English Only: Barrier to Adoption [en]

*Foreword: this turned into a rather longer post than I had expected. The importance of language and localization online is one of my pet topics (I’ve just decided that it would be what I’d [talk about at BlogCamp](http://barcamp.ch/BlogCampSwitzerland#unAgenda), rather than teenagers and stuff), so I do tend to get carried away a little.*

I was surprised last night to realise that this wasn’t necessarily obvious — so I think it’s probably worth a blog post.

**The fact a service is in English only is a showstopper for many non-native speakers, hence a barrier to wider adoption in Europe.**

But doesn’t everybody speak English, more or less? Isn’t it the *lingua franca* of today that **everybody** speaks? It isn’t. At least not in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and I’m certain there are many other places in Europe where the situation is similar.

Come and spend a little time in Lausanne, for example, and try communicating in English with the man on the street. Even if many people have done a couple of years of English at school, most have never had any use for it after that and have promptly forgotten it. German is a way more important “foreign language” around here, as it is the linguistic majority in Switzerland, and most administrative centers of big companies (and the government) are in the German-speaking part of the country (which doesn’t mean that everybody speaks German, either).

The people who are reasonably comfortable with English around here will most often be those who have taken up higher academic studies, particularly in scientific subjects (“soft” and “hard” science alike).

And if I’m the person who comes to your mind when you think “Swiss”, think again — my father is British, I was born in England, went to an English medium school and spoke English at home until I was 8, conversed regularly with English-speaking grandparents during my growing years, and never stopped reading in English: all that gave me enough of a headstart that even though my English had become very rusty at the end of my teens, I dove into the English-speaking internet with a passion, and spent an anglophone [year in India](/logbook/). So, no. I’m not your average Lausanne-living French-speaker. I’m a strange bilingual beast.

Imagine somebody whose native language is not English, even though they may theoretically know enough English to get around if you parachuted them into London. (Let’s forget about the man on the street who barely understands you when you ask where the station is.) I like to think of [my (step-)sister](http://isablog.wordpress.com/) as a good test-case (not that I want to insist on the “step-“, but it explains why she isn’t bilingual). She took up the “modern languages” path at school, which means she did German, English, and Italian during her teenage years, and ended up being quite proficient in all three (she’s pretty good with languages). She went to university after that and used some English during her studies. But since then, she honestly hasn’t had much use for the language. She’ll read my blog in English, can converse reasonably comfortably, but will tend to watch the TV series I lend her in the dubbed French version.

I’m telling you this to help paint a picture of somebody which you might (legitimately) classify as “speaks English”, but for whom it represents an extra effort. And again, I’d like to insist, my sister would be very representative of most people around here who “speak English but don’t use it regularly at work”. That is already not representative of the general population, who “did a bit of English at school but forgot it all” and can barely communicate with the lost English-speaking tourist. Oh, and forget about the teenagers: they start English at school when they’re 13, and by the time they’re 15-16 they *might* (if they are lucky) have enough knowledge of it to converse on everyday topics (again: learning German starts a few years before that, and is more important in the business world). This is the state of “speaking English” around here.

A service or tool which is not available in French faces a barrier to adoption in the *Suisse Romande* on two levels:

– first of all, there are people who simply don’t know enough English to understand what’s written on the sign-up page;
– second, there are people who would understand most of what’s on the sign-up page, but for whom it represents and extra effort.

Let’s concentrate on the second batch. An *extra effort”?! Lazy people! Think of it. All this talk about making applications more usable, about optimizing the sign-up process to make it so painless that people can do it with their eyes closed? Well, throw a page in a foreign language at most normal people and they’ll perceive it as an extra difficulty. And it may very well be the one that just makes them navigate away from the page and never come back. Same goes for using the service or application once they have signed up: it makes everything more complicated, and people anticipate that.

Let’s look at some examples.

