528 words on Bugs
Ever since OS X came to exist two things could be said about localisation: Firstly, it technologically was a great progress over OS 9 – and as far as I can tell over all other platforms as well, as it made it easy for developers to create localised versions of their applications. All this without inconveniencing the user. Secondly, the localisations offered by Apple haven’t been top-notch. Particularly those in first releases. Many times we’ve seen them contain text ranging from amusingly strange to downrightly embarrassing. While at least the last kind of problem will usually be corrected within a year or two, it still gives the users of OS X in non-English localisations the feeling of being second-class citizens.
Reporting problems with localisations always feels strange as the whole developer community seems to be run in English by Apple. So it’s not really clear whether these issues will even be perceived as being important by whoever gets to process them. That’s particularly true after the recent experiences others had even on more technical problems. And while OS X is sold as being localised for fifteen languages, support for English usually is better than for other languages. That’s particularly true for areas such as the Dashboard which downright ignore localisation and contain parts like the weather widget which have been done by people who didn’t even want to think about localisation.
But the problem I want to report this week is a much less specialised one. It’s been bugging for years now. But as localisation problems go, you often don’t report them as, well, they mostly cause nothing but a raised eyebrow or a shrug but don’t really keep you from doing whatever you want to do. And it’s the localisation, to German, of the system’s standard dialogue for entering an administrator password to allow certain actions. In English it looks like this:
While it may be considered slightly too rude, it’s a very clear dialogue telling you what you need to do and who’s asking you to do it. But now compare that to the German version of the same dialogue:
The text in there translates back to English:
Enter your password to make changes to “System Preferences”. Now that doesn’t make sense. Why would I change System Preferences themselves? Why do I have to enter my password to change the Finder when all I want to do is move a file? It’s completely mysterious to me and confuses me every time I see that dialogue. So there we go… another bug report (#4289717) on an issue that looks small. But I think it’s big. Because it’s exactly those dialogues that don’t make sense which the Mac OS managed to widely avoid in the past. And I think it are dialogues like this which make Windows so horrible. Because they train the user to just assume that the computer speaks gibberish which doesn’t make sense. And thus the user just clicks OK everywhere without even reading the messages. Of course the Mac isn’t free of similar messages (see Safari’s new download warnings which pretend to be for your safety to see a similar problem on the Mac).
Never hesitate to file such bugs I’d say! It’s only a single line of text to change. I’m sure Apple has many more bugs on very little trivial things that require much more work.
I have to say that in general I am quite satisfied with the localization I use (Dutch). It’s of quite high quality. I rarely see any odd translations.
Apple not translating the Weather widget is quite odd indeed. It’s not like there is so many text to translate anyway… luckily it does Celsius! ;-)
yes it is