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Re: Language negotiation a failure?

From: Leif Halvard Silli <xn--mlform-iua@xn--mlform-iua.no>
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2013 23:22:12 +0100
To: Asmus Freytag <asmusf@ix.netcom.com>
Cc: John Cowan <cowan@mercury.ccil.org>, Gunnar Bittersmann <gunnar@bittersmann.de>, www-international@w3.org
Message-id: <20130110232212021947.22abee0f@xn--mlform-iua.no>
Asmus Freytag, Thu, 10 Jan 2013 10:03:44 -0800:
> On 1/10/2013 4:39 AM, Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
>> Asmus Freytag, Thu, 10 Jan 2013 03:51:11 -0800:

> When I use the search
>> Or when you click on the
>> documents they provide?
> And when I type in a URL for a website (that is not just when I click 
> on some link in a search - those are often highly qualified names 
> down some tree where there's no longer a choice of languages).
>> I wonder if you talk about something else - or side use, of the 
>> language preference tags. What I have in mind is the situation when 
>> you click on URL-A and get language y instead of the default 
>> language x.
> Right. That scenario and also where you click on a Swedish word (with 
> accent) and get only English sites returned in the top positions.

My wife has set her computer/browser/cookies to prefer Russian, so we 
often get quite different different search results when we search for 
the same thing … But to which degree this is related to the preferred 
language preferences that her browser(s) send out, that I am not 
certain about. I think more that e.g. Google uses the language 
preferences to set an initial cookie. And thereafter, the user governs.

>> But (and sorry 
>> for mentioning FF again) Firefox allows you to, very easily, use 
>> several user profiles. You could create one user profile for each 
>> context. But otherwise it sounds like a good thing if vendors could 
>> allow us to define profiles of our own user profiles …
> Too finicky.
> I switch constantly between tasks, from reviewing Swedish to English 
> translations, fact checking, locating technical information, hunting 
> down standards, plus all the other stuff that every web user does 
> (and I purchase items from a variety of countries).
> Remembering which profile to use would be a pain.

So here is another tip, related to searching: Some browsers allow you 
to set up predefined search forms. For instance, to look up a term in 
Russian Wikipedia, I can just type

р Русская

on the address bar, and then my browser takes me to 


And I can do the same with Google, to get specific, localized versions 
of the Google interface.

Some browsers have the option for defining user defined searches (or 
what you would call them) built in - at least iCab and (I think) Opera.

>>> Cookie based sticky choice are in principle useful, but I've never
>>> successfully had any of them survive a system upgrade.
>> That's why browsers’ language settings are useful, I believe. They
>> don't go away when the cookie is deleted.
> They also don't tend to survive equipment updates.

Some browsers allow you to save preferences across devices. Such 
features could also save language prefs, I think - and perhaps do.

>>>> I believe language negotiation is *very* useful for providing defaults.
>>> It is very helpful for the situation where someone has a strong
>>> preference for a single primary language, and perhaps also where
>>> someone has a secondary language that's not English but which is
>>> common enough that some services offer it as translation.
>> Let me see … My "primary" language is Norwegian Nynorsk.  My secondary
>> language is Norwegian Bokmål - and e.g. Google Translate offers
>> translation to Bokmål (but not Nynorsk). And, thirdly, I have never had
>> trouble getting stuff in English — that happens "by itself". So may be
>> I fall into that category - I don't know.
> English is a common fallback and vendors treat it that way. Lot's of 
> things that work in customizing towards "smaller" or more 
> "'localized" languages don't work as well in reverse.
> I would need English as "primary", except I would like "primary" 
> German and Swedish for sites with German and Swedish content, and 
> then I would like English again as "fallback" for everything else, 
> e.g. I would like to be directed to the English translation of Asian 
> pages, if they exist (with an option to even there get to the local 
> language version with a simple click - if only to check that the 
> translation is complete enough for my purpose and not "simplified'. 
> "stale" or "dumbed down".
> It's a tall order but something that I'm sure would describe the 
> needs of a considerable minority of users worldwide (more than the 
> population of certain smaller countries) :)

It seems to me that one needs to have a clear idea about what language 
based content negotiation is intended to solve. I've heard from Henri 
before that it is a problem that language preferences can help 
fingerprint your presence on the Web. To that I'd say that, yes, 
language prefs is for identifying your prefs. And if you don't want to 
set a specific pref, then may be the feature isn't for you.

That said: If it was possible to say that for Web sites under the .de 
domain, then my primary language is going to be German, then it would 
already make it more difficult to finger print you.   

Hm - so it would be cool if it was possible to set up different 
preferred languages for different domains …
leif h silli
Received on Thursday, 10 January 2013 22:22:39 UTC

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