The first example isn’t exactly about a web service or application, but it shows how important language is for the adoption of new ideas (this isn’t anything groundbreaking if you look at human history, but sometimes the web seems to forget that the world hasn’t changed that much…). Thanks for bearing with me while I ramble on.

In February 2001, I briefly mentioned [the WaSP Browser Push](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/16/to-hell-with-bad-browsers/) and realised that the French-speaking web was really [“behind” on design and web standards ressources](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/13/poor-french-web/). I also realised that although [there was interest for web standards](http://mammouthland.free.fr/weblog/2001/fevrier_01.php3), many French-speaking people couldn’t read the original English material. This encouraged me to [blog in French about it](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/02/24/tableaux-ou-non/), [translate Zeldman’s article](http://pompage.net/pompe/paitre/), [launching](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/03/21/faire-part/) the translation site [pompage.net](http://pompage.net/) in the process. Pompage.net, and the [associated mailing-list](http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/pompeurs/), followed a year or so later by [OpenWeb](http://openweb.eu.org/), eventually became a hub for the budding francophone web standards community, which is still very active to this day.

([What happened with the Swiss Blog Awards](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/04/30/about-the-swiss-blog-awards-sbaw/) is in my opinion another example of how important language issues are.)

Back to web applications proper. [Flickr](http://flickr.com) is an application I love, but I have a hard time getting people to sign up and use it, even when I’ve walked them through the lengthy Yahoo-ID process. [WordPress.com](http://fr.wordpress.com), on the other hand, exists in French, and I can now easily persuade my friends and clients to open blogs there. There is a strong [French-speaking WordPress community](http://wordpress-fr.net/) too. A few years ago, when the translation and support were not what they are now, a very nice little blogging tool named [DotClear](http://www.dotclear.net/) became hugely popular amongst francophone bloggers (and it still is!) in part because it was in French when other major blogging solutions were insufficient in that respect.

Regarding WordPress, I’d like to point out the [community-driven translation effort](http://translate.wordpress.com/) to which everybody can contribute. Such an open way of doing things has its pitfalls (like dreadful, dreadful translations which linger on the home page until somebody comes along to correct them) but overall, I think the benefits outweigh the risks. In almost no time, dozens of localized versions can be made available, maintained by those who know the language best.

Let’s look at teenagers. When [MySpace](http://myspace.com) was all that was being talked about in the US, French-speaking teenagers were going wild on [skyblog](http://skyblog.com). MySpace is catching up a bit now because it [also exists in French](http://fr.myspace.com/). [Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/)? In English, nobody here has heard of it. [Live Messenger aka MSN](http://www.windowslive.fr/messenger/default.asp)? Very much in French, [unlike ICQ](http://icq.com/), which is only used here by anglophile early adopters.

[Skype](http://skype.com/intl/fr/) and [GMail](http://gmail.com)/[GTalk](http://www.google.com/talk/intl/fr/) are really taking off here now that they are available in French.

Learning to use a new service, or just trying out the latest toy, can be challenging enough an experience for the average user without adding the extra hurdle of having to struggle with an unfamiliar language. Even though a non-localized service like Flickr may be the home to [various linguistic groups](http://www.flickr.com/groups/topic/69039/), it’s important to keep in mind that their members will tend to be the more “anglophone” of this language group, and are not representative.

**The bottom line is that even with a lot of encouragement, most local people around here are not going to use a service which doesn’t talk to them in their language.**

***9:52 Afterthought credit:***

I just realised that this article on [why startups condense in America](http://www.paulgraham.com/america.html) was the little seed planted a few days ago which finally brought me to writing this post. I haven’t read all the article, but this little part of it struck me and has been working in the background ever since:

> What sustains a startup in the beginning is the prospect of getting their initial product out. The successful ones therefore make the first version as simple as possible. In the US they usually begin by making something just for the local market.

> This works in America, because the local market is 300 million people. It wouldn’t work so well in Sweden. In a small country, a startup has a harder task: they have to sell internationally from the start.

