Ethan Marcotte now blogs at Unstoppable Robot Ninja.

Weblog entry:

Go go gadget ethnocentricity

Molly’s excellent article on web standards has, naturally, kicked up a fair amount of discussion on the mailing list. The thread’s interesting in its own right, but this post especially struck me:

Separation of structure and presentation is also important for internationalization, since presentational aspects don’t always carry over from one script to another – e.g. italicisation and bolding are problematic for Japanese and Chinese in small font sizes, because their characters are so complicated; monospaced fonts don’t work well with scripts like Arabic; Asian text may express emphasis by using a dot above each character, and German via inter-character spacing – all things we don’t thing [sic] about when writing English. If the information is expressed in semantic terms, and a style sheet is used, it is much easier (and therefore much less costly) to consistently apply the appropriately different styling during translation (plus, there is more choice).

Richard Ishida, post to the public-evangelist@w3-org mailing list

I’m sure I’m the last kid to arrive at this particular party, but I find this absolutely fascinating. Sure, we’ve talked about sundry business benefits to utilizing web standards over the past few years, but I’d never considered internationalization as one of them. Granted, I can’t think of any folks that’d want to translate my oh-so-pithy ruminations on cat tongues or Starbucks whoring…right, I digress.

Richard’s post has been a real eye-opener: I could of course see how a letter-spacing decision made for an English site could be completely inappropriate for its equivalent in, say, Arabic or kanji. So, I’m curious: do any of the three of you have any practical experience in which separating style from structure paid off in the i18n arena?


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