the sun's not yellow it is chicken

I Say Tomaat, You Say Tomate

bilingual news

Pictured above is a screenshot of a site’s back-end I’m currently working on. Can you see what’s odd about it? Since you probably don’t know Flemish, I’ll tell you: each news item added to the site must be entered in two languages — Flemish and French.

Now, there’s many quirks and funny little bizarre idiosyncracies that come with living in a bilingual country such as Belgium. Cities have two names: one Flemish, one French. Depending on whether I take a left or a right turn to go shopping, I’ll be speaking Flemish or French. And so on.

But think about the consequences for people who have to build websites in this country. For every title, every product description, every error message, every button, every navigational item, there must be two versions. I suppose for the bigger shops (those that have copywriters, translators, programmers and graphic designers all working on their own little patch) that wouldn’t be a problem. If, like me, you work in a small shop, you become all these things rolled into one.

One second I’ll be typing away $error['noSuchProduct'] = array("nl" => "Dit produkt bevindt zich niet in onze catalogus", "fr" => "Ce produit ne se trouve pas dans notre catalogue") in my language.php file of epic proportions, the next I’ll be in Photoshop crafting two versions of my “check out” (kassa! caisse!) shopping cart button, whereupon I’ll be fiddling with the script that allows the visitor to select a language, and sets a browser cookie so he doesn’t have to select it again next time he visits. At times, it feels as if I’m juggling about 25 colorful balls up in the air, all of which need to be intercepted before they hit the ground.


Then again: I could have been living in Switzerland…


  1. Roger Bourland

    Wow! And I thought life was difficult in Los Angeles balancing American-English and dude-speak (does dude have an umlaut??)

  2. moonbug

    Only in Germany!

  3. Roberto

    At least they don’t object to you buying a house if you don’t speak flemish or french, depending where you wan’t to live. Where I live, I need to speak Irish (celtic) if I wan’t to buy a house in the area!

  4. moonbug

    That’s bizarre, I had no idea. Are you talking about Irish english or Irish celtic? If it’s the latter, well, you’re in for a treat then aren’t you!

  5. Roberto

    Yes, I’m in for some treat. I can count to twenty, tell the time, greet people and curse in Irish (celtic), but I don’t think I can succesfully close a real estate transaction. I’ll have to let my wife do the talking and nod politelly while she’s at it.

  6. Gaby

    Unbelievable!! (Dochreidthe?!?)

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