> The EU was designed partly to simulate a single, large domestic market. The problem is that the inhabitants still speak many different languages. So a software startup in Sweden is still at a disadvantage relative to one in the US, because they have to deal with internationalization from the beginning. It’s significant that the most famous recent startup in Europe, Skype, worked on a problem that was intrinsically international.

Similar Posts:

Miglia Dialog+ Cordless Skype Phone [en]

[fr] Test et critique du téléphone Skype sans fil (pas wifi!) Dialog+ de Miglia. Franchement sympa et abordable, en plus!

***If you want the [review without the whole chatty story](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/01/14/miglia-dialog-cordless-skype-phone/#dialogplus), scroll down.***

As is now public knowledge, my visit to San Francisco coincided with [MacWorld](http://macworldexpo.com/live/20/). (“Oh, you’re going to SF for MacWorld?” — “Mac-what? MacWorld? What’s that? Oooh…”) This was nice, because it gave me the occasion to join the geekfest, discover [lynda.com](http://lynda.com), watch the [Leopard](http://www.apple.com/macosx/leopard/index.html) and [iPhone](http://www.apple.com/iphone/) demos, buy a pink “Mac Chick” cap, and last and lot least, hang around my IRC friend Victor’s booth, which quite unexpectedly led to me walking off with a [Dialog+ cordless Skype/iChat handset](http://miglia.com/products/communication/dialogplus/index.html).

That booth was very obviously the most busy one in the row, and for a reason: [Miglia](http://miglia.com/) (drop the “g” when saying it, Italian-style) is a hardware company which make [a bunch of pretty cool toys](http://miglia.com/products/index.html) for Mac (and Windows!) users.

They have [digital TV stuff](http://miglia.com/products/video/digitaltv.html), which I’m unfortunately a bit deaf to these days, as wireless digital TV doesn’t really work in Lausanne, and the way Swiss TV does “bicanal” (the thing that allows you to choose between dreadful dubbed versions and original versions) seems to be somewhat non-standard. At least it didn’t work with [EyeTV](http://www.elgato.com/index.php?file=products_eyetvhybridna), which I tried and brought back to the store a few months back.

**Much more exciting for me: [cordless VOIP handsets](http://www.macworld.com/news/2007/01/12/migliavoip/index.php), and in particular the [Dialog+](http://miglia.com/products/communication/dialogplus/index.html). It’s a Skype/iChat cordless handset.** I’m [using Skype more and more](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/11/18/skype-mon-ordinateur-comme-centrale-telephonique/), and next best to a WiFi Skype phone (the geeky toy [I said I wanted for Christmas here](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/12/13/ce-soir-scenes-de-menage/)) is a cordless one. Unfortunately, most (if not all) of the cordless handsets I’ve looked at (see the [Skype Shop](http://us.accessories.skype.com/direct/skypeusa/accessoriesList.jsp?acctype=8) for example) have big nasty clunky non-laptop-friendly base stations. Not this one. Have a look at how laptop-friendly this is:

Miglia DialogPlus and dongle

And the price was nice too: $80 MacWorld price, $100 normal price.

Well, I was tempted. Very tempted. So tempted that I decided to buy it, after dragging Victor upstairs in the lobby where we could find wifi to try it out (I’m a bit picky about audio quality). On the way, we bumped into one of their PR (?) people, and a few seconds later I was eagerly saying “I’ll blog it, I’ll blog it!” at the prospect of being *given* the handset. Here for the disclaimer, then — but I would have bought it anyway 🙂

For the trouble, here’s a nicely [hReview-formatted](http://microformats.org/wiki/hreview) review of the phone, after 24 hours or so of ownership and a couple of outgoing Skype calls. People who didn’t care for the backdrop story should start here.

Miglia Dialog+ (DialogPlus) Skype/iChat Handset


Laptop-friendly Skype/iChat phone, light, nice sound quality and affordable price. Small USB dongle and recharges through USB too.

