It speaks my language (well, almost!)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/02/01 05:25 -08:00, original URI:

Joseph Bruno asked in the Suggestion Box:

You're designating locales for every subsubregion of every subregion of every region in the world, and presumably there'll be language-specific versions of Windows in at least some of those. Given that, do you have any idea why Microsoft won't release an English version of Windows?

Well, I do think that Windows falls way short of every subsubregion of every subregion. In fact, as I pointed put in the post It's in Spanish? What kind?, we often fall way short of what I would consider acceptable.

It actually reminds me a bit of the royalty deal on my book.

Basically, all international sales of the book made 50% of what sales in the US did. Nominally that money went to the subsidiary contacts of the publisher and took care of costs such as translation.

But when I asked, they said that no translation into UK English localization would be done. I never got a satisfactory answer as to why they were given the opportunity to gross as much as countries with much higher expenses -- seems like some obnoxious form of patronage, to me.

Certainly it would be an easier localization gig, at least!

Anyway, back to Windows....

I may dislike that we have one version of English or Spanish that spans the globe, or one version of Arabic across all of the Middleeast and North Africa, or any of a number of these compromises.

In fact, I do dislike it.

But I have a hard time claiming that support for those localizations is more important than languages for which we have no support at all. I am pretty sure that if Microsoft took this approach that people would be very critical about those priorities!

But with that said, it is not always the same resources that would be involved where one would really have to choose.

And I am hardly the only person who would like to see something better done here to make the Windows experience more "local" for people who are native speakers of such a language.

Customer feedback on this point would be an important consideration, of course. I suspect many are resigned to the behavior now. :-(


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# Joseph Bruno on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 10:15 AM:

Thank you for picking up on this: this is just what makes this blog such a Good Thing.

Speaking for myself, I've got inured to the idea that computers can't spell English properly ("Favorites", etc); but I find the idea of gratuitously calling a whole product by a misspelt name ("Media Center Edition") offensive and contemptuous of people who, after all, ultimately pay the wages of Microsoft's employees.

Microsoft spends a great deal of money trying not to offend various of its target markets by inappropriate nomenclature but presumably the English aren't considered inferior enough to be condescended to in this way.

Fortunately, in the Media Center case, there is a simple cure, which is to avoid all products that use it.

# Maurits on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 11:37 AM:

With custom locales, couldn't a community build its own localizations?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 11:46 AM:

Hi Maurits --

Indeed, that sort of thing is in some minds the next logical step. Of course no one believes that Windows has been architected in that way from the beginning, which adds some unique challenges to such a plan....

# Joris van Lier on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 12:58 PM:

I'd opt for custom locales,
this would enable me to create translate to my own dialect (West-Frisian) or even to Hax0rsp34k :P
Offcourse these would be unsupported, but as a developer i do so many unsupported things, i'd be happy to switch back to a supported locale for PSS.....
(now imagine someone calling product support: It's says "all your base are belong to us", where the message in supported locale was "Your firewall has been disabled." )

# Maurits on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 3:35 PM:

@Joris: LOL

# Ian Argent on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 9:12 PM:

OK - I had a relevant comment, and was completely sidetracked by the fact the the Comments field has a Required tag attached to it...

Anyway - it's sort of a follow-up to one of the comments in the linked article; Harry Potter being localized for US english by Scholastic. As each book comes out, the localization eforts get less and less; the last one referred to athletic footgear as trainers (a decidedly non-US usage).

# Nelson Clemente on Thursday, February 02, 2006 1:53 AM:

Yes I see your point. The thing is, the same thing happens for continental Portuguese (which is really my native language)... Brazilian Portuguese is often used instead of its 'original' version? Why can't the same be applied to English? The question is, why are efforts first on localising (notice the s? :P) for completely separate 'sub languages'?


# Michael S. Kaplan on Thursday, February 02, 2006 2:50 AM:

Hi Nelson --

Yes, Portuguese is indeed handled differently, though there is an arguably important difference for Portuguese -- according to many, they are not nearly as mutually intelligible as English, Spanish, French, or even the "academic" (for lack of a better word) Arabic....

# Alun Jones on Thursday, February 02, 2006 11:44 AM:

As a developer, after thirteen years of living in the US, I _still_ find it difficult to call function APIs that are spelled in US form.

I read quickly, and when I see a word that is mis-spelled, that trips me up, slows me down. I really am working very hard to read American as quickly as I can read English, but it just hasn't happened yet.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a complete uptight member of the language police - I don't correct my son or wife when they spell words in the American way; but I should at least be able to make my computer submit to my personal reading style.

Thinking about the amount of effort put in to making a Welsh version of Windows, say, given the small number of people who can read the language, I think there is a point to making an English version of Windows. Commonwealth English - the Queen's English, if you will - is remarkably similar between England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc, but different from American English. The work required should be significantly less than a full language translation, and the benefit would be an operating system that's far easier to use.

Imagine, for a moment, that you have produced an interface that uses blue and green to differentiate between buttons, and you're trying to sell it to a group of people that are blue-green colour-blind. They'll be able to use the OS, sure, but it will be just that little bit more awkward for them.

On a side note, I've worked on both sides of the Atlantic in tech support, and English and American users do use software differently. Americans seem to be more tolerant of bugs, in general.

American spelling from my computer is just another reminder that I am considered a subspecies.

# Maurits on Thursday, February 02, 2006 1:30 PM:

Function APIs can not reasonably be expected to be localized. But I will admit to being shocked by the local-unfriendliness of Enum.Parse.

# Alun Jones on Friday, February 03, 2006 12:54 PM:

I propose the creation of an "english.h" file. :-)

# Ian on Thursday, February 09, 2006 8:19 AM:

As Alun said, "English" English is very similar across all the commonwealth countries, but quite different to American English. I appreciate that Microsoft give a higher priority to languages that have no support at all, but the amount of work required to create a UK English version of Windows would be miniscule in comparison. I find it very frustrating seeing "favorites" and "centers" and "colors" and "dialing", and to have Windows spelt correctly would make a huge difference. Having Gmail set to UK English and allowing me to change my font "colour" feels so much politer, and my enjoyment of the product increases. The American spellings throughout Windows is also imprinting spellings into children which are not correct in these countries, and I would love to see a UK version of Windows. I didn't realise this was the case for other languages such as Spanish and Portuguese - please Microsoft, sort it out!

# Michael S. Kaplan on Thursday, February 09, 2006 8:50 AM:

Hi Ian,

It is actually not the case for Portuguese, fwiw.

And I think I am on record as being in favor of more work here. :-)

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referenced by

2008/07/11 What kind of English were you looking for? We only seem to have one in stock....

2006/10/13 Local experiences in Norway: the Nynorsk LIP!

2006/09/12 They speak English in other places, too

2006/07/24 Our highly internationalized OS uses DPI, aka Dots Per In-.... um, never mind!

2006/03/01 About that Portuguese localization question...

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