Friday 15 February 2008

Microsoft: Give me English in the Netherlands

English still matters

I have endured this for quite a while that I have now decided it is enough. I live in the Netherlands but professionally my business language is English.

Now, I know that my grasp of Dutch is not that strong having spent a good few years here but that is beside the point – correspondence that I receive concerning my private life usually arrives in Dutch which I can read and sometimes get a friend to help with the context and interpretation.

However, as many companies have their European or Global Headquarters in the Netherlands, you can have the choice of either English or Dutch as the language of correspondence in mails or emails.

They speak English

The interesting thing is a majority of the local supply companies for energy or services have staff that are multi-lingual. I have perfected my second sentence after my “Hello” greeting.

Ik spreek maar een beetje Nederlands, kan ik met Engles spreken? The quality of my Dutch is bad, can I speak in English?

Most of the time, the people are quite obliging and the business gets done, where they have not been able to raise an English voice, I have sometimes muddle through if I have a request or closed the call especially if it was one of those cold calls.

Technical speak favours English

My crusade is now on a war-path with Microsoft, a company that has a global reach beyond any other that tries to localise its content based on the country of operation and tailors its services accordingly.

However, I have worked for a good few “Dutch” companies that have plumbed for English concerning all their software. Whilst Dutch might help people understand processes, most of the technical terms are in English that technical experts seem to prefer English.

With my Microsoft Hotmail account, I have found it impossible to switch the language of communication from Dutch to English; my emails have ended up in some communication black-hole in that behemoth.

Dutch privately, English professionally

This is considering the fact that I am probably one of the rare fee-paying users of Hotmail and I have been for many years for all sorts of reasons including being able to expect a level of customer support and service.

I have endured that, but after joining the technical forum called Microsoft TechNet, I was not going to keep receiving stuff in correspondence I barely understand, this considering the fact that after the fa├žade of Dutch emails you ended up one websites that were in English.

So, I asked that I receive my correspondence in English and an email ping-pong ensued where first I was told it could not be done because the content was tailored for the Netherlands.

Let us say, if the content was tailored for Dutch-speakers that would be a valid point, but if it is for residents of the Netherlands, whilst Dutch is the predominant local language, it almost shares an equal footing with English in businesses that have an international focus.

It is a request not a complaint

I informed the responder that I would be publishing my concerns in a blog, interestingly; this request which should make business sense to any company doing business in the Netherlands has now been pushed to the complaints department within the behemoth.

Are they now going to send many other people like me who live in the Netherlands on Dutch courses or just translate the stuff and give us options on the Microsoft portal to receive correspondence in either the local language or English?

It makes you wonder how they handle Switzerland which is a country that has the option for 4 languages and where a German-speaker lives in a French-speaking area having only learnt German, Italian and English in school.

Basically, I am not impressed at all.

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