The first thing that stood out when I was shown this 100$ phone (80$ at MacWorld) is that instead of having an untransportable base-station, it has a USB key-like dongle which is easy to carry around with the handset. The handset itself is light, has good autonomy, and is recharged (3AAA batteries) with a pretty much standard USB cable, as shown in the picture. It’s something I can imagine carrying around all the time in my computer bag. Charging the DialogPlus

You can scroll through your Skype and iChat contacts on the phone easily, and even scroll through the Skype contact list which is displayed on your computer from the phone (it’s a bit eerie, as if the phone were a remote mouse or something). At first I wondered what the purpose of this feature was, but actually, even though the LCD display on the phone is very nice, it’s still even nicer to go through your contacts on your computer screen.

Besides the up/down, green-red, and normal number keys you’d expect on a phone, the Dialog+ has only three “special” keys: one to display call history (you can use it to toggle between received, outgoing, and missed calls), one to display your contact list (use it to toggle between all contacts and online contacts), and a third button (clear/backspace) which allows you to take control of the Skype contact list on your computer. It’s pretty easy to figure out what each button does and memorize it.

I personally don’t use iChat much, particularly for voice (I use Adium for instant messaging, and unfortunately it doesn’t do voice over IM), but I placed a couple of Skype calls to check the sound quality. My hearing is slightly impaired and I sometimes find that volume settings on phones don’t allow me to listen at a comfortable level. Not the case here, I could hear the person I was speaking with very clearly. However, people on the other end do hear an echo if the volume is set too high, and have complained a bit about the audio quality they receive. This can be due to the quality of the Skype connection, but I’ll try lending my phone to somebody and have them call me to hear for myself.

Setting up the phone was rather simple: close Skype, install the driver from the CD, pair the phone with the dongle by pressing the little square button on top of it. At first my phone said there was “No contact list”, so I tried reinstalling the driver and re-opening/closing Skype, and it worked. Not quite sure what went wrong, but it fixed itself quite nicely. The instructions booklet is just the right thickness and contains clear explanations. I would, however, call this a “cordless” phone rather than “wire-free” — when I read that on the back of the phone, I went “wi-fi phone?!”, which of course, is incorrect.

So, to sum it up: very happy about the toy and its design. I’ll certainly be using it. I just unwittingly gave it its first crash test by kicking it off the sofa as I was writing this post, and it survived. According to the booklet, it has good autonomy. I still need to dig into the audio quality a little, and see how it works when I start walking about my flat with it (upto 25 meters range).

I was disappointed at first that I couldn’t send text messages from it, but actually, that’s not too bad: if I have the Dialog+, I have my computer nearby — and anyway, Skype text messages aren’t always very reliable (for example, depending on the carrier, they don’t give your own phone number as the “reply” number, and messages get lost).

Great job, Miglia — oh, and I nearly forgot: Miglia’s interest being hardware sales, the phone comes with free software upgrades. For life. Neat!

My rating: 4.0 stars

Similar Posts:

Skype: mon ordinateur comme centrale téléphonique [fr]

[en] Get Skype. Get SkypeOut credit so that you can call normal phones. Get a SkypeIn number so that normal phones can call you, and cancel your landline if you're paying anything for it.

OSX people: if you're into podcasting or you need to keep track of things said to you over the phone, try Call Recorder and then buy it so that you'll get the free video call recorder upgrade when it comes out. Install Skype Caller to call and message people directly from your Address Book, and Skype beta 2.5 so that you can send those text messages. Actually, better than that if you're an Orange.ch customer: get the Orange.ch SMS dashboard widget so you can message for free.

J’ai [le cable](http://www.citycable.ch/modules/news/) depuis quelques jours. J’ai résilié l’ADSL.

