Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quelle langue do I speak?

I'm getting very tired of stuff like this. Notice what's going on with the phone on the left? The date is in French, but the "Slide to unlock" clearly is not. When we got this phone, it was my wife's and she selected "French" for it since, after all, she is French. Then we decided to swap phones and I selected "English" for it since, after all, I'm not French.

Yes, I should learn French better, but I didn't want to do it on something this important. What's worse, take a gander at the phone below. It's telling me that one of my brother's has a birthday "this jeudi at 12:00". And if you read behind the popup alert, you'll see unknown callers calling on vendredi. If my French wasn't already acceptable, I'd be screwed.

Applications get this wrong all the time. On my phone, many apps are in French and many are in English. Aside from the phone itself, not one of the apps has given me a choice of which language to select. That's particularly interesting because my AppStore ID is locked to the UK AppStore.

While we're ranting about applications which can't figure out language ...

Dear application developers: I assume your application has a native language (presumably yours). If you want to provide your application in a language other than the native one, do not silently guess what my language is! Seriously, don't do it. Stop it. Knock it off. What? You thought you were clever choosing the language via GeoIP? When you know that an IP address is not identifying? When you know I might simply be visiting an area? When you know that many cultures are multilingual and you've just decided that everybody in the Netherlands must speak Dutch and nothing else?

If you're must guess my language, tell me you are guessing it. And then let me decide what language I speak, not you. And while you're at it, I don't care if the native language of your application is Hindi. If you're giving me a choice, spell the language name the way native speakers would spell it and have your default language in parentheses (why is this so hard for devs to figure out?). For example, if your Hindi application will let me switch to French, it should offer me the choice of français. Or you could suggest français (फ्रेंच). I can figure that out. Offering me the options of switching to फ्रेंचअंग्रेज़ी or जर्मन is useless.

And that includes if I can read your alphabet. Offering me anglais, français and allemand instead of English, français and Deutsch is still stupid. Cut it out.

In other news, here's a picture I snapped on the way back from lunch. Amongst other things, that's the Eiffel Tower you see just to the right of center.

Update: Dear Google: Stop changing my f***ing language. I'm signed in to your damned services. I have chosen "English" (and "Anglais") so many damned times that it's not even funny. Why the hell do you keep screwing this up?


  1. The problem is that iOS choses the language for the application. Generally speaking, if the application is translated in the user's language, then that will be used; otherwise the iOS will tell the application to use English.

    1. But look at the splash screen with the "Slide to unlock". That's native, not an external app. Same for the alert message and phone logs. That's Apple getting Apple products wrong.

  2. Also the settings for date language and general language are separated (settings > general > international, ymmv).

    Is that the Buttes Chaumont on the picture ?

    1. Ah ha! That solved that problem, thanks :)

      And as Ruxor pointed out, it's the Parc de Belleville.

  3. It's not always that simple. Initially, (at least Android) phones guess the default language from the network currently used. I had a Finnish sim-card in France, and the phone tried to propose me to use a french language settings. It gets even more fun when I usually prefer to use my devices in English (E.g. for a professional, it's easier to google for help and understand the responses when your UI is in the lingua Franca).

    But some things, like the US-dating scheme, metric/imperial units etc. make using most English-UI's a pain in the ass.

    So think of the mess of configuring US-English UI, using the metric system and Finnish date-notation (I don't want my calendar to start weeks from sunday!). Sometimes stuff like travelling to different timezones screw things up royally.

    Edit: Also, trying to get a familiar keyboard ain't easy...

  4. Another thing I hate with a passion are those interfaces which decide several language (or locale) preferences have to be tied together. I want my phone to speak English to me (because I prefer all techspeak to be in English rather than badly translated French[#]), I like my keyboards to be qwerty-US, but I still write my SMS in French and so I'd like word completions and spell checking to be done against a French dictionary. But no, that's just not possible, at least not on my Android. And if I like my dates to be written in YYYY-MM-DD format, which is yet another locale, I'm really out of luck.

    [#] E.g., translating "encoding" as "chiffrement" isn't even funny.

    @Rafael: I'd say it's the parc de Belleville.

  5. Eugh, sorry to hear you haven't been having much luck with the iPhone. My experience when I temporarily set it to Japanese (gotta practice practice practice) was much better, many of my apps (Twitter, Angry Birds, Facebook (don't judge me), Dropbox) change flawlessly. Angry Birds didn't at the time have an option to have a different-from-global language but they've since added it (Settings > Angry Birds > Language.)

    On a related note, I'm surprised to hear you say:

    "Yes, I should learn French better, but I didn't want to do it on something this important."

    I find that if you're trying to learn a language then there's no better way to do it than to switch your electronics over to that language! Full immersion is the way to go!

    Hope everything in France is going well! :-)

  6. Ok, that's crazy. I really had to go check mine and it's completely in Dutch. And it's true, there was no choice. After my last update, everything just switched automatically.