My name is Michael Kaplan and I work for Корпорация Майкрософт

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2009/01/08 10:01 -05:00, original URI:

Software developer David's question was easy enough on the surface. I mean, it really didn;t seem like the kind of question that would inpsire deep conversations and government and language and politics and locales and so on:

I recently found some data for my component that had ‘Microsoft Corporation’ loc’d into Russian. I was told a long time ago that the company name and product names were never allowed to be localized. I’d thought that this string was never to be loc’d, but if the loc tools are letting it happen, how can I tag my rc file such that it won’t?

Now it would be easy to try and say that this is a branding issue, that you have to leave it English, and so on.

People such as myself and others explained that this was not always the case, though.

Which is of course helpful in general for people who are automatons with no real need of an illustrative example for an odd phenomenon that piqued one's curiousity and made one reassess one's assumptions.

Now I won't deny that such people might exist at Microsoft,

But we didn't have them in stock on this day. :-)

and luckily IPE Andrey had such an example -- not just any example, but the specific one relevant to the original question!

His words:

Let me try to explain this strange phenomenon to people who don’t speak Russian.

According to Russia’s laws, you have to use Cyrillic alphabet in products sold in Russian market whenever it is possible – hence “Microsoft Corporation” should become “Корпорация Майкрософт” in Russian texts. This is simple transliteration to Cyrillic of the company name – from Russian point of view this is not a change of the company name, it just makes company name readable to people who are not familiar with foreign alphabets. Unfortunately [from the standpoint of people who would like to see such terms not changed -- MSK], Microsoft can’t prohibit the usage of the native Russian alphabet and say that it is not allowed to use in Russia – we own our products, but we don’t own Russia’s language and laws.

Just imagine if, say, Sony Corporation would tell you that in your English text you should use instead of “SONY” a couple of strange-looking Japanese hieroglyphs that you don’t even know how to pronounce for their company name - and can’t use Latin letters instead of it.  Would you like it?

That does put it all in perspective, doesn't it? :-)

And Russia is hardly the only place that has such requirements for software that is sold in their market.

Many readers of this Bloog, were I to say Japan or Canada or Taiwan or France or China would probably be able to name specific requirements that either the software developers, or the localizers, or oth, have to know about and heed.

Anyone out there have some favorite requirement they want to mention? Bonus points if you either know one outside of the above or know at least one in all of the above! :-)


This blog brought to you by М (U+041c, aka CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER EM)

# Mihai on 8 Jan 2009 3:38 PM:

Add to this the situation when the original name has negative (or even obscene) connotations in the target language. It can happen for company names and for product names (and I know of more than one example).

And sometimes companies just register with a different name in certain countries (think Philips/Norelco).

So there are some valid reasons to consider company and product names localizable.

# ReallyEvilCanine on 8 Jan 2009 5:54 PM:

Russia and France, yes. Japan, not really. You're going to see "SONY" a lot more often than you will "ソニ", but the Japanese are considerably more anglophilic than other non-English-speaking countries.

# Adam Twardoch on 9 Jan 2009 7:32 AM:

Well, the answer is even just simpler: you should never assume that everybody in the world can read *your* alphabet. The Latin alphabet is just one of many. Assuming that every Russian can read the Latin alphabet is just like assuming that every American can read the Cyrillic alphabet.

# Phylyp on 9 Jan 2009 12:26 PM:

Am I the only one disappointed to realize that the 4 comments my feed reader promised me turned out to by spam?

And am I lining up future comment viewers for disappointment by bumping up that comment count by 1 :-/

# Grammar Nazi =) on 9 Jan 2009 3:11 PM:

"My name is Michael Kaplan and I work for корпорацию Майкрософт"

here in Evil Empire of Evil we use an accusative case

# Doug on 10 Jan 2009 8:11 AM:

Sony's an interesting company to use as an example of this, though - Sony was one of the first Japanese companies to officially have a latin-alphabet name, rather than a Kanji name.

# Azarien on 19 Jan 2009 2:33 AM:

First, it's English so you have no accusative case, second, if you think of для (for) that would be dative not accusative, and third, it shoud be rather в (in) and that requires instrumental (which is identical to accusative for корпорация).

Меня зовут Майкель Каплан и я работаю в Корпорации Майкрософт.

Fourth, it's only Microsoft which gets transliterated, the Corporation part is translated.

disclaimer: I'm not a native Russian speaker.

# Azarien on 19 Jan 2009 2:35 AM:

ReallyEvilCanine: it's not ソニ, it's ソニー.

disclaimer: I'm not native Japanese speaker.

# Pavel Minaev [MSFT] on 19 Jan 2009 5:45 PM:

For what's it worth, "Michael" would be transliterated into Russian as "Майкл".

(disclaimer: I am a native Russian speaker)

By the way, the transliteration actually does help, because when reading "Microsoft" written as is in English, most Russians tend to pronounce it as "Микрософт" (because that's how "micro" generally gets pronounced elsewhere).

# Volodymyr Shcherbyna on 20 Jan 2009 5:35 AM:

I'd use "My name is Michael Kaplan and I work for Корпорации Майкрософт" . The overall Russian text will be:

"Меня зовут Майкл Каплан, и я работаю в Корпорации Майкрософт"

This will be grammatically correct, as words change endings in Russian basing on many conditions.

P.S. I am native Russian speaker.

# Azarien on 21 Jan 2009 10:12 AM:

No no no. You would never say блог Майкл'с but rather блог Майкла. Do you?

Don't add noun cases to English which are not there.

disclaimer: I am not a native English speaker. Damn, maybe I should've been silent ;-)

# Michiel on 18 Feb 2009 9:04 AM:

Missing from the headache list: country borders (but see earlier articles from this blog), copyright statements and other references to your company's legal status (you really don't want to have lawyers review the translations too).

It's not always negative for Microsoft, though. Many a governement has forced Microsoft products on companies. E.g. By law having to file taxes online, but using a website that works in IE only.

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referenced by

2010/12/23 PC LOAD LETTER? What the f**k does that mean [in Chinese]?

2010/06/25 Майкрософт vs. Microsoft, aka On choosing the most reasonable inconsistency

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