Dans la foulée, j’ai payé 45.- CHF pour avoir [un numéro SkypeIn](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/products/skypein/). 45.-, c’est la taxe annuelle. J’ai donc résilié mon abonnement Swisscom (25.- par mois? vous voulez rire?). Avis à la population: dès fin janvier mon numéro fixe actuel ne sera plus valable, et vous pourrez me joindre au 044 586 4274. (Attention: vous ne pouvez résilier votre ligne fixe et garder l’ADSL, c’est pour ça qu’il faut le câble!)

Oui, c’est ça, un numéro SkypeIn: un numéro de téléphone suisse où l’on peut me joindre depuis n’importe quel téléphone, mais que je reçois sur mon ordinateur. (On voit aussi tout de suite l’avantage: il me suit dans mes déplacements.) Bien sûr, il y a [une boîte vocale](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/products/skypevoicemail/) — et comme c’est gratuit, je vous annonce déjà la bonne nouvelle: j’y écouterai mes messages bien plus consciencieusement que ceux sur ma boîte vocale mobile.

Ensuite, j’ai acheté pour 15.- CHF de crédit [SkypeOut](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/products/skypeout/). C’est comme ça qu’on paie les appels sortants (on paie d’avance, et avec 15.-, on a environ 8-9 heures d’appels internationaux, suivant où on appelle). Précisons que pour appeler depuis son ordinateur vers un téléphone normal (donc avec SkypeOut) il n’est pas nécessaire d’avoir pris un numéro de téléphone Skype (SkypeIn). [Le compte gratuit suffit](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/download/), tant qu’on achète du crédit (et au prix que ça coûte, on aurait tort de s’en priver).

En août 2005, Skype comptait [50 millions de noms d’utilisateur enregistrés](http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20050817/1359254_F.shtml).

Très joli tout ça, me direz-vous, mais il faut donc garder son ordinateur allumé en tous temps. Pas un problème pour moi puisque c’est déjà le cas, mais je comprends que nous ne vivons pas tous sur la même planète numérique. Rassurez-vous, il y a une solution (mais ça coûte un peu d’argent): [un téléphone Skype wifi](http://accessories.skype.com/item?SID=c008d82ac5175e3f77daba6ce2b2033d5d3:4530&sku=WSKP100PROMO). Un téléphone Skype, c’est comme un téléphone normal, sauf qu’au lieu de le brancher sur le réseau téléphonique à l’aide d’une prise, il se connecte sur le reseau téléphonique Skype via la connection internet. [La plupart des téléphones Skype](http://accessories.skype.com/section?SID=b1ed47f7536bba0cfd1064fc721b98bf48a:4530&secid=38893) se branchent sur l’ordinateur via la prise USB (donc il faut laisser son ordinateur allumé). Certains sont sans fil, d’autres avec (et là, franchement, à mon humble avis, autant utiliser un casque et avoir les mains libres).

Un [téléphone wifi](http://accessories.skype.com/landingpage?p=4530&page=wifi), par contre, se connecte tout seul à internet via une borne wifi (c’est ce qu’on utilise pour avoir internet “sans fil” à la maison). Le pack proposé par Skype contient même la borne wifi, si vous n’en avez pas. (Ensuite, côté argent, faites le calcul en regardant combien vous économiserez sur les frais d’abonnement Swisscom…)

Troisième étape: installé, testé et acheté [Call Recorder](http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/), un petit utilitaire Skype qui permet d’enregistrer appels et messages vocaux. Très utile pour faire des interviews par Skype (il enregistre les deux côtés de la conversation sur des canaux séparés, ce qui facilite l’édition), ou pour retrouver des infos mal notées (instructions pour arriver quelque part, heure de rendez-vous, etc.). Ça sert aussi à se rendre compte (dans mon cas) à quel point son accent vaudois est fort (grands dieux!).

