The awful English wasn't the only problem, though, and going through all the comments really reaffirms that we have another case of something ostensibly aimed at foreigners but created without consulting them at all. For instance, there was limited accessibility among those not using Internet Explorer, a flaw common among Korean websites, though people are at least aware of this deficiency.
Starting 2011, all of the 150 e-government Web sites are expected to be accessible from any browser.
The development is expected to be useful for overseas Koreans or foreigners logging on to Web sites such as www.hikorea.go.kr from aboard through alternate browsers. Operated by the Ministry of Justice, the Web site is a comprehensive online repository of information for oversea Koreans, immigrants and foreign nationals.
You might have anticipated such problems from ifriendly.kr since the page ripped off the Internet Explorer logo:
I don't know how common those other browsers are among Korean users, but looking through my Sitemeter stats---which only tracks the last 100 visitors---I can see that they're popular among people on my site. And looking at my Google Analytics page for the month October 19 - November 18, I can see that the majority of my 42,845 visits were by people not using Internet Explorer.
I'm an IE user, and my own visits to the site are, perhaps unfairly, counted among those numbers. But when looking at that 35%, consider that a lot of my visitors come between 8:00 and 5:00, when people are at work in Korea and, when using computers other than their own, have no choice but to use IE.
The page also relies on Flash, which not only doesn't work on some computers---I couldn't open the page at school---but prevents people from running the Korean text through an online translator. This is useful for when there is only a Korean-language version of a page, or when the Korean-language version is, as is always the case, more useful than the English one.
I'll reiterate that the English was among the worst I've ever seen on a Korean webpage. While I'm usually patient and tolerant with learners of English, that this is on a page created by the government to help foreigners, the arrogance of not deigning to check with a native speaker and carelessness required to get it so wrong cannot be excused. Here are a few examples:
"Internet guide of identical person acknowledgement on alien in Korea"
"Alien in Korea can confirm identical person through Internet easily with alien registration or passport."
"Making Republic of Korea
where communication is available by digital"
"'Identical person acknowledgement'is
to confirm identical person on the Internet
in order to settle using culture of sound internet"
"Citizens staying in
a foreign country
who are residing in Korea"
"Does identical person
acknowledgement not work?
try to confirm the followings!"
I knew what the "identical person acknowledgement" was referring to, since I know that many Korean sites require visitors to input their citizen ID numbers, and that more often than not foreigners' alien registration card numbers will not work. However, right off the bat there was a translation fail; from commenter Ryan G.:
When I asked my wife to help translate the Korean version of this website, they translated "poninhwagin" (I don't know how to type Korean in this comment box) to the English word "identical", instead of what it's supposed to mean: "identify", now it makes more sense to me.
The website is not talking about identical foreigners having trouble accessing Korean websites, but on how a foreigner must identify themselves to a Korean website.
That is simply ONE BIG FAIL. The atrocious mistake of using a key incorrect word completely changes the tone of the website.
This isn't new. Just last month I looked at the campaign "Visit Korea Year: 2010-2012," which besides carrying a ridiculous title, was aimed at foreign tourists but written entirely in Korean, and was inaccessible to many foreign visitors for that and other reasons. Here's what Chris in South Korea thought was how not to make a tourist website, rules broken by the Visit Korea website (which has since announced the foreign-language versions will be available next January):
Don't use a slow-loading interactive-looking-but-really-not-interactive graphic.
Don't use English without consulting an English speaker. Some words just don't go together - "Green & Human"? "City & Style" is marginally acceptable, but "Blue Ocean towards the World"? I'm not even off the home page yet (pictured above).
Don't use an English word / phrase to describe something, then link to an all-Korean page. The 'Sitemap' and 'Quick Menu' buttons are guilty of this. The language you see should be an indication of the language you'll see on the next page.
Don't use popups. They're annoying. Period. Heck, most internet-savvy people use a pop-up blocker for that very reason - meaning they never saw the pop-up about your English brochure. That there's no other way to access this English brochure is another strike.
Don't use popups that popup everytime you access / go back to the main page. They're doubly annoying. Korea Times, I'm looking at you too!
Don't use a language if it can't be translated by to a computer translation program (e.g. Google Translate, Babelfish) - pictures and Flash animations aren't recognized by these programs.
Don't link to a Korean page without some kind of warning. You're showing you either A: don't understand your audience, B: haven't recognized that there are other languages in the world, or C: haven't taken a break from your computer to peek out at the real world.
