Re: Internationalization--the next generation

From: Steve Swales (
Date: Wed May 26 1999 - 14:12:57 EDT


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.


* 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 :-) *

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>From: "Suzanne Topping" <>
>To: "nelocsig" <>, "i18n" <>, "swI18N"
<>, "Unicode List" <>, "w3c"
>Subject: Internationalization--the next generation
>Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 13:43:43 -0400
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>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
>The focus instead was on the why's of customizing products for use in other
>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
>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
>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
>(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
>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
>Phone: 716-473-0791
>Fax: 716-231-2013
>/* the i18n-prog homepage is at: */
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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

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