Cultural stereotyping and internationalization

Subject: Cultural stereotyping and internationalization
From: "Bergen, Jane" <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 10:27:36 -0500

While Susan's info gleaned from an STC workshop was very interesting, I
am meekly raising a flag here. We need to be careful of not making
cultural stereotypes. It seems to me that this workshop may have done
that by assuming Japanese are incapable/unwilling to tolerate
documentation written in active, direct forms, or that Arabs are all
sexist. I've lived in both Japan and the Middle East and have taught ESL
to students from both cultures. Believe me, stereotypes go phhhttt into
the wind when one has direct experience.

There is, of course, a possible *grain* of truth in these (Susan
Brown's/workshop) statements, but I think it would be appropriate to
proceed with caution in attempting to apply cultural issues when
internationalizing tech writing. Related cultural issues for audiences
include social class and education. You won't find the same "culture"
among educated, young, urbanites as you might find among village
farmers. And who uses the documents?

Just some thoughts to consider.

On Friday, August 15, 1997 7:08 AM, Susan Brown [SMTP:sbrown -at- jscsys -dot- com]

> At the STC conference in Toronto in May there was a very
> interesting
> session, 'Lost in Translation'. The discussion primarily revolved
> being culturally sensitive in writing. I attended this session as we
> several online help systems that will be translated into French.
> Japanese was another language where voice is very important.
> Command type
> instructions (Insert the disk. Click the button.) are considered very
> rude:
> enough so that documentation written in this manner will NOT be used.
> Gender neutral language does not go over well in Arab countries. (If
> don't use the masculine, you must have something inferior.)
> Even simple things like how to list multiple authors can get
> into
> trouble. In North America, where authors are of equal importance, we
> the names alphabetically. In France, the women always get listed
> In
> the Middle East and Asia, the men's names should come first.
> This doesn't only hold for translating: these issues must also
> taken
> into consideration when writing in English for a different culture.
> Colour
> use is also important: some cultures have strong negative associations
> with
> certain colours, and use of these in publications or software
> to these countries (i.e. red to Arab countries) can strongly influence
> document or product acceptance.
> As if we didn't already have enough on our minds.

I'm not attempting to ruffle feathers, rather saying take caution when
considering these issues.

Jane Bergen, Technical Writer,
AnswerSoft, Inc. Richardson, TX
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com

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