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Language in the News

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Correct Youse of English: Your Personal Dialect Map is Here

Language in Business, Language in the News, Localization Culture, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

Thought I was done with regional English? No chance.

The Irish Times recently predicted that the phrase you guys” will soon be accepted as the new second-person plural pronoun in English. As a native Dubliner, I am very familiar with such evolution, the locals already having adopted “youse” and “yiz” as replacements for the pronoun. As pointed out by Frank McNally in the Irish Times article, you can also hear the use of “ye” in south and the west of Ireland, and “yousuns” in the north of the country.

Now, the New York Times has gone one further and used such dialect variants as “y’all”, “youse”,  “you guys” and more, and lots of other regional phrases too, as a way to gives a clue as to where you might be from based on how you speak.

Ultan's personal dialect map (Visualization copyright of New York Times)

Ultan’s personal dialect map (Visualization generation copyright of The New York Times)

The newspaper has created an interactive visualization tool using heatmaps overlaid on a map of the United States of America generated from your answers to some dialect-driven questions. You, too, can now create your own personal dialect map. It’s fun!

Although it’s a U.S.-based map, I was amazed to see how many phrases I was using regularly, even from places I had never been to (sorry Newark / Paterson and Yonkers).

That’s language evolution for youse.

Try it yourself.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Noli Timere: Seamus Heaney, Translation, and a Wall in Dublin

Language in the News, Personalization and Design

Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and playwright, passed away in Dublin on 30 August, 2013, after a short illness.

His last words, sent by text message to his wife, Marie, minutes before he died, were Noli timere (Latin for Do not be afraid). I took the photograph below in Dublin, a short walk from my home, capturing his last words in tribute.

Don't Be Afraid. Wall tribute to Seamus Heaney, Portobello, Dublin by Maser Art

Don’t Be Afraid. Wall tribute to Seamus Heaney, Portobello, Dublin by Maser Art

This Latin phrase, Noli timere, appears about 70 times in the Vulgate version of the Bible, translated by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. Heaney was also a skilled translator, and he crafted his work with language as deliberately as Saint Jerome did, for example in his prize-winning translation of Beowulf (1999).

The UK newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, in an article on Heaney’s last words (and those of others), tells us:

It is notable that every time the word timere appears in the Bible it is coupled with noli (or nolite, the plural form) – do not be afraid. Often the phrase is uttered by God or his angel, for the very good reason that, if you are suddenly presented with a burning fiery furnace of raw Being, it is frightening (and not just trivially scary in the big-dipper sense).

Even at the end, then, Heaney chose his words deliberately, it seems. We can ponder that they were sent using modern technology, sure, but I don’t think that matters. Only the words themselves, and their context does.

I think about them, every time I walk past that wall.

Tributes to the man came from far and wide, a testament to his greatness, to what he gave us during his life, but also to what he has left us for generations to come.

Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

IUC44

DARE to be HyperLocal: Context and Language at the Mall

Language in the News, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I love this piece about regional language preferences from the San Francisco Chronicle blog, “Which Words Are Special to Californian?”. It offers us a look at the Harvard University Press Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), described as “…an Urban Dictionary you can share with your parents and co-workers without fear of being disowned or encouraged to ‘retire early’.” Although it doesn’t contain some of the terms I’ve become familiar with from my time in Silicon Valley, the DARE is still insightful as to how enduring some terms can be once they enter the local vernacular.

Dictionary of American Regional English Map (sourced from www.daredictionary.com)

Dictionary of American Regional English Map (sourced from www.daredictionary.com)

The DARE is interesting and fun, sure. It reminds us that localization isn’t just about adapting from one major source natural language to another target language, but can be about adapting between variants of the same language too. But there’s a serious side to all this, and there are real use cases out there for taking these kind of language resources, to go much further, and to solve real user problems and offer great user experiences.

Consider that we are now in the age of the Internet of Things, of sensors, and of hyperlocal context. Combining these local dictionaries with sensor technology such as the iBeacons now used at Apple Stores in the U.S., or other sensors as wearables, will provide a very personalized user or customer experience in a preferred regional language at a much more granular level than we are used to now. This experience could enhance a range of activities: shopping, doing business, keeping fit, picking up the kids, simply living your life, whatever.

It’s all about context, people. Yes, there’s that word again.

Sensors, wearables, hyperlocal context, and using micro-dictionaries or other language resources, these are sort of areas that Language Service Providers, and other industry bodies interested in technology, should really be investigating and offering integrative solutions that are ready for others to go global with, when needed.

