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Let Us Help You by Ignoring Your Preferred Language!

February 11th, 2016

One of the problems of living in Japan but not being Japanese: Geolocation. That’s where they determine your location by your IP address, find out what country you are in, and then use that language—despite knowing that not everyone in a country uses the national language. Too many web sites that I visit detect that I am in Japan, and “helpfully” switch the language, so I have to go to preferences and switch it back. This may help most users, but it’s an incredibly annoying pain in the ass for people like me.

The problems:

  1. the method of switching languages on a site is not universal and is often difficult to find, meaning you have to scroll up and down the page to find the tiny little flag or not-flag icon or link, if they have it on the main page at all;
  2. despite using cookies, many sites will not remember your preferences unless you have an account and sign in, which means you have to constantly switch back or else give them your name, email, and probably more. Even then, they sometimes turn on you; I just had GoDaddy switch me to Japanese, even making a huge deal in an email about how much they were helping me!
  3. even when you do make an account and log in, they often manage to lose your preferences and you have to switch back from time to time anyway. Hulu is one example of that last one, I keep having to set the language every few weeks.

Here’s the kicker: your browser and/or operating system routinely send information making clear what language you use on your computer! It’s called the Accept-Language request-header, and every web site you visit can read it just fine. Most web sites obnoxiously ignore this. You can test your settings by clicking here, then look for the language listed by the “Accept header” tag. If it displays a language you don’t want, by the way, you can check the language settings in your browser.

Also, almost every site uses cookies, and these cookies tend to not expire for years. If you’re going to spy on someone, at least have the decency of doing it in their own language!

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