Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Language Quirks and Microsoft Brain Dearth

I find this absolutely hilarious:

How eight pixels cost Microsoft millions
By Jo Best

Story last modified Thu Aug 19 11:36:00 PDT 2004

Microsoft's lack of multicultural savvy cost the Redmond behemoth millions of dollars, according to a company executive.

The software giant has seen its products banned in some of the biggest markets on earth--and it's all because of eight wrongly colored pixels, a dodgy choice of music and a bad English-to-Spanish dictionary.

Speaking at the International Geographical Union congress in Glasgow on Wednesday, Microsoft's top man in its geopolitical strategy team, Tom Edwards, revealed how one of the biggest companies in the world managed to offend one of the biggest countries in the world with a software slip-up.

When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds. "It cost millions," Edwards said.

Another social blunder from Microsoft saw chanting of the Koran used as a soundtrack for a computer game and led to great offence to the Saudi Arabia government. The company later issued a new version of the game without the chanting, while keeping the previous editions in circulation because U.S. staff thought the slip wouldn't be spotted, but the Saudi government banned the game and demanded an apology. Microsoft then withdrew the game.

The software giant managed to further offend the Saudis by creating another game in which Muslim warriors turned churches into mosques. That game was also withdrawn.
Microsoft has also managed to upset women and entire countries. A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate error in translation.

Microsoft has also seen its unfortunate style of diplomacy have an effect in Korea, Kurdistan, Uruguay and to China--where a cartographical dispute saw Chinese employees hauled in front of the government.

Edwards said that staff members are now sent on geography courses to try to avoid such mishaps. "Some of our employees, however bright they may be, have only a hazy idea about the rest of the world," he said.'s Jo Best reported from London.
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On converting men to software and animals

A few weeks ago I received an email via Proz from some Pakistani Fazul who wanted me to help him. The subject heading sounded like one of those poor lepers with outstretched arms sitting in front of Karachi Airport - "for God sake help me". Since it came via Proz, and I take Proz seriously, I actually read it - to my great merriment.

"I extend my hearty greetings to you and would like like to seek you assistance in the field of translation as I am a bilingula translator of Arabic/English and I am working in Pakistan with foriegen mission as arabic/English translator but could u help me to become on line translator."

I dread to think which "foriegen mission" would employ an Urdu-speaker to do Arabic/English translations? Ussie and Bros? Aymanco Propaganda Services? Now this guy is so sick of being a human that he wants an Ozzie (maybe because we have a reputation for innovation?) to convert him into a piece of software. Well, considering his standard of English, he has all the pre-requisites to become a Babelfish. But no, he wanted to become a bird. Suicidal, must be, with all this avian flu around.

I wrote him a rather offish reply telling him he could start by "learning to write proper English" and that it wasn't tandoori cooking. I thought that this would be enough. I was naive.

Four days later, a reply: "as Khalil Jabran said " Shall I coo like a pagon to please you , or shall I roar like a lion to please my self".

Never heard of Khalil saying this, but hey! the guy has dropped the robotics issue and now wants to rejoin the animal kingdom in the guise of the Birdlion.

"first of all whatever you wrote to me I really appreciate " the way you tried to make understand that the field of translation is not child give psychological lessons by telling me that go and start reading english articles . Madam I will coo and obey all those will can teach me and help me in translation fild."

Of course I didn't say any of that. Maybe it was some other sucker who did?? But, coo, my dear Taliban, coo. I have no idea when English in Pakistan deteriorated to this extent - only the lowest dregs in India write such rubbish, and here you have aspiring translators butcher the language they will be translating from/into - whatever. Even Bangladesh is beginning to sound better.

"let me tell you madam that both English and Arabic are not my native languages I am Pakistani student who tried to learned Arabic and English and started his career as Arabic/English translator."

Good luck, matey. Not much to learn - for Ussie and Bros you are as good as they come. Can you shoot, per chance?