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Re: [WAI-IG] Serving my page in the right language

From: David Dorward <david@us-lot.org>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 11:55:03 +0000
Message-Id: <C131BCC5-7BF7-11D8-975F-000A957E4F00@us-lot.org>
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

On 22 Mar 2004, at 11:32, Marjolein Katsma wrote:
> At 12:05 2004-03-22, David Dorward wrote:
>> On 22 Mar 2004, at 10:25, Marjolein Katsma wrote:
>>> Just how do those people even find out there is such a thing as a 
>>> language preference?
>> If we use the language preferences sent by the user agent to select a 
>> default language (and present an obvious option on that page to 
>> select other languages):

> - negative UNLESS a web site provides an option to choose language

Which the use case clearly said that it did.

>> * Users who don't know how to use configure their preference get a 
>> sensible default which would probably be their preference if they had 
>> actively chosen.
>> - Benefit

> I have already addressed that in the post you are replying to: many 
> people do *not* get a sensible default.

I have difficulty believing that there is a significant proportion of 
users working on computers where the system language is set to one they 
have significant difficulties understanding.

I'm open to being convinced otherwise, does anybody have any 
non-anecdotal evidence?

>> * Users who don't know how to change their preference AND for whom 
>> the default is suboptimal can select a different language from the 
>> aforementioned obvious option.
>> - Slight negative
> Negative - but whether it is "slight" depends on the number of people 
> involved.

No it doesn't. It depends on how much difficulty they have in 
identifying the option to change language amongst the primary content 
of the page. I would hope that the specifics of this implementation 
would make it very slight indeed.

>> * Users who don't know how to change their preference AND for whom 
>> the default is suboptimal AND who fail to noticed the obvious option 
>> can almost certainly cope with the default language anyway.
>> - Slight negative
> Don't agree - your "almost certainly" assumes an amount of fluency in 
> the default language that is very often not present.

It is enough that they manage to use the system at all. If they can't 
understand the text, then I would expect them to work by recognizing 
icons which suggests that perhaps it might be worth developing a 
standardized icon to represent alternative language versions of a page.

>> * Users who don't know about the preference, fail to spot the option 
>> to change language, and can't cope with their default are likely to 
>> be a very tiny minority.
>> - Serious negative, but probably only affecting a number of people 
>> that tends towards zero.
> Maybe where *you* live, but not where *I* live.

Do you have any figures? Some discussion of the form the option to 
change language took in those cases which they failed to spot it would 
be useful.

Come to think of it, if there are so many people who failed to spot 
said option, why did you advocate that technique in the first piece of 
material I quoted in this email?

>> If we ignore the language preferences sent by the user agent then 
>> *all* users must actively identify the option for their language in 
>> the list and select it.

> Sounds like a good idea - because that way at least people *will* find 
> out

Perhaps, but then we get such cases as one of the sites which was 
mentioned earlier in the thread (which I don't have to hand right now), 
in which the list of languages required rather careful examination 
before I spotted the language that I wanted.

>  (you did not address my question which you quoted: Just how do those 
> people even find out there is such a thing as a language preference?).

No, I was addressing the implication that we should ignore language 
preferences because the user probably doesn't know about them and might 
be using a system configured to work in a language they didn't 


It has been rather a long time since I had the pleasure^Wtask of 
installing Windows, or of setting up an computer with an OEM copy of 
Windows installed - but I seem to recall being presented with a Wizard 
that, among other things, asked me about my language preferences.

Given that the default browser on Windows (the one with the big market 
share) uses the system language to get its accept-language header, 
doesn't this mean that the primary language preference is correctly set 
for the majority of users?

> I don't agree with your "great majority". A majority, true, but it may 
> not be all that great.
> See above - I don't agree with "small minority".

Does anybody have any reliable numbers for this?

David Dorward
Received on Monday, 22 March 2004 06:55:03 UTC

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