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Text globalisation != unattended search’n’replace
Mar 24th, 2014 by miki

Scouring the net looking for data and specifications of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet (wanting to try out the Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview) , I got myself into the Nexus 5 smartphone specifications too. Here I noticed a peculiar grammatical difference  in how the specs is presented, which also exists in the specs for other products (at least the Nexus 7 also).

The issue is a result of internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) of the specification texts as presented to users in different regions of the globe. I’m a native Dane, so my search ended correctly (helped by my browser language setting and Google geo-ip) up on the Danish Google page at http://www.google.dk/nexus/5/.

In accordance to Danish grammatical rules, the localization of the text had led to the use of a comma (“,”) instead of punctuation mark (“.”) as decimal point in the specification of the phone processor’s clock frequency, presenting the English text

  • Snapdragon™ 800, 2.26GHz processor

in Danish as:

  • Snapdragon™ 800, 2,26GHz processor

This changes the meaning of the sentence in Danish to a listing of three features, namely “Snapdragon™ 800”, “2” and “26GHz processor” which is both incorrect, incomprehensible and ambiguous.

From my grammatical point of view, a better solution in both English and Danish would be to parenthesize the clock frequency, which is in reality a sub-specification to the actual processor model:

  • Snapdragon™ 800 (2,26GHz processor)

This text doesn’t hit my abomination trigger, and also better models the information’s true inheritance as being not side-ordered, but a sub specification to the the processor model.

How and if this kind of subtle difference between locales and languages should be handled in internationalization systems I can’t really comprehend. It’s a complex task even without this, but this example clearly emphasizes the need for proofreading by an actual native speaker of all languages, before completeness and non-ambiguity  can be guaranteed.

(An even more peculiar fact, is that the textual similar Android revision reference “Android™ 4.4, KitKat®” is not localized, and thus in the Danish localized text is identical to the English.)

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