Making use of the multi-lingual name system. Bring on examples!

Started by Private User on Saturday, September 17, 2016
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Private User
9/17/2016 at 11:46 AM

It's been two years (?) since the release of multi-lingual name system, which should have resulted in major changes to our Coalitions of Naming Conventions projects. For those profiles that only need one name (in whatever language), there isn't much incentive to move the data to the correct tab (until very recently for surname-first languages). For those profiles that are truly multi-lingual, there have been some debates on the medieval tree, but things are left open. Yet many profiles that should turn multi-lingual have not seen any changes. Let me start off with three examples, all happen to be from Poland but lived elsewhere for parts of their lives.

Frédéric Chopin
Marie Curie, Nobel Prizes in Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911)
Nicolaus Copernicus, Jr.

See if you agree with the changes I made. I like to use wikipedia, where a mouse-over the language links gives a quick idea what other languages use. The most common spelling deserves to be in English (default).

Instead of proposing rules, let's focus on actual examples.

In case you haven't noticed, Hungarian language now correctly puts surname before their given names, so it will be a big incentive to start using the Hungarian tab. For example,

John von Neumann
Franz Liszt

Private User
9/17/2016 at 1:19 PM

The multi-lingual name system is useless as long as we have the bleed through "error".
If you fill in a field that is not used in other languages, like display name in one language it is used for every language and so on.

Geni solved an alphabet problem by introducing language dependent names, and even worse used the alphabet used to select which language the profile name was written in, so any cyrillic name was categorized as Russian. People kill each other for less than that being suspected to be Russian in Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine etc.

The most annoying thing is that what was default name is now English (US) without an option to remove it, which is quite insulting. I don't have an english name, and don't want it - period. In my opinion you cannot translate a name. They should have implemented alphabet variants of a name (which even could be automatized), and the only field which could be language dependent should be display name and suffix since it usually includes titles etc.

9/17/2016 at 1:57 PM

> The multi-lingual name system is useless as long as we have the bleed through "error".

Agreed. As I understand it the bleed through is intentional but it introduces an unnecessary level of complexity for getting the name fields right.

A somewhat different, but related problem, is that the name fields from the different languages don't display if they match the English (default) fields. From the standpoint of an English user, that is. I would much rather see the German names (for example) even if that's how the English fields have been filled out.

Private User
9/17/2016 at 4:03 PM

The big fault Geni did was not keeping the current values just classified as "default" and have US English as a variant you could add as other languages.

When I am receiving complaints that there are none-english text in fields like about Me that is classified as English because of this stupid decision I just move it over and leave the English about me empty end tell that I as a none-english user are not qualified to fill in the english text and dont care either.

9/17/2016 at 4:37 PM

It would be nice if Geni gave users the possibility to add their native speech to their profile. Many would use that when creating profiles. It could help to automate guessing the language a profiles about is written in. It would be nice if a script could then copy it to the guessed language if that about me was empty. It may also help a little bit with the names.
It would be nice if names could change on the timeline of a profile. That would help a bit to solve some problems.

Is there any possibility to make the naming conventions better now we have multi- language support (with the above stated problems)?

9/17/2016 at 4:54 PM

> Is there any possibility to make the naming conventions better now we have multi- language support (with the above stated problems)?

The conventions we have now were created almost miraculously by a small group of very motivated people. I think it will take a similar effort to take them to the next step.

9/17/2016 at 5:22 PM

re: "About" copying ... Doesn't it do that now? I recently added a language to a profile which only had Cyrillic in the English 'About' (no other language tabs prior to adding a 2nd one), and the new language's "About" had a copy of the Cyrillic text. I then replaced an English translation into the English 'tab' of the About.

Private User
9/17/2016 at 5:25 PM

> the name fields from the different languages don't display if they match the English (default) fields.

I observed that with Chopin, where I also added his name under French.

A script based system would be enticing, but what we have now works pretty well with the examples I gave. Marie Curie used to be listed as Maria, with Marie only in AKA. If you think these are only a minority of notables, how would you solve the Hungarian name problem?

I agree that display name bleed through needs to be stopped. A blank display name does NOT mean data is missing.

9/18/2016 at 3:20 AM
Private User
9/19/2016 at 8:55 AM

I was quite close to the two year mark :)

Christopher Columbus
Ferdinand Magellan, Navigator
Napoléon I, emperor of the French

(By tagging I hope their followers can see this thread.)

Private User
9/21/2016 at 9:26 PM

Bleed through of display name seems to have stopped, however I wanted to reproduce it.

9/22/2016 at 8:25 AM

Mike Stangel re: display name ... real change, or a temporary 'behavior anomaly'?

9/23/2016 at 3:48 PM

I agree with Private User.

I agree with Justin Swanstrom.

I agree with Job Waterreus.

English as default is grotesque. We should be the one who set what is the default (or native) language for a profile. This should also be reflected with the About Me.

9/23/2016 at 3:57 PM

i use the multilingual fields as follows.

English Name: Baldwin
English Display name: Baldwin V, count of Flanders

Dutch name: Boudewijn
Dutch Display name: Boudewijn V, graaf van Vlaanderen

French name Baudouin
French display name: Baudouin V, comte de Flandre

whats needed to improve multilingual naming is when you name lock a profile it should only lock it for the one language so you can still add more language afterwards

9/23/2016 at 4:16 PM

Jason, that's also what I do. Very slow going, though. I do one once in a while, but I wish there were an easier way to shift names among languages. Also, in a perfect world, to see all the different names at once in edit mode.

9/23/2016 at 5:03 PM

The core of the multi-lingual name system is that it plays into the users feelings of nationalism, and a lot of users with non-english national/native language are emptying the English (default) nametab just because it is called "default". I do that to, since I do not like the notion of an English default nametab to persons that didn't set their foot on English-speaking soil, and most probably never even heard the English language spoken.

If the person hasn't lived in any other country than the one they were born in, most usually that is Norway in my area of work, then the English (default) nametab will be emptied and only the Norwegian nametab will be used, since in my opinion the default nametab should belong to the country where they lived their Whole life.

If they were born in one country and later emigrated, then their default name should be the one they were born wih (since name at birth is primary names in our genealogy) and here the Geni naming system is not doing a good job, since the names the immigrants used are secondary to the name they were born with, and the label is not showing which language is the correct default name.

9/24/2016 at 2:44 AM

It would be nice if a user should specify the default language in the user settings. If that value was available to other users it would also help in contacting other users. It would also help if the user could specify what other languages could be used for contacting him or her. Now you have to guess what language to use.

That default language setting could also be used for the default profile language for profiles the user creates. But on the profile it would be best not to label any tab as default. The tab should just show the language the description is in.

Problem would be the existing profiles. May be those that have only a default tab could have that content copied to other tabs if the managers have other default languages. Probably it would be best to do this only when a manager wants to edit a profile.

Knowing the default language/ other languages a user can use would be nice for projects as well. It could also help to give a user a more specific welcome mail (like who the curators are for that language, what the naming conventions are and where to find help in that language)

Private User
9/24/2016 at 4:20 AM

My point is that a name is the same in all languages, it is only when you want to include titles and use different alphabets there is a need for "translations".

The default field should therefore just be labelled default.

Name variants/periods when name is used should be covered by multiple complete names with a classification etc.

9/24/2016 at 5:09 AM


That may depend a bit on the way you look at it
If someone is born in a multi-language region, there could be some problem. Also if there is no written language for that region in that period or if that region no is divided in multiple countries with different languages and it not proven which language was used in the period the person was born.
I think me agree that the current fields have some limitations.

May be we should try and see what we can do with the current system?

9/24/2016 at 7:25 AM

> That may depend a bit on the way you look at it

Agreed. There is also a dimension of time. It is simple if you are working with European nation states in the last few hundred years but not so simple before that.

An easy way for many of us to see that is England after the Norman Conquest. The nobles spoke Norman French and the peasants spoke Anglo-Saxon. Very often we don't have actual records that give their names in either language because all we have is one or two documents in Latin. (And you can't just copy Latin names. You have to adjust the accusative and genitive cases to nominative case.)

We could multiply the examples -- Old Norse in Scandinavia, Catalan in parts of France and Spain, And bi-lingual areas like German and French in Alsace, Scots Gaelic and English in the Scottish Lowlands. On and on.

9/25/2016 at 7:14 AM

The way I go about this is to go through this simple mind exercise : If the profile were to suddenly appear alive today, which name would he/she recognized as his/her? Therefore, based on the evidence available and what is known or generally accepted about the profile, I pick a name.

I do the same thing, at the same time, for various spellings, e.g. "Costé" vs. "Côté".

If there are different managers with different opinions, we discuss. At the end we have to pick one format and we explain why that one was selected in the discussion. Then all the other variations go in other languages and aka field.

English being "Defaut" at the moment screws things up. "Default" shouldn't be "Default", it should be "Primary". And we should be able to associate a language to "Primary" when applicable. Like "Charles de Gaulle" is prime, and it happens to be French. In the profile edit mode, we should be able to see, at minimum, two tabs: "Prime" and "Français" with Charles de Gaulle.

Like "Julius Caesar" is English, and "Caius Iulius Caesar" is both Prime and Latina.

9/25/2016 at 7:26 AM

In addition, this method can account for profiles who had peculiar ways to spell their names. For example, there is a "Lesportes" (correct French spelling) who signed his documents as "LesPortes" (which is technically, a typo in French, French language does not generally accept uppercase in the middle of a word).

Therefore, Primary tab would show "LesPortes" and the French tab "Lesportes". This is a more elegant and accurate way to show the data, better than using the aka field.

9/25/2016 at 10:16 AM

Does anyone know how searching and matching works with multiple languages?
Are language fields also used to match other language fields?
Certainly the default language used on a profile is not always English and should be matched against other name fields.

9/25/2016 at 10:45 AM

Morel, I like your idea of how names should work much better than any of the other suggestions I've heard.

9/26/2016 at 8:59 AM

+1 ... and the "initial Primary" language could be the current language of the user -- with (as Morel espouses) the ability to change the "Primary language" (a.k.a. the primary alphabet/character-set).

9/26/2016 at 12:48 PM

Private User and Dan Cornett can you please post an example (or create one) of the display-name bleed-through problem?

Private User
9/27/2016 at 7:37 PM

Maybe this should be a new thread, or it has come up in discussion before. I've been thinking if we could incorporate some of the "regional/national" naming conventions into the field labels (requiring some action on part of Geni). Let me explain:

Take the Scandinavian convention, which says put the patronymic in the middle name field. If we could label the middle name field under Norwegian (or Swedish or Danish) tab as "patronymic" instead (and have translators in other languages translate that term), wouldn't it be better for new users, who may never run into this project or geni wiki? It's important that the English tab remains as it is. Right now if I translate "middle name" to something else, all the tabs would be affected.

Well, patronymic going to middle name field may seem obvious. What if we could do the same for Spanish names, label the "last name" field under Spanish tab simply as "surnames" (plural), and the Spanish translator goes and translates it so it's clear to Spanish-speaking users that both paternal and maternal surnames should go there. (Maybe it's already translated this way