Friday, February 4, 2011

Localization is evil!

OK, now I've got your attention let me modify that statement: over-localization is undesirable.

Localisation (with the spelling localised to my own culture) is the process of adapting or modifying a product, service or website for a given language, culture or region. However, in almost everybody's mind, localisation is synonymous with translation, and any other modifications, such as making web forms suitable for local address structures, are quickly overlooked. Localisation is intimately bound up with the concept of locales, which give a country/region and language combination which can be used in the localisation process.

The whole problem with this system is that PLACES DO NOT SPEAK LANGUAGES - PEOPLE DO.

There are many indigenous people who do not speak a nationally recognised language in their country, and in our mobile world many of us do not speak the language of the place where we live, or have a preference for another. Yet this fact is overlooked in almost every attempt at localization made.

A case in point. This blog site is owned by Google, and Google win award after award for their localisation, presumably based on a count of the number of languages their interfaces and programs are available in rather than any intelligent application of the idea. Yet Google assume, like most of the rest, that places speak languages rather than people. Though I state clearly in my preferences that I wish to use this site in English, Google sees where my IP address is situated and changes the interface into Dutch. When I go to Prague and attempt to log in I am expected to master Czech. When I reach Athens I will be asked for my details in Greek. is similar. Attempt to get into from outside the USA and you will be taken to a local page (or local to somewhere - I get to the UK page for some unknown reason). This might be regarded as a service by some, but it has consequences. A user in Bulgaria, for example, searching for information about an HP product may click on the link in the search engine referring to the site. The site then switches the user back to a local Bulgarian site, where that information page is not available, and the user is presented with a 404 page not found error.

Look, I am absolutely in favour of translating information and I regard myself as a reasonable polyglot. But a stop must be put to translating on the basis of place. Users must be given the ability to override locale settings so that they can use their own languages and not those attached to a place.

No comments: