I, foreigner

I am troubleshooting an issue in the Japanese localization of one of our products.  Some string is apparently not getting sent to the database correctly, or for whatever reason the proper records are not being returned.

There’s a system set up in Japanese that I’m testing on.

I’m not used to feeling so disoriented using a program.  It’s not like a screen in Spanish, where I can understand some of it and guess my way around… the Japanese characters mean nothing to me:

Uhh, hmm… interesting to have the perspective of a non-native speaker.  What can help me?  How can I do anything? (I even know this application reasonably well in English, but the foreignness of the language is overwhelming, immobilizing.)

As I visually scanned the screen for anything that would help me find my way, I found myself focusing on the icons (which I had barely noticed in the English version) and on the arabic numbers.  “Ah yes,” I remembered —  the magnifying glass signifies a search, and “検索 1” probably means “New Search 1”.

I created a new search and added an attribute to it, and once again the icons were most helpful (otherwise I would have had little hope of knowing what kind of search attribute I was adding):

So what’s the lesson in this?  One is that it’s really helpful to know the language!  But I think my takeaway is an increased identification with and compassion for those using a system who for whatever reason may not understand the language, or not understand it well.  I want the systems I design to not forget that person — and give them a little help when I can.


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