Just Stop It – Don’t talk to me in a funny language

Just Stop it

Last Month YouTube updated their terms of service, and users in the EU and Switzerland had to agree to new terms so I got this notification.

So I clicked on it, and got a document of more than 4,000 words in Dutch.

I can read Dutch, but it’s much slower for me than reading English. I know YouTube must have this document in English because Ireland and the UK are (at date of writing) part of the EU and YouTube is an American entity so it’s highly likely that they created the document in English. So I’m sure they have the right content – and a quick search revealed they do.

I use the internet in English at least 90% of the time, my language settings are all for UK English, my browser is in English, my YouTube account specifies UK English.

But it seems that YouTube have chosen to use my IP address to determine which language I get my terms and conditions in. This is a Bad Idea, it’s a very poor data point to predict language.

  • Internet access can be routed through another country, my work computer can go via UK, Netherlands, Singapore or the US depending on which data centre I route it through.
  • People travel, within a 2 hour flight I could be in a country where people speak French, English, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Italian, Spanish, German, Czech, or Polish.
  • In some countries there are multiple languages spoken, what did YouTube do to the Belgians?

Websites can pick up the language of the browser, that’s a better guess at which language to deliver content. And in this case I was logged in. I TOLD YouTube what language I wanted.

American companies are really bad at this, they need to hire more Europeans to their UX teams. Hire some Belgians, YouTube.

What’s in a word?

three people waiting for a bus man relaxing beneath a tree
Wait Relax

If someone tells you to “wait”, what image does that conjure up? Would you feel happier if you were asked to “relax”?

In fact the activity that you’re doing is very similar – you’re sitting around doing nothing, perhaps reading a book, perhaps just watching the world.

“Wait”  gives me a feeling of stress, or anxiety, the idea that I must watch the clock. I think of bus stations, airports, doctors waiting rooms. “Relax” has me at the beach, in a park, with few immediate concerns.

So when I flew out of Auckland airport I was amused to see the flight notification board, it told me to relax. A great reflection of the laid-back kiwi culture, and giving travellers a calmer feeling about their flights. What a difference a word makes.

Flight notice board

wait Waiting with TVs /Mo Riza/ CC BY-NC 2.0
relax relaxing /Rupert Ganzer/ CC BY-ND 2.0

Language Danger

I’m sick of very clever companies guessing which language I want to use based on my location. Google keeps throwing me into Dutch, even if I typed in google.com, do they really think I can’t figure out how to use google.nl? or the advanced search options for that matter.

And Apple keeps throwing iTunes into Dutch. I get that there are copyright issues concerning the content – fine. But why can’t the app itself stay in English? They have the interface in English already.

Please, stop assuming I want to use websites in the language of the country I’m sitting in. How hard is it to give me a language choice?

(And before anyone gets on the integration bandwagon – I can use these sites in Dutch, I just don’t want to).

Words Matter

Have you had to read something twice because it really didn’t make sense? Or struggled with sets of instructions to assemble your newest coolest toy? Or been stymied by jargon, legal or technical terms?

How we write matters, our choice of words matter.

I’ve been writing about business cliches this year, there is certainly plenty of material.

I came across a manifesto from Change This on this subject, called the Gobbledygook Manifesto it sets out to encourage marketers and PR writers to write well, and to write with the customer in mind.

Gobbledygook is an English term used to describe nonsensical language, in the manifesto its the language of press releases that comes under scrutiny. Some of the most common terms found are “next generation”, “ground breaking” and “cutting edge”. Clearly not everything can be all of those things.

The Gobbledygook Manifesto is not new, but the lessons still stand. Think of your buyer not your product, keep it simple, and integrate your written marketing materials with your marketing programme.

Image words via pixabay