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Re: [WebAIM] Lang attribute and "old" latin

From: Christophe Strobbe <christophe.strobbe@esat.kuleuven.be>
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 15:31:34 +0200
Message-Id: <>
To: "WebAIM Discussion List" <webaim-forum@list.webaim.org>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

At 08:11 25/04/2008, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:

>John Foliot wrote:
> > As far as I know, current screen reading technology only supports a
> > limited number of languages.
>Rather limited, I'm afraid.

It is indeed limited. See also the old thread (April 2005) starting at

However, the number of languages supported by, for example, JAWS, is not
limited to the list at
Local distributors, for example Freedom Scientific Benelux, can deliver a
JAWS version with a speech synthesizer for Dutch.
For a version that supports Latin, I would contact
Freedom Scientific Vatican City ;-)

>Moreover, support to language switching on
>the basis of language markup (lang or xml:lang attributes) is much more

In the tests I did with JAWS last year, language switching worked with
lang, but xml:lang was ignored.
Language subcodes may not work as expected in some screen readers
(based on my tests with JAWS; I tried to collect data for other screen
readers, without success; see
test data are still welcome).

>In practical terms, using language markup at the top level (<html> or
><body> element) is a good move: it takes a very small effort, and it
>helps some people. (But then it should be _correct_. It often isn't, so
>e.g. Google does not use the information.)

Even when the language markup is correct, Google does not
necessarily use that information. I have found webpages in Dutch with
correct language markup that still show up in the results when I
explicitly ask Google to return only pages in English.

>Using language markup at other markup levels, e.g. for individual
>paragraphs or even words, is rather pointless, sad to say. There isn't
>much support worth mentioning. (I use it, but mostly as a matter of
>principle, or habit, and not very consistently. Many W3C pages,
>including pages that declare that it should be used, don't use it. Most
>web pages don't even make a try, so what motivation is there for
>software developers to support it?)

What is the threshold for "not much support"?
Using the same threshold, one might arrive at the conclusion that
the percentage of screen reader users is so low that there is
"not much need" for markup that benefits screen reader users.
(I'm not accursing anyone on these lists, but see the comments
by some of the anonymous cowards at

>That's the big picture. In details, there's a lot that could be said,
>especially about the problems, but this doesn't seem to be an
>interesting topic to most people.

Just like global warming. That doesn't mean it's not important.
(Global warming affects more people than web accessibility,
and still most people don't care enough to change their behaviour.)

>However, mostly for "academic"
>interest, I'll comment on your specific issues:
> > At any rate, W3C guidance states
> > "Clearly identify changes in the natural language of a document's
> > text and any text equivalents (e.g., captions)."
>I'm afraid nobody, including the W3C, takes that seriously. It's just
>too much trouble with little if any tangible benefit. It's based on
>theoretical ideas - largely, law, poorly analyzed ideas - on the
>_possible_ usefuless of language markup, rather than actual experience.

I guess Online Video Killed the Accessibility Star.
Most tutorials on captioning are in English and all too many accessibility
tutorials in English (on captioning or any other subject) pretend that
all documents are monolingual. By extension, they assume the same for video.
(Some captioning formats actually have codes for language switching,
but if you don't know where to look, you can waste a lot of time
searching for that information.)


Best regards,


Please don't invite me to LinkedIn, Facebook, Quechup or other 
"social networks". You may have agreed to their "privacy policy", but 
I haven't.

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

Disclaimer: http://www.kuleuven.be/cwis/email_disclaimer.htm
Received on Friday, 25 April 2008 13:32:37 UTC

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