I saw this link on the BBC this morning and it made me think of the potential implications for the quality of information presentation if MS Word docs begin to be localised not just to national languages but to regional dialects within those language families.
The implication for the quality of information presentation, and the quality of communication, is quite significant. I have a large extended family with cousins in far flung regions of the world. From time to time we might meet up and chat face to face (often it co-incides with family holiday or business travel). I can remember going to visit my cousin Carrie in Birmingham when I was 18 (just after my leaving cert). Her friends all spoke in a strong Black Country dialect. I didn’t have a frikin’ clue what they were saying for the first few days.. It sounded like english, I could follow some of it but some of the idiom and dialect were frankly baffling.
I got my own back when Carrie came to visit in Dublin. “Story bud?” in North Dublin patois roughly translates as “hail to thee and well met fine fellow”.
Microsoft’s goal is to reduce the amount of ‘red ink’ that Office displays when people write emails or documents and insert local slang or words from their local dialect. For personal communication that may be fine, but for business or professional communication the red ink is a useful warning that perhaps you need to rethink your wording so that your message is better understood.
I can remember learning about the Ems Telegraph Affair in school. In this historical incident the wording of a telegram was edited by Otto von Bismark and resulted in the Franco-Prussian War. The dialect and idioms were interpreted by the public in France as being an insult to the French king while in Germany/Prussia the feeling was that the communication was an insult to Germany.