Localization Roundup – Urdu Fonts and Branding Fails

With the world full of so many intersecting cultures, communication problems can frequently arise in the technology we all use. From time to time, we see news articles about these challenges and like to highlight them here. Today we have two: one about new technology to help Urdu speakers and another about a branding fail from Japan.

How Microsoft Might Save Urdu Script

The Urdu language is spoken by over 100 million people around the world as either a native or secondary language. As the language of Pakistan and several Indian states, Urdu has a huge global footprint. But because of its complex scripting, printing or displaying Urdu on computers can be very challenging. Traditionally, Urdu speakers write using a script called nastaliq, however most platforms only support showing Urdu in a form called naskh. The problem with naskh is that it’s based on Arabic and doesn’t contain the same alphabet or form of traditional Urdu.

Ali Eteraz writes a lengthy article for Medium covering the state of Urdu, and includes a nice image comparing both the traditional nastaliq and naskh:

Urdu scripting

Fortunately, all may not be lost for Urdu speakers. Eteraz reports that Microsoft has included Urdu nastaliq typesetting in Windows 8, proving that it can be done. Hopefully more developers will follow Microsoft’s lead and add nastaliq support to their apps.

Japanese Branding Fail

From Japan we have a story about how localization troubles can thwart efforts to brand products internationally. Fukushima Industries Corporation is a Japanese manufacturer of refrigerators and freezers that was founded in 1951. Despite the company’s name, it has nothing to do with the Fukushima region of Japan or their recent nuclear disaster. In fact, they’re based in an entirely different part of the country and were named after the company’s founder: Nobuo Fukushima.

During a recent rebranding exercise, they chose to create a new mascot for the company. By combining the name “Fukushima” with the English word for “happy,” they created, well…

Fukuppy

Needless to say, the Internet reacted with its usual stoic professionalism and respected this company’s branding error, which is to say that Fukushima industries was on the receiving end of quite a bit of mockery. The Guardian has more details, while Japan Subculture takes a deeper look at the actual Japanese cultural elements involved along with some translations of the rest of the branding materials from this campaign.

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