The most infamous of these that I've encountered was an icon with a picture that looked something like a soup-can on its side. This was explained as being a picture of a "log"... as in a piece of tree.
Visual puns are just as bad as those written in text. How many American flags, school buses, mail boxes, etc. are there in software today? Many.
The point here, as in so many other areas of I18N, is that developers have to be involved in creating a world-ready product, and aware of the issues involved. The more you can involve your international developers, localization experts, etc., in the development process (e.g. of the original product), the more likely you'll be to avoid clunkers like the "log".
Director, Globalization Services
+1 650-526-4652 (direct telephone)
AddisonP@simultrans.com (Internet email)
"22 languages. One release date."
From: Karl Pentzlin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 1999 2:07 PM
To: Unicode List
Subject: Re: Internationalization--the next generation
Von: Peck, Jon <email@example.com>
An: Unicode List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 26. Mai 1999 21:07
Betreff: RE: Internationalization--the next generation
> We localize some of our products (data mining, statistics, graphics,
> quality, science ...) into major languages
> So as part of our regular development process and as part of our
> localization work, we ask our local offices around the world (and
> our customers!) whether there are things at the level of metaphors,
> etc that are not understood or are unnatural or even offensive in their
> locales. What we almost always hear is that there are no significant
> problems in this area.
then you are lucky with your software (maybe due to careful and experienced
design). I (as a German) have encountered a lot of icons in US software -
original or translated - which appear misleading or silly to me (until now
at least, no one did offend me).
Besides, some common icons become a symbol by itself.
For instance, the "mailbox" symbol used in USA is at least understandable to
us, as we know such mailboxes from Western movies. Other symbols, like a key
for keyword lists, require logical thinking of the kind: 1. There is a
"Schlüssel". 2. The program is of US origin. 3. The English translation
of "Schlüssel" is "key". 4. What items are relevant in the software which
begin with "key" in English? 5. Maybe "keyword".
But, in German key + word = "Schlüsselwort" means "password".
But if you use that software often, you have learned these icons as a sort
of Han characters which represented a picture in the past but have today a
definite meaning different from the picture, and you do no longer recognize
the picture itself at all.
Maybe here we witness the evolution of a new (international) ideographic
Maybe in a far future, this script will be standardized and included in
(The spreading use and recognization of smileys is a similar issue.)
AC&S Analysis Consulting & Software GmbH
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