Sorting it all Out Michael Kaplan's random stuff of dubious value Be sure to read the disclaimer here first!
Today's regular blog is being preempted by something fellow Softie David Monk passed to me via Facebook.
Great guy, om time to time and I've worked on stuff in Windows frwith his wife (Stephanie).
Both cool people, very professional. :-)
Anyway, he forwarded me this article:
McDonald’s Learns It Shouldn’t Trust Free Web Translators When It Comes To Its Billboards
Yup, that's a lesson we all should just know, right?
It is not the same kind of problem (or as dangerous!) as the problems I blogged about in Inaccurate localization can cause problems.
Perhaps a little more like the problem we had in the Portuguese Vista beta I blogged about in Inaccurate localization can make you bust out laughing.
Though since we never shipped that one and thus were never too embarrassed, perhaps We're back and we're embarrassing ourselves? (aka Making your localizer's life easier, Part 2) is closer.
Though that was just embarrassing for us -- it wasn't really offending people like the way McDonald's felt the need to reach out to the Hmong to apologize for.
Just like this other case is embarrassing for a localization company (and the people that asked them ffor a translation!): E-mail error ends up on road sign. Though that one is still less likely to cause offense.
We really need to create some metrics to help us decipher the relative offense, importance, entertainment, and such.
Now in the original article there were many comments, some of which tried to suss out the thought process (or lack thereof!) of McDonald's here.
I mean, they weren't even paying translators, so I doubt they were training cashiers to speak Hmong!
We have the same issue in LIPs here -- being careful about providing warm and sensitive localized product that will sometimes have to throw one back into English.
Maybe it is enough to make the gesture.
Unless you poorly auto-translate it, of course!
I also wonder why no one tracked down what free website provided the bad text.
If McDonald's is apologizing, the website should too. For providing text that was not resonating with members of the Hmong community who say it wasn't written the way anyone actually speaks in the their language — apparently the billboards are missing spaces between words and the whole thing is just a garbled mishmash of nonsense that doesn't mean a darn thing.
Though if you look at the article, many Hmong comments were added -- perhaps the bilingual population is significant there. So maybe the gesture will be appreciated, once they get it done properly.... :-)
This post reminded me of the train company poster for the Olympics that was supposed to be in Arabic, but was in fact in gibberish:
The company supplier blamed font substitution, but surely Arabic reading direction and character shaping should work whatever font you use? I can't read Arabic, was the sign simply printed in code point order from left-to-right?
As a St. Paul local, I can verify that there is a significant population of Hmong speakers here. It's common to see park signs in English, Hmong, and Somali.