Don't forget that a fair percentage of computer users have a browser other than Internet Explorer. As a result, certain pages or page elements may be unviewable at worst, or not display correctly. Anecdotally speaking, these are the people most likely to try new things and get off the beaten path - the sort of thing you're encouraging people to do.
Don't take too long to get to your point / message / the good stuff. Nielsen says the average internet user may spend 68 hours a month online, but they'll only spend a matter of seconds looking on a given page for their topic.
Don't forget to run English by an English editor. It may not be Konglish, but it's still worth checking for meaning / comprehension. An example (from the brochure you can download in the pop-up you may or may not see): "Unlike previous Visit Korea years, which were one-year affairs, 2010—2012 Visit Korea Year will be promoted for three full years."
Finally, don't bother with 'intro' videos, no matter how flashy you can make them. We don't care.
Here are a few comments to my first post on ifriendly.kr, to give an early overview of user opinion to people who don't often check posts' comment sections.
I've come to the conclusion that only vicious mockery will force these idiots to hire English speaking proofreaders; Korean or barbarian, it doesn't matter. As long as it gets these 750 point toefl idiots from using a translation program to process the text that was written first in Korean.
I saw a link to this on the koreagov twitter and looked at the site. What a disgrace. I sent a letter to the editor of the Korea Herald about this campaign backfiring due to a) the persistent firefox/IE issues, and b) the sad, sad English wording. I should have also raised the prospect that they were improperly coopting the IE trademark, as obvious as it is on the front page, but I didn't feel like looking up the trademark statutes to get all cite-crazy.
I saw this today too... I have come to the conclusion that this country doesn't want to learn English anymore. People here seem far too set in their ways and self-confident in their shitty English... Just walking in Han River Park near Yeouido and looking at the new colour signs there tells me that.
from Ryan G.:
I like to rip on about the bad use of English as much as the next person (and boy does this website have a GOLDMINE of terrible grammar). But as this website is indeed directed at us, as well as having a laugh at it, make your concerns known to the groups responsible or nothing will change. I made an email complaint to one of the organisations involved though this address:
I would request that you all do the same, even if it's just a short email. The quicker they realise that this type of gibberish does not make sense, and the fact that they really need to get these websites WC3 compliant (as in compatible with Firefox), the better it will be for all of us.
from golden zephyr:
Wow. The lack of 'actual' English continues to astonish me... and maybe the "e" of IE won't be considered fraudulent by Microsoft if the surrounding English doesn't make sense... lol
Ryan G. and I seem to be on the same page: If you want to see this changed you will probably have to contact the people who can change it.
Another Korean internet fail. Aside from bad grammar and confusing site structures, I hate how the majority (if not all) websites are designed for IE and Activex apps. I wish there was more support for other browsers to work with Korean webpages.
Chris in South Korea wrote:
By the way, has anyone visited http://visitkoreayear.com lately? It's actually gotten WORSE, if you can believe it. English has almost completely disappeared; if your computer doesn't have support for Korean characters (as the average non-Korean computer), it'll display nothing that endless rows of boxes.
Anyone have any idea how to register your alien registration info if it's not in their database? I've tried to signup for numerous sites, phoned the authority of this (can't remember the name now) they told me it was only for Koreans!! I was like are you sure? Argued with him for a bit and hung up. Would really like to signup to some sites, but never get very far before getting frustrated and giving up.
And Ryan G. again:
Craig: and that's the sad thing about this entire situation. This website is supposed to hold all the information you need to access those Korean websites. But if it can't convey that information to us (foreigners) then it highlights the utter failure of the point of the whole website, and basically amounts to a waste of time and money.
Stay tuned to the earlier post for more. Those in charge of creating products and services aimed at foreigners need to start consulting their target audience, if in fact their true aim is not simply to give the appearance of caring about foreigners. It's become very clear that Koreans must not use English for public consumption without consulting with native speaker proofreaders first. They've proven it doesn't work. But my issue isn't chiefly with the thoughtless Gibberlish---I don't want to get emails about how I must be patient with students---and indeed I recognize how hard it is to use a foreign language well. My issue is this is yet another example of creating a service targetting foreigners and English-speakers without consulting with foreigners and English-speakers first. Whether it's pride, laziness, ignorance, or indifference, I don't know, but it needs to stop.