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You say Sea of Japan. I say East Sea.

Who said the life of a map maker isn’t interesting?

Every other day it seems there is another disputed territory, which usually means another disputed name.

I’ve already mentioned the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas issue.

On the other side of the planet there is a dispute brewing over the Sea of Japan.

South Korea maintains that the body of water should be known as the East Sea.

Japan disagrees.

Now I’m not going to wade into these murky waters by picking a side.

But if you’re a map maker, you’ve got a tough decision to make, unless you wisely decide to take a more neutral approach.

Here is how Google handles the issue currently:

Google Sea of Japan East Sea

And this from Bing:

Bing Sea of Japan East Sea

Of the two approaches, Microsoft appears more tactful. I’m not sure Google’s approach is as pleasing to South Koreans.

And there is a takeaway from this issue that every global executive should always keep in mind — maps often convey cultural and geopolitical biases. Use caution when you use maps on websites and in promotional campaigns.

 

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Gabble On: Using machine translation to learn a language

Ethan Shen, who has become quite an expert on the various machine translation (MT) engines, has launched a nifty web service designed to help you improve your language skills: Gabble On.

Basically, the site leverages an MT engine (Google, Bing, Systran) to display a news article in the target language.

It’s still a work in progress, but I like the way it displays source and target sentences side by side so you can follow along sentence by sentence.

I think the site has the greatest potential for teaching vocabulary.

Ethan welcomes input so give it a test drive and tell him what you think!

 

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Looking for a translation icon?

If you haven’t visited the Noun Project yet, take a moment and drop by.

It’s a great initiative to provide open source icons. All you have to do is provide attribution according to the Creative Commons license.

I noticed recently the addition of a translations icon.

I believe Microsoft was the first company to develop a translations icon along these lines, which was used as part of Microsoft Office.

Here’s an icon currently in use on the Bing Translator page:

Google quickly followed along with its Google Translate icon, shown here:

(Contact me if there is another company that is using a variation of this translation icon.)

To be clear, I would NOT use this icon as part of a global gateway.

This icon is not about finding localized content — it’s about getting content translated (usually via machine translation).

For the global gateway, I recommend this open source icon:

For more on global gateways, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.

UPDATE: Here’s the machine translation icon used by Yamagata Europe:

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You Say Falkland Islands. I Say Islas Malvinas.

Remember the Falklands War?

I do and, yes, this does make me feel a little old.

For those of you who don’t remember, the war was fought over a group of small islands far off the Patagonian coast of Argentina.

The British won the war but the Argentines are still very attached to the islands.

So what we have here is a disputed territory, always a challenge for mapmakers.

Here’s a screen grab from Google Maps. Notice how “Islas Malvinas” is in parentheses.

As a test, I switched my language preference on Google Maps to Spanish thinking maybe I’d see Falkland Islands placed within the parenthes. But no.

However, Bing does localize the map based on language. When I switched Bing Maps to Spanish, here’s what I saw:

This is map localization at work.

I hope to one day visit these islands — and I hope they can survive the next looming (environmental) conflict. The Falklands would not be in the news today if not for great quantities of oil buried deep below the ocean floor. Make no mistake, oil is at the center of this current  dispute, not the natural wildlife, which neither government seems too terribly concerned about.

If it were up to me — and if only it were — I would hand over the islands to the one government that promised to leave the islands free of oil derricks.  The Falklands are of enormous importance to penguins, albatross, and many other creatures that are running out of safe places to nest.

PS: Here’s a recent article in the NYT about the islands.