|doro_chan (rood) wrote,|
@ 2009-10-18 15:42:00
|Current music:||Le comte de Monte Cristo|
|Entry tags:||language: english, meta, meta: archive, meta: otw|
Why the AO3 needs to be translated
Okay, the obvious answer to this question would be: “Because not everybody in the world knows English and the AO3 is meant to be for everyone”, and that’s a good answer. It’s not the only answer, though. I know people who never learned English in school. I also know people who have difficulties learning languages and thus never really understood English. But generally speaking, I’m from a country where many, many people learned English in school (it’s compulsory for everyone in my state, for example), where many advertisements are in English, just like shop names, product names and many, many more. In theory, all these people should be able to navigate the archive.
However, being surrounded by English all the time evidently doesn’t mean people understand it. Whenever my mother (who spent half a year in London and can read Gaiman short stories in English without a problem) sees the iPhone commercial and I’m sitting next to her, she asks me what an app is. I only have a very fuzzy idea of that myself, but I assume it’s meant to be short for “application” or something like that and translates to “Anwendung” or “Programm”. Being generally proficient in English doesn’t always translate to being able to understand specialised English vocabulary like that on the internet. When I went to school, we were lucky if we learned about CDs (one particular French textbook was still stuck in the early 80s) or songs, but most of the lessons were about Book English. We read Steven King, The Giver, 1984 and Frankenstein. Not exactly the type of material that prepares you for navigating the internet. We did learn numerous words used in the Australian outback though, and “consumption” (= the disease) and “exogamy”.
Being an EFL speaker also means that you often don’t understand the nuances of English or the different meanings a word can have. I’ve had discussions about the book title Embracing Defeat and still don’t have a definite answer as to whether the Defeat Embraced the Japanese, the Japanese Embraced the Defeat, or whether it might mean both. More to the point: Would an ENL speaker even worry about this?
And even the omnipresent English I’m exposed to in my daily life is only understood by maybe a forth of the population in the age group advertisements target (see this Spiegel article). I doubt that every fanfic author is part of that forth, especially considering the often grammatically wrong English titles authors like to use. It’s not even that these English slogans and product names aren’t understood at all, as if they were in Chinese. No, they are partly understood, but often misunderstood. “Powered by Emotion” becomes “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy – the name of a Nazi organisation), “Broadcast yourself” becomes “Feed yourself”, “Come in and find out” becomes “Come in and find your way out”. It’s a typical coping tactic by someone who sort of understands, but not really. You just fill in the blanks; sometimes you’re right, sometimes you aren’t. You generally don’t talk about it, either, because more often than not, you have no easy way of checking if your guess was correct.
If it comes to navigating the internet, this means many people feel vaguely uncomfortable with a space where they only halfway understand what it’s about. I’m not only talking about clicking “yes” on TOS you couldn’t properly understand even if you did read them. I’m talking about the seemingly easy stuff. Sure, you can sort of guess, but it’s trial and error most of the time, and many people prefer to avoid these spaces, because it becomes more of a chore and less fun. Especially if the website uses concepts that they can’t easily translate to their native language.
Looking at the AO3, there are quite a few possibly confusing parts. “Explore the possibilities” sounds a lot like the slogan “Entdecke die Möglichkeiten” (IKEA), which might lead to unwanted associations. “X users to date” might lead to thoughts like “How the hell did I end up on a dating site, I don’t want to date anyone.” “Share your fan works” might be confusing because some people might think “works” is a verb (“Filter works” too). The entire concept of “collections” is confusing because it’s new. Hardly anyone will understand the word “tag”, maybe some people will think it refers to the date. “Recs” also isn’t easy to understand because the German word “Empfehlungen” is so different and the German archives that I frequent refer to them as “favourites”.
On top of that, the rating system is foreign, the concept of a series of fanfics is also something that I haven’t encountered in German fandom much before, and if I did, it is usually a series of novel length fanfics, not a series of oneshots. Not to mention that some fandoms have different names, some characters are named differently in German and if it’s all listed under the English names by default, it might make things difficult to find. Finding stories for anime and manga fandoms isn’t always easy for me on English archives because while I know the German and Japanese titles, I don’t know the English one and have to look that up first. And if the fandom is German, I generally haven’t heard of the English title at all unless the movie won an Oscar.
So I really think it’s not enough to translate the usual suspects, such as the FAQ, the TOS and such. Sure, since they’re generally the content of the page, it’s easier than adapting the entire navigation, but the people who are most likely to use the translated version of these pages won’t even get to them – the front page or the first attempts at surfing will be enough to discourage them from using the website. Not to mention that “TOS” is an English acronym that Germans at least won’t necessarily be familiar with.