Two Peoples Separated By A Common Language

I’m in the UK this week, ostensibly for London Online, but have been so busy that I’ve yet to make it to the show. Digging through email this morning, I took a brief break, headed over to Facebook to check for personal messages, and was greeted by the following, hilarious dialog box.

It brought to mind the old George Bernard Shaw quote about the English and the Americans: “two peoples separated by a common language.”

A few technology-related points:

  • While I applaud Facebook’s efforts at translation they clearly should not be trying to “translate” content from US to UK English, however tempting that may be.
  • Language recognition software is readily available, so they could easily have used it to determine that my profile and status updates are all in English
  • If they were really clever, looking at the locations of my friends and the language of their status updates, they could tell that I speak both French and English
  • And if they simply used metadata, they could have accessed the Languages I Speak Facebook application, and see that I speak English, French, and Latin (6 years).

Sometimes the answer is indeed hiding in plain sight.

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2 responses to “Two Peoples Separated By A Common Language

  1. What I want to know if that if you use a word that is mostly innocuous in the States, such as a certain euphemism for rump, do they translate it to the foul profanity it is in the U.K.? (Which would mean just leaving it in place.) Some problems just aren’t.

  2. Dave – reminds me of when Microsoft released software with ‘English English’ as a language option, prats!Have a good week in London.

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