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Physical problems in a virtual world

Physical problems in a virtual world

We live in a European Union that is highly connected. One of the benefits of being European is that you can travel and even relocate in any of the EU countries. Actually, people are migrating from one country to the other all the time; sometimes without even knowing the official language of the destination country. That happened to me when I moved from Greece to Czech Republic. I did not (and still do not) speak Czech, but I relied on my English and I was ready to deal with any physical person not speaking English. What I was not ready to deal with though, was finding physical world problems in a virtual world.

For many years now web browser have a setting that notifies the web server about the languages you prefer. If the site is available in more than one languages, you will get the first one found in your preference list. This was designed for Global companies obviously, and it’s working nicely.

Here is the problem though: Global companies have global operations and they do not offer the same services or products in all countries. As such, they use geolocation to identify where you connect from. I am not talking about browser-based HTML5 geolocation though, which the user can control, but IP based geolocation which the user has (normally) no control over.

After they find where you’re located, they direct you to their country’s website. Which, as you imagine, is available in the country’s official language. And while in a physical shop I can look for the next available salesperson who may speak English, when I’m visiting a website I have no real option. And if you have tried web translation from Czech, you will understand that we are talking about no real option.

I realise that it would not be cost effective to have every country’s website in two or three additional languages (English, German, French, Spanish come in mind :)) but can we please try with at least one?

Tagged in : expat life, language, europe, web development, globalisation

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