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identifying language changes

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 16:57:08 +0200
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org


Earlier today, I read a discussion on a German accessibility mailing 
list that would probably also interest readers on this list. The 
discussion started when someone asked how to handle German proper 
names and street names on the English version of German municipality 
website: should these be identified as German (lang="de") or not?

Several people provided arguments against marking up language changes 
for each foreign name and word.

One person said that frequent language changes were judged as 
annoying or even a hindrance in many tests with blind users (what's 
wrong now, why is there a pause?).

A screen reader user wrote that he couldn't confirm that these 
language changes are indispensable for screen reader users. "I have 
never read on mailing lists for blind computer users that the average 
blind user needs this. On the contrary, many (including myself) 
disable the automatic language recognition in the screen reader 
settings. I find English language websites easier to read with a 
German speech synthesizer than with an English speech synthesizer 
because I don't have enough experience with spoken English. I find 
the many language changes for words and phrases in Wikis rather 
annoying/distracting because they make it hard to have a clear view 
of the source text for me as an author, and they make it hard to edit 
the text. In addition, most screen readers by now have databases that 
enable correct pronunciation of common foreign words. From my point 
of view, a lang attribute per webpage would be sufficient, and 
individual exception don't need to be marked up."

Another mailing list subscriber asked if these pronunciation nuances 
are at all noticeable at the high speeds at which speech synthesizers 
are usually configured. He therefore prefers the more pragmatic 
approach in WCAG 2.0 (SC 3.1.2: "The human language of each passage 
or phrase in the content can be programmatically determined except 
for proper names, technical terms, words of indeterminate language, 
and words or phrases that have become part of the vernacular of the 
immediately surrounding text.").

Best regards,


Christophe Strobbe
K.U.Leuven - Dept. of Electrical Engineering - SCD
Research Group on Document Architectures
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 bus 2442
B-3001 Leuven-Heverlee
tel: +32 16 32 85 51
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Received on Thursday, 17 July 2008 14:57:51 UTC

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