but if you speak
      > English, I suppose you can look at this also." I know this is not
      > their intention, but it's the feeling I get from it anyway.
      > And what about when they use the Saudi flag to symbolize the Arabic
      > language -- isn't that ghastly? It would really disgust many Arabs.
      > There's an even stranger example: Until last year, when I sent them
      > an irate e-mail about it, the website of the Czech embassy in
      > Washington used the Union Jack to symbolize English. A few days
      > after I complained, they replaced it with the US flag, which is still
      > stupid, because, again, so many Americans don't know that flags are
      > supposed to symbolize languages, and English is not just our language.
      > My dream is to have a bilingual Czech-English website and use the
      > Texas flag to symbolize the Czech language, since like Great Britain
      > for English, Texas is where a large minority of the speakers of Czech
      > live.
      > Thanks very much for the tip.
      > One of the things I find interesting on some Czech websites for
      > hotels, for example, is that the way they describe their cuisine
      > would be rather nauseating to people in North America, and the
      > descriptions of spa treatments can sound scary and freakish to people
      > in countries that have no strong spa tradition. They should
      > completely change the focus of the English site, but they don't know
      > any better.
      > Jamie
      > On Oct 12, 2006, at 6:42 AM, Michal Boleslav Měchura wrote:
      > > Jamie,
      > >
      > > If you're looking for examples of bad translation on-line, you
      > > won't be hard-pressed to find them. The tourism industry is a
      > > treasure trove for such things. A friend of mine calls these
      > > "machine translation performed by a human".
      > >
      > > But there are other ways to mislocalize a website, beside the text.
      > > I teach a course in multilingual computing practices at a
      > > university here in Dublin and website localization is one of the
      > > things we cover. It's a huge area, but one topic that keeps coming
      > > up in discussions again and again is the use of flags to represent
      > > languages - such as, you click the Czech flag to switch to a Czech
      > > version of the website, and so on. This only works up to a point,
      > > though. What flag do you pick to represent English, German, Spanish?
      > >
      > > A common geopolitical blunder is using the UK flag as a symbol for
      > > English - not only inaccurate and but also potentially confusing
      > > and offensive for some people. I remember talking to a group of
      > > Irish boy scouts recently who visited the website for an
      > > international scout camp in the Czech Republic they were planning
      > > to visit, and they complained that there wasn't anything in English
      > > on it. It simply didn't occur to them that they were supposed to
      > > click the Union Jack. They found it strange when I explained that
      > > to them.
      > >
      > > You wouldn't believe how many websites are guilty of this,
      > > including the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://
      > > www.mzv.cz/ - there it is, a big Union Jack sitting in the middle
      > > of the page as a language switcher for English.
      > >
      > > A great deal has been written about this, just do a Google search
      > > for "flags as language selectors" or some such. It's just one
      > > example of the many ways you can insult people's cultural
      > > sensitivities online.
      > >
      > > Michal
      > >
      > >
      > >> ------------ Původní zpráva ------------
      > >> Od: James Kirchner <jpklists@...>
      > >> Předmět: [Czechlist] Please recommend a rotten website
      > >> Datum: 12.10.2006 04:19:39
      > >> ----------------------------------------
      > >> Another favor, folks.
      > >>
      > >> My translation students are studying translation and culture this
      > >> week, and instead of focusing on the thick, deadly chapters from
      > >> their textbooks on translation studies (which say the same thing over
      > >> and over again), I'm giving them (intelligible!) articles on
      > >> localization of advertising and digital media.
      > >>
      > >> What I need from you folks is a few links to totally horrible
      > >> websites that have not been localized but should have been.
      > >>
      > >> The hotels of Marianske Lazne are a treasure trove of that kind of
      > >> thing, with their gas injections, peat packs, gas sacks and other
      > >> treatments that sound so freakish to Western ears, along with that
      > >> word "gastronomy" that Czechs love to use so much in English.
      > >>
      > >> Can any of you suggest some really awful corporate site I can have my
      > >> students look at as well? Or some other kind of site? It doesn't
      > >> matter what country it's from.
      > >>
      > >> Thanks for any suggestions.
      > >>
      > >> Jamie
      > >>
      > >>
      > >>
      > >>
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Yahoo! Groups Links
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
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