En plus, il enregistrera bientôt la vidéo, car Skype, c’est pas juste pour [la voix](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/download/features/calling/), c’est pour l’image aussi — vous ne saviez pas? [Vidéophonie gratuite et sans frontières](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/download/features/videocalling/), c’est plutôt cool, je trouve. Oh, puis ça permet de [chatter](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/download/features/chat/), bien sûr. Bon, le plus simple, c’est que je vous aiguille sur [la liste des fonctionnalités de Skype](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/download/features/). Parmi celles-ci, j’attire encore votre attention sur [l’envoi de SMS pour pas très cher](http://www.skype.com/intl/fr/products/skypesms/), car c’est plus sympa à taper avec un clavier qu’avec les touches du téléphone. Sur Mac, vous devrez [installer Skype beta 2.5](http://www.skype.com/download/skype/macosx/25beta.html) pour avoir accès à cette fonction.

Ah oui, j’oubliais: j’ai installé [Skype Caller](http://homepage.mac.com/timct/FileSharing26.html), un plugin gratuit pour le carnet d’adresses d’OSX et qui permet d’appeler directement les gens de votre répertoire depuis l’intérieur du carnet d’adresses (ctrl+click > Appel Skype). Ça permet aussi d’envoyer des SMS directement…

Côté SMS, j’ai encore plus intéressant que Skype (merci [Barzi](http://barzi.net/)). Si vous roulez avec OSX et que vous êtes client Orange, installez immédiatement le [widget Orange.ch SMS](http://studer.tv/projects-widgets.page). Il loge dans votre [Dashboard](http://www.apple.com/chfr/macosx/features/dashboard/) (la boule noire juste à côté de l’icône du Finder dans le Dock, que vous n’utilisez peut-être jamais — si vous êtes comme moi). Entrez les coordonnées de votre compte Orange.ch ([vérifiez sur le site d’Orange si vous n’êtes plus sûr des données](https://www.orange.ch/footer/login)), tapez le nom ou le prénom de la personne à laquelle vous voulez envoyer un SMS, cliquez sur l’icône “Carnet d’adresses” qui se trouve à côté, et le numéro de la personne s’affichera automatiquement dans le champ. Ne reste plus qu’à composer un SMS et à l’envoyer.

Que demande le peuple?

Similar Posts:

Skype and Address Book Integration Failure [en]

[fr] Première tentative pour intégrer le carnet d'adresses OSX et Skype: échec. Quelqu'un a une piste à me donner?

This post about [integrating Skype and Address Book](http://kzamm.com/2005/03/skype-address-book-os-x-love.html) had me hopeful, but unfortunately installing [Skype Caller](http://homepage.mac.com/timct/FileSharing26.html) failed silently for me. Maybe it’s just too old.

Ideally, I’d like to either see my Address Book contacts with phone numbers in my Skype contact list, or be able to one-click-call via Skype from inside Address Book.

Pointers, anybody?

Similar Posts:

Multimedia [fr]

[en] I've almost decided to ditch my landline and get cable and SkypeIn instead.

Fun! Hier, j’ai fait de la vidéoconférence avec mes grands-parents domiciliés en Angleterre, via [Skype](http://skype.com). Du coup, j’y repense: et si je résiliais mon téléphone fixe? J’achète un [téléphone USB sans fil](http://www.stegcomputer.ch/details.asp?prodid=phi-1211s “J’ai pas fait mes devoirs donc c’est peut-être pas le meilleur, mais ça existe.”), je prends [un numéro SkypeIn](http://www.skype.com/products/skypein/ “Et je dis adieu à mon joli numéro actuel.”), et je prends internet par le [câble](http://citycable.ch).

Bête que je suis, je viens d’appeler CityCable pour savoir s’ils faisaient le téléphone par le câble (à la fin de l’année), mais en fait, je n’en ai pas besoin si j’utilise Skype!

Du coup, je me dis que j’aimerais bien la TV numérique (histoire de ne pas devoir me flanquer devant mon poste à heures fixes pour regarder Les Experts en v.o.) Mais ça, c’est chez [Cablecom](http://cablecom.ch), même si je suis chez CityCable. Logique, hein. Et chez Cablecom, impossible de trouver un numéro à appeler! Va falloir que je sorte le bottin.

Similar Posts: