Don’t force website localisation

Just because I’m in Russia doesn’t mean I really want to read your website in Russian. Especially not if it’s in some kind of unfathomable machine-translated approximation of Russian.

I might not understand the language of the country I’m located in. I might be passing through, or I might be a hapless expat who’s managed to survive for decades without learning much more than the bare minimum required to order a beer.

Conversely, I might be natively or otherwise fluent in the local language, but not in the particular ‘dialect’ of free-online-translatorese that you chose when localising your website.

Please, PLEASE stop forcing localised versions of your web content onto your visitors. The assumption that everyone visiting your site from a Russian IP address (or with a browser that says it will accept Russian) is capable of understanding Russian or your crappy pseudo-translated Russlish is about as valid as asserting that everyone in the Sahara desert must be able to absorb moisture from the atmosphere.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you gave the option to switch languages. But when you make it comepletely impossible to escape the lunacy, then it becomes frustrating.

I would have expected better of MIT, for example In my browser, this site is full of beautiful nonsense such as “что ремиксит сообщество” that just might make sense if you can detranslate it and work out what the original was. This makes the content understandable to a pretty select audience.

You see, that’s the only way to understand many of these sites. On the surface they kind of seem to make sense… but not completely. As a native English speaker and Russian translator with plenty of experience I can, at a pinch, make my way around these sites by detranslating back to the original text to get a rough idea of what will happen when I click a particular link or button.

Hewlett Packard – also guilty. Their massive support website is awesome and it does pretend to give me the option to switch languages, but unfortunately in my experience that didn’t work.

Forcing a ‘translation’ of your site based on the Accept-Language header is antisocial at best.

If you’re using Chrome, you could get around this embuggerance by using this browser extension to modify headers (thanks Lorna Jane). Oddly I find it easier than messing with browser settings.