Cultural and Linguistic Issues Affecting Accessiblity


General Problems:

Colours and symbols are the most powerful communication tools. They contain rich information. They have symbolic meanings. Appropriate use of colours and symbols can make it easier for audiences to absorb large amounts of information on content, layout, etc. However, each coin has two sides. Most colours and symbols have positive associations with them or negative connotations. For example, although black usually represents formality, sophistication and sexuality, it can also be a symbol of mourning. Cultural problems may arise because audiences from different cultural backgrounds perceive colours and symbols in different ways. It is possible that designers intend to adopt some colours or symbols to convey positive connotations but instead audiences interpret them negatively.

Linguistic problems may occur if designers without sufficient cultural background or linguistic knowledge translate one language into another. If web designers do not notice these problems, confusion or even failure to convey the right information will occur.Linguistic problems become a major obstacle to the success of conveying information to targeted audiences.

An accessible website should be adapted to the special characteristics of natural languages and the commonly accepted rules for their use, or of cultures in a given geographic region. This lab will discuss three aspects of cultural and linguistic issues: colour symbolisms, animal symbolisms and linguistic problems. Each interactive exercise is designed to address one aspect. After the lab activity, answer the questions below.

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Introduction to Colour Symbolism

Colour communicate with an audience in a non-verbal way. In Western culture, they have symbolism and meaning. For example, dark colours (such as navy blue) generally represent formality and conservatism, whereas paler colours (such as pink) are regarded as feminine and informality. Likewise, Colours have symbolic meanings in other cultures or other parts of the world. Colours can also be used to trigger certain reactions or define a layout.

However, since colours would have entirely different meaning in other cultures, people from different cultures react to colours in different ways. Ignoring colours culturally symbolic meanings would result in a costly mistake. The appropriate use of colour can make it easier for users to absorb large amounts of information and differentiate information types and hierarchies.

After the interactive exercise, you will have gained some awareness on the issue of colour. As you design brochures, logos, and websites, it is helpful to keep in mind how the eye and the mind perceive certain colours and the color meanings we associate with each colour.


What to Do:

  1. To begin, watch the "Meaning of Southwest 4 direction colors" video.

  2. Explore various colour symbolisms in different cultures at the Sibagraphics web site.

  3. Take the Colour Symbolism Quiz and see how much you know about colour symbolisms.

Related Guidelines on How to Use Colour:

Several guidelines on how to use colour [1] are listed below. You can use them as a reference on using colour to increase communication effectiveness, speed, accuracy, and retention. Additional information can also be found at http://www.colormatters.com/chameleon.html


Introduction to Animal Symbolism

Introduction:

In this interactive activity, your goal is to understand the explanations of animal symbolism in three cultures and the stories behind them. This activity will provide you with an introduction to animal symbolism. The meanings of animals may be similar or very different in different cultures.

After this interactive activity, hopefully, you can use animal symbols appropriately while designing websites.


What to Do:

  1. Watch the video Animal Wisdom by Jessica Palmer.

  2. Answer multiple choice questions to be aware of the difference in interpreting animals' symbolic meanings.

Introduction to Linguistic Problems

Introduction:

Linguistic problems may occur if designers do not have sufficient cultural background or linguistic knowledge to translate one language into another. A typical example is Chinglish, an English pseudo-dialect heavily affected by Chinese grammar and accent.


What to Do:

  1. To begin, watch the "Chinglish-Lost in Translation" video. Wikipedia provides additional detailed information about Chinglish, including its definition, history, and presents examples.

    Note: Chinglish is an example of a linguistic problem that exists on web sites. Linguistic problems also occur when other languages (such as Japanese) is translated into English. This is called Engrish. Information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engrish. Engrish.com also posts humourous English mistakes that appear in Japanese advertising and product design.

  2. Based on the research on Chinglish, some of the main reasons why so many mistranslations occur are summarized below:


  3. Take the Linguistic Problems Quiz and see if you can identify the causes of certain linguistic problems.


What to Hand In:

Hand-in a report that

  1. Answers the following questions:

    For the Colour Symbolism interactive activity:

    1. Compared with your personal colour symbolism associations, which culture/country colour symbolism associations surprised you?
    2. In the Colour Symbolism Quiz, how many did you get right?
    3. What are your suggestions on choosing colours for a web site?

    For the Animal Symbolism interactive activity:
    1. Compared with your personal animal symbolism associations, which animal symbolism association surprised you?
    2. In the Animal Symbolism Quiz, how many did you get right?

    For the Linguistic Problems interactive activity:
    1. Provide some suggestions on solving the problems mentioned in this exercise.
    2. What aspects should website designers check when they review the finished text?
    3. What are some other reasons for linguistic problems besides the aforementioned ones?
    4. Is it good or bad to use idioms or colloquialisms on websites? Justify your answer.

  2. Feedback

    1. What were your expectations of this ADE?
    2. Did this ADE meet your expectations? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
    3. Did you feel that the video(s) for this ADE was appropriate? Why or why not? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
    4. Do you have any suggestions for other possible videos?
    5. Did you feel that the questions above got you to think about the real and serious issues regarding this ADE? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
    6. If you have any suggestions on how to improve this ADE, please include it here.


References

[1] Suzanne Watzman, Visual Design Priciples for Usable Interface, The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook, Lawrence Erlbaum Association.