A little bit of Turkish delight

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/02/28 11:31 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/02/28/540641.aspx

Earlier today, in reponse to my post [Localized] Date/Time format tokens, regular reader Serge Wautier commented:

Oddly enough, according to your screenshots, the Turkish translation seems to use the same letter (s) for hours and seconds!

Let's take a closer look:

Geez, he's right.

It gets worse if you look at all of the choices one has for date formats:

Why that is downright confusable, isn't it?

Hmmm... makes me wonder what happens if we look at the Turkish locale in Turkish (the above is looking at English (US) in Turkish):

Ok, that is a bit less confusable, isn't it? :-)

It also explains why a localizer may not notice the difference when they are reviewing what their change looks like -- how likely would they be to check other locales? And the wide range of them?

This kind of problem is a side effect of the wide range of possibilities that is hard to completely test. For another example, here is the Arabic user locale list -- note the appropriate use of parentheses:

Ok, now let's move over to the UI language list:

How do you say Oops! in Arabic again? :-)

Now the original issue with Turkish can certainly complicate string parsing, and if you try to change the order of the time parameters you will likely run into problems (luckily this is very seldom done!).

Perhaps it is a good thing that this is only a UI feature and not a programmatic one?


This post brought to you by "s" (U+0073, a.k.a. LATIN SMALL LETTER S)

# Stuart Ballard on 28 Feb 2006 12:40 PM:

I get the issue with the parentheses in the language list, but what I'm not sure is what the difference is between Português and português. Are there a large number of Portuguese users with a strong dislike for uppercase letters? ;)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Feb 2006 12:57 PM:

Ah yes, I will be talking a bit about that issue soon (and a few others to do with Portuguese)....

# Richard Gadsden on 28 Feb 2006 1:19 PM:

I guess the difference between Português and português is that one is Brazilian and the other is Iberian.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Feb 2006 1:27 PM:

Indeed, Richard. The tip of the iceberg, trust me!

# Michael Dunn_ on 28 Feb 2006 2:54 PM:

Speaking of Português, I hope you can discuss how/why there are Brazil and Portugal localizations, when MS's general policy is not to localize like that (ie, there's no UK English).  I know a little about the differences (such as Brazil using "f" where Portugal uses "ph"); maybe they are different enough that Brazilians would have a hard time reading Portugal Portuguese?

# Dean Harding on 28 Feb 2006 5:21 PM:

Wow, I didn't know Arabic locales also mirrored the "shading" of controls so that the "light" part is in the top-right and the "shadow" part is in the bottom-left!

I guess is makes sense because in the same way that left-to-right people scan a page top-left to bottom-right, right-to-left people would scan a page top-right to bottom-left, and it would be jarring if the shading didn't follow the same pattern...

# Roozbeh Pournader on 7 Mar 2006 9:35 PM:

Well, to get to the linguistic side, it's interesting that the problem with Turkish is somehow related to the Arabic language (also used in the post). Saat and Saniye both have Arabic roots (ساعت and ثانیه), but while they start with different letters in the original Arabic (prounced [s] and [θ] respecticely), the prounciation of those two letters got unified in Persian and then Ottomen, from where the word came to modern Turkish. When Turkish started using the phonetic Latin alphabet, these became one letter.

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