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Re: Internationalization--the next generation

From: A. Vine <avine@eng.sun.com>
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 12:14:24 -0700
To: Suzanne Topping <stopping@rochester.rr.com>
Cc: i18n-prog@acoin.com, unicode@unicode.org, www-international@w3.org
Message-id: <374C4810.A30E5C2B@eng.sun.com>
Suzanne, et al,

Well, theories are nice.

I'd like to point out a few things:

> >>The workshop was heavily focused on cultural research and usability, and
> >>there were virtually no discussions of "typical" internationalization
> >>issues. No mention of text isolation, encoding methods, Unicode, DBCS,
> >>tools, or any other subject that one might expect at an
> internationalization
> >>conference.

That is because this was an i18n conference focused on the UI.  I read the
conference Web site, and they failed to make this clear, but that's what this
conference was about.

> >>It seems as if we've mostly mastered the technological aspects for
> creating
> >>software that can be localized (by addressing the issues I listed above.)
> >>The methods for doing these things is becoming widespread knowledge, and
> >>tools for ensuring internationalization are even getting pretty darned
> >>sophisticated.

Does it seem this way because you're not doing the design, architecting or
implementation of i18n in software products?  Software is a moving target.  New
technical challenges for i18n come up daily, in the form of new libraries,
languages, tools, desktop products, standards, etc., not to mention that
software products in development are pushing an envelope in some way.

There is more to i18n than what can be localized, by the way.

> >>But the focus of all that work and achievement is really on translation;
> >>allowing all text within the UI to be easily changed. Ok, we also make
> sure
> >>that icons can be changed, but they are a  minor factor in the overall
> >>picture. Localization tasks are primarily centered around translation of
> the
> >>text.

Um, no it's not.  Most of my work centers around making the product function for
all locales.  The l10n team has no work to do in this area.  Being able to
manage emails in several languages at the same time, allowing users to search in
any language they want, enabling them to store their personal information in
their own charset - these are the difficult parts of i18n.  This is the lion's
share of my work, and the work of many others in i18n.

> >>Therefore, are the UI's truly localized?

No.

> >>
> >>The conference discussed a wide variety of cultural issues like color, use
> >>and perception of metaphors, teaching methods, eye movement patterns, etc.
> >>All kinds of issues that are typically never changed during the
> localization
> >>process.

Maybe partly out of ignorance, but more likely out of sheer practicality. 
Gathering this information is not trivial (I believe the conference brought up
that issue), and not cheap.  Implementing this level of localization is also not
trivial and not cheap.  The current ROI for these types of UI changes is not yet
significant enough to implement, or at least it is difficult to determine.

There is also an aspect of product look and feel worldwide.

> >>
> >>(Now I finally get to my theory and question). Could it be that the next
> >>stage of internationalization evolution will be to modularize the
> >>development a step further, to allow for changes in metaphors, colors,
> >>button locations, etc? Is it possible that localization companies will do
> >>more than translate the text and perform engineering tasks required to
> make
> >>the translated UI match the source language UI? Is there a way of
> >>establishing a base set of rules for various locales and/or cultures, so
> >>that localization companies could apply these rules to truly localized the
> >>software?

Sure, but in terms of company investment in i18n, the technical side will most
likely still be the focus.

> >>
> >>Is anyone out there doing any work or research along these lines?

Yes, the folks in the conference are.  There is someone from Sun who is
researching this.  I know Dr. Jakob Nielsen has done a lot of int'l usability
work.  I have seen some articles coming out of the HCI conferences on these
topics.  Nancy Hoft's book "Int'l Technical Communications" discusses some of
these issues.

And some of us on the technical side of i18n consider these issues and look for
information wherever we can get it - from the other engineers on the product or
in the office (since we have folks here from all over the world), from folks in
our non-US offices, from customers, from interest groups, etc.

Much of the UI of the products I work on (as well as many others) is int'lized
so that it can be customized.  Increasingly customers want their own look and
feel, and so colors, layout, graphics, text, even functionality, are
externalized and made into a customization kit.  After all, customization is
localization for a very specific locale.

Apologies for vehement tone in areas, but my job is not easy and it is not rote.
Andrea
-- 
Andrea Vine
Sun Internet Mail Server i18n architect
avine@eng.sun.com
Romanes eunt domus.

Suzanne Topping wrote:
> 
> Steve,
> 
> You are exactly right. And I think the colors and icons are even some of the
> easier issues to deal with. In theory, you can find out what mailboxes look
> like (generally) in various areas of the world. Also, color associations are
> pretty readily accessible, if you want to hunt them down.
> 
> Some of the tougher issues are metaphors like using a desktop rather than
> drawers and folders, or the way certain cultures move their eye across a
> screen. Westerners tend to look at a screen the same way we read a page; top
> to bottom, left to right. Other cultures obviously read differently, and
> therefore look at a screen differently. Should dialog items therefore be
> moved around so that they are more logically located when localizing to a
> right-to-left reading culture?
> 
> It's a tricky business. None of our internationalization or localization
> processes are set up to deal with these issues. (Let alone are our American
> corporations willing to pay for the changes!)
> 
> >
> >Interesting stuff... I recall a discussion at some meeting I attended about
> the
> >significance of certain colors, such as red, blue and green, in different
> >cultures.  For example, stop signs are red here (hense RED==STOP), but what
> >about other countries?
> >
> >And some icon that is obviously a mailbox or a phone booth to an American,
> may
> >look like a porta-pottie or a cow barn to someone from Europe or Asia.  I
> don't
> >think there has been much work on codifying this aspect of localization.
> >
> >-steve
> >
> >* Note that these comments are my own and do not necessarily represent or
> >coincide with the opinions or corporate direction of my employer, Sun
> >Microsystems, Inc. ... especially the stuff about icons looking like
> >porta-potties ... obviously I'm not talk about about any of OUR icons :-) *
> >
> >
> >>X-Authentication-Warning: acoin.com: Host mailout1-0.nyroc.rr.com
> >[24.92.226.81] claimed to be mailout1.nyroc.rr.com
> >>From: "Suzanne Topping" <stopping@rochester.rr.com>
> >>To: "nelocsig" <nelocsig@egroups.com>, "i18n" <i18n-prog@acoin.com>,
> "swI18N"
> ><sw-i18n-l10n@topica.com>, "Unicode List" <unicode@unicode.org>, "w3c"
> ><www-international@w3.org>
> >>Subject: Internationalization--the next generation
> >>Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 13:43:43 -0400
> >>MIME-Version: 1.0
> >>Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
> >>X-Priority: 3
> >>X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
> >>X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.72.3110.3
> >>
> >>Hello all,
> >>
> >>Last week I attended an internationalization workshop that piqued my
> >>interest in a seldom discussed aspect of  the topic.
> >>
> >>The workshop was heavily focused on cultural research and usability, and
> >>there were virtually no discussions of "typical" internationalization
> >>issues. No mention of text isolation, encoding methods, Unicode, DBCS,
> >>tools, or any other subject that one might expect at an
> internationalization
> >>conference.
> >>
> >>The focus instead was on the why's of customizing products for use in
> other
> >>countries.
> >>
> >>That led me to a theory and set of questions about what might be the
> >>evolution of internationalization.
> >>
> >>It seems as if we've mostly mastered the technological aspects for
> creating
> >>software that can be localized (by addressing the issues I listed above.)
> >>The methods for doing these things is becoming widespread knowledge, and
> >>tools for ensuring internationalization are even getting pretty darned
> >>sophisticated.
> >>
> >>But the focus of all that work and achievement is really on translation;
> >>allowing all text within the UI to be easily changed. Ok, we also make
> sure
> >>that icons can be changed, but they are a  minor factor in the overall
> >>picture. Localization tasks are primarily centered around translation of
> the
> >>text.
> >>
> >>Therefore, are the UI's truly localized?
> >>
> >>The conference discussed a wide variety of cultural issues like color, use
> >>and perception of metaphors, teaching methods, eye movement patterns, etc.
> >>All kinds of issues that are typically never changed during the
> localization
> >>process.
> >>
> >>(Now I finally get to my theory and question). Could it be that the next
> >>stage of internationalization evolution will be to modularize the
> >>development a step further, to allow for changes in metaphors, colors,
> >>button locations, etc? Is it possible that localization companies will do
> >>more than translate the text and perform engineering tasks required to
> make
> >>the translated UI match the source language UI? Is there a way of
> >>establishing a base set of rules for various locales and/or cultures, so
> >>that localization companies could apply these rules to truly localized the
> >>software?
> >>
> >>Is anyone out there doing any work or research along these lines?
> >>
> >>Comments would be welcome.
> >>
> >>--++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> >>Suzanne Topping
> >>Localization Unlimited
> >>(Globalization Process Improvement Consulting, and Resource Recruiting)
> >>28 Ericsson Street
> >>Rochester, New York, 14610-1705
> >>USA
> >>Phone: 716-473-0791
> >>Fax: 716-231-2013
> >>Email: stopping@rochester.rr.com
> >>
> >>/* the i18n-prog homepage is at:               */
> >>/* http://www.acoin.com/i18n/i18n-prog.htm     */
> >>/* See the page for removal instructions, etc. */
> >>
> >
> >Steve Swales
> >Sun Microsystems, Inc.
> >901 San Antonio Road, MS MPK29-203
> >Palo Alto, CA 94303-4900
> >650 786-0612 Direct
> >650 786-0577 Fax
> >steve.swales@eng.sun.com
> >
> 
> /* the i18n-prog homepage is at:               */
> /* http://www.acoin.com/i18n/i18n-prog.htm     */
> /* See the page for removal instructions, etc. */
Received on Wednesday, 26 May 1999 15:15:08 GMT

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