Symbiatch - maailma on rikki

Hey, stupid! It's NOT ok to guess my language preferences!

26.11.2012 11.10 - IT-ala 

I've had this problem for a long time: I install an application or play a game and it guesses what language I want it to show me. I live in Finland and Finnish is my native language. But I like using English in many places. I know it very well. And I like consistency. Think about this whole thing from someone else's point of view. Someone, who just happens to live in Finland but doesn't understand a word of it. It's not an easy language to pick up just like that.

And yes, I have a Finnish keyboard and Finnish language as the written language and that explains some of these, but not all and it's still about consistency above all.

When my Windows is installed with English language, I'd like the applications to realize that it's not a mistake. It's actually how I like it. You know, there is a Finnish version available. I could install that if I wanted. I don't want to. So why do applications think I actually want them to be in Finnish when every other thing is in English?

This has mostly been a problem with Open Source Software. There also is the additional problem that the translations are many times quite horrible. I once got so annoyed that I translated one again myself since the person who did it before didn't bother to use the correct translations for database vocabulary but decided to invent their own. Agh.

7-Zip is one of the applications that forces Finnish upon me. And its translations are not-so-great. Context menu gets options like "To unarchive here..." etc. No. Change of language.

Another one is Filezilla. It's quite bad in other ways too, but I've gotten used to it so can't be bothered to replace it. But it needs to not be in Finnish when I install it!

Apple's iTunes etc also want to be in Finnish. The installer especially is idiotic: it knows that I want English when I update it. It even shows it to me. But the installer is still in Finnish, every time.

The solution to these is most of the time just to change the language. But some don't have a language selection! Previously I had to delete all translation files from Inkscape to force it to be in English. Many people don't know how!

The latest idiocy is from Ubisoft. Assassin's Creed 3. Start it up. It's in Finnish. Ok, settings. There is option for spoken language and subtitles. Not for UI. What the heck? I have to lie in my Xbox settings that I'm in United Kingdom to get the UI to English? And yes, this was the "fix" given by Ubisoft support too. So the 6% of people living in Finland that have Swedish as their native language, you're now living in Sweden. And the quarter of a million other language speaking people, you don't live here either. That's Ubisoft's take on this matter.

Switching Xbox location settings (mind you: not language settings, once again, they're English on my console but that is not considered by Ubisoft) might make it to use illegal radio frequencies for Wifi and is just totally stupid. Why should I change my settings so that Ubisoft doesn't have to make a language selection? What about the USA? Do they force English to all the millions Spanish speakers or do they get to select? I must check this out...

One Windows 8 application worked nicely for some time until the developers decided to add a French version. What could go wrong... Naturally I wasn't ever given the chance to use the English version again, probably because all people in Finland or with some Finnish settings can magically understand French. FI is much nearer to FR than EN, right? Needless to say I stopped using the application that instant.

Gigantti/Elkjøp also have an application for Windows 8 which has some deals you can't get anywhere else. Once again, there is a location setting in Windows. Do they use it? No. They use the language of the UI. So, once again, the 6% of Finnish people now live in Sweden and that's it. And I don't live in any country that has their deals, according to them. And their support response? "Change your language." And they didn't care about the fact that many people just don't want to change their UI language just because Gigantti is so lazy that they can't make a setting or detect the actual location of the user. Not to mention, once again, the over half a million people in Finland that are not Finnish speakers.

I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem/annoyance. Or am I? I know that there are hundreds of millions of people that use their machines in their native language and live in a country where the native language is the official language. But there are many of us that either don't use the native language or don't live in a country where it's official. And some of us have even several official languages. Some have none!

So what I'd like to know is: how come would anyone be so stupid as to determine the display language based on the user's physical location or the user's physical location based on the display language? It should be counterintuitive for anyone with half a brain. Yet, it still is happening all the time.

So, please, whatever you do don't ever design a system that forces some language upon the user unless you can be damn sure they know it. If the OS is set to language X, I'd say that's a good way of guessing the user knows language X. But preferrably give them a selection upfront. It's not ok to make people guess which menu option means settings or language selection in a foreign language.

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Kriisikka (anon, 26.11.2012 14.09)

Not just Ubi. It's Microsoft in general. The same idiocy is also used with Forza Horizon, Halo 4 and Fable Journey. I guess because the language preferences only include a few languages, they've decided to skip any additional work and just saddle us with braindead location issues. Malfunctions already reported from changing your locale to abroad: slow multiplayer connecting, store not working as it should.

David (anon, 27.11.2012 22.59)

Same applies to the web as well. In such cases I'd say it's fine to guess your language (like using Accept-Language with HTTP) as long as you provide some (easy) way to override such preference.

Good rant. Amazing that it's 2012 and most developers still don't seem to get it.

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