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NEWS: MicroSoft's Spanish language problems

From:J Y S Czhang <czhang23@...>
Date:Monday, September 16, 2002, 11:53
Microsoft Apology for Errors in Spanish

MEXICO CITY (Reuter) - Microsoft Corp, the world's biggest software company,
apologized Friday to Mexicans for ``grave errors'' in its computer thesaurus
that equated Indians with cannibals. Several Mexicans telephoned the company
to protest after a newspaper reported Wednesday that the Spanish thesaurus
included in Microsoft's popular word processor program Word for Windows 6.0
contained some unfortunate synonyms. Used by up to 200,000 people in Mexico,
a country whose population is mainly descended from Aztec and Maya Indians,
the Microsoft program sugggested as alternatives for the word ''Indian:''
``man-eater'' or ``savage.'' Consulted for synonyms for ``Western,'' the
Spanish language program gave ``Aryan,'' ``white'' and ``civilized.''
Lesbians were equated with ``pervert'' and ``depraved person.'' ``Microsoft
Mexico offers an apology to its users and to the public in general for some
grave errors in the synonyms of the Microsoft Word dictionary in Spanish,
whose mistaken connotations are offensive,'' the company said in a full-page
newspaper advertisement published Friday. Microsoft Mexico marketing manager
Alejandra Calatayud said the company was dispatching a language expert next
week from its software development center in Ireland to discuss changes to
the thesaurus with El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico's most august cultural body.
``We accept our responsibility and hope to have a new version of the
dictionary available in about five weeks,'' she told Reuters. The revised
version will be made available free of charge via the Internet. Ignacio Blum,
Microsoft Mexico's product manager for office products, told Reuters that the
computer thesaurus was based on existing dictionaries. ``If you check these
words in most dictionaries, you will find the same definitions,'' he said.
Mexican politicians and intellectuals condemned the pejorative computer
thesaurus anyway. ``I see this as profoundly dangerous because it is a lack
of respect for our dignity as Mexicans and for our indigenous roots,'' said
Adriana Luna, an opposition party congresswoman on the lower house's culture
committee. ``We must give battle to combat this specter of conservatism and
fascism which is appearing all around us'' Florentino Castro, a legislator
from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was quoted as saying
in the newspaper La Jornada. The English version of the Microsoft Word
program does not give the same synonyms. Homosexual was equated with ``gay''
or ''lesbian'' and Indian was ``cave dweller,'' ``ancient tribe'' or


Hanuman Zhang, 3-Toed-Sloth-Style Gungfu Typist  ;)

"the sloth is a chinese poet upsidedown" --- Jack Kerouac {1922-69}
    "There is no reason for the poet to be limited to words, and in fact the
poet is most poetic when inventing languages. Hence the concept of the poet
as 'language designer'."  --- O. B. Hardison, Jr.

"La poésie date d' aujour d'hui."   (Poetry dates from today)
"La poésie est en jeu."             (Poetry is in play)
                --- Blaise Cendrars

"...Poetry is perhaps the only insurance we've got against the vulgarity of
the human heart..." ~ Joseph Brodsky


John Cowan <jcowan@...>