After all these years, internationalization is still not working well

With all the techniques that we have at our disposal, with all the education that developers got, still we see websites that handle internationalization poorly. I noticed the problem recently on a minor website, but even Flickr and/or Yahoo got it badly wrong.

Site in EnglishIn this screen shot, the website is all in English, as long as my browser is configured for English as the primary language. All fine and good.
Site with weird mix of English and FrenchBut, if I switch to French as the primary language, I got the site only partly in French. Of course, it makes sense in a way: the website engine is supports many languages, but the content written by the contributors is only in English. Well… why not make English the default language for the site as well? I guess this is what you get when you don’t stick to English at all times.

This can be forgiven for a website hacked together by a few developers for their own needs, but what if Flickr/Yahoo does it too? well, it can get really, really ugly.

Consider this: I configured Flickr and my browser both to use English. As for Yahoo, I couldn’t find a way to specify the language. All I did was set to the content to be US-centric. My location remained France, though.

Flickr configured to be in English Yahoo in configured to use US-centric content

Well, believe it or not, when I wanted to upgrade my flickr account to Pro, I was served with a page containing a mix of English, French… and Italian. Now, English & French, OK, I can understand (though not forgive: Yahoo should know better); but Italian?? Where did that come from?

Flickr mixes French, English AND Italian!!

Even the French part is weird, though: did they pick it up from my localization? Or from the IP address of my internet gateway? I sure hope not: I remember being in Denmark in 1997, and trying to access my developer account on Microsoft website: one day, all appeared written in Danish…

About Eric Lefevre-Ardant

Independent technical consultant.
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