Maybe they already are. Find the comments.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Contextualizing Localization in the Time of Austerity 2013

Language in the News, Language Industry News and Events

I spoke at Localization World in London last week on the subject of Context of Use in User Experience and Use of Context in Localization. There are great synergies between the two  areas and given UX trends it’s clear that context is what makes for a great user experience and for a great translation too. Translation technology needs to provide for contextual translation without compromising source content. A rubbish translation won’t help the world’s best app design, and a simplified source string designed to facilitate 100% matching in all cases won’t help UX in any language either. You get the idea?

It was great to be back at this conference, and my, but how it has grown in size, quality and reputation since I was first involved nearly 10 years ago! The full program reveals just how rich the agenda has become.

For those of you who didn’t get to my session, I’ve included it in Slideshare format (you need to have the benefit of my delivery for it to come to life, so do come along to the next conference and hear it live). A list of useful resources is included on the last slide if you want to read more. And no, it’s not all about Silicon Valley! The presentation is here:

Making a great, modern, and compelling user experience is all about context. In any language.

Making a great, modern, and compelling user experience is all about context. In any language.

I has honored to also host a great presentation on what’s New in International Components for Unicode by Anubhav Jain of Adobe and Jana Vorechovska of Google who explained how smart open source technology dealing with gender, plurals, day formats, and so on enables great contextual localized experiences in the social media world (Google+ in this case). I also attended some of the Localization Unconference @ Localization World sessions which were as lively and candid as ever, and included probably the best vendor pitch I’ve seen for a long time.

Also loved the MicroTalks format; so very Pecha Kucha in intent. I would loved to have seen and heard more about video content and localization at the conference itself, but there’s always the next conference for that!

I would like to see reach out of these Localization Unconference and guerilla-style Pecha Kuchas happen around “big” localization events, especially as the cost of attending major (or any) conferences is high. Many key countries and regions that have a lot of value-add and insight to contribute the industry based on their experience – countries such as Spain and Ireland (there are others) – but are hurting bad economically. Spending money these days on travel and registration isn’t easy (even if you do have a job). And, let’s see how we can get younger folks involved from those countries too. They’re not the future generation of localization, but the present. Perhaps these “micro”, more ad hoc, events can even be held away from the main event location and happen in eh, more convivial surroundings just like the Dublin <Pub> Standards event (hint, this is nothing to do with publishing standards, really).

On that subject, I am told that Localization World is coming to Dublin in June 2014. There’s your cue…

Thank you to the conference organizers for putting up with me and putting on such a great show! Again.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

IUC44

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Programming and Programmer Languages: Beyond "Hello World"?

Language in Business, Language in the News

Interesting discussion (of old) on the StackExchange blog podcast about coding in other natural languages.

Other than English, that is.

So,should programming languages should be localized or not? The podcast mentions the case of Microsoft Excel’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) language, which was localized from US English (the source/target paradigm framing the discussion is revealing in itself). The practice was not continued. I should disclose I was a Microsoft employee at the time. I should also disclose that I have no clue as to why the decision was made and then reversed. Perhaps someone can enlighten us? It is not the only language that Microsoft localized by the way. WordBasic, the Word for Windows forerunner to VBA was also localized into a number of major languages. Pretty much all trace of these localization initiatives appear to have been scrubbed from memory and Internet alike.

german_wordbasic

German localization of Microsoft WordBasic: Whatever were they thinking? (Source)

Given the expense, effort and care we see in localizing UIs and documentation, I do wonder though why some programming or scripting language functions and names are not localized, particularly the visual ones used in language-sensitive countries, regions or markets, or by particular types of end users of software.

A matter of user experience I expect, though from a technical and business perspective it is easy to see how English language-based programming facilitates open source, open standards and global development efforts. What a pain it would be to have to learn say, French as well as the Java language!

Wikipedia has a list of Non-English-based programming languages, by the way.

As for the thought that all programmers need to speak English (and American English at that), or at least English to some level, there is a lot of energy from within the development community itself on the subject (all of it in favor of English, no surprise). Check out this somewhat unappealing titled Ugly American Programmer piece on the Coding Horror blog for a start.

Some think developers themselves are part of the problem, perpetrating a myth about not speaking English well. Others say it’s essential for developers have functional English to be a “hacker”, others say English is mandatory because programming languages aren’t localized, and others posit that a lack of English betrays a lack of passion and interest in technology generally. Some have even turned developers grappling with English into an whole comedy act on Twitter (@devops_borat).

Read into it. Make up your own mind. But consider this: English is clearly the lingua franca of programming. But what about all that information around the language itself: The documentation, the community forums, the support organizations, the development conferences, and the customers for developed applications? And, does not speaking or reading English play so well with the stakeholders and ecosystem that surrounds software development?

How often have we, as localization professionals, heard the claim that “Oh, we’re not localizing that UI/demo/developmentguide because developers/administrators/technicians all speak English anyway”?

But, do we even have the research to back up the argument either way?

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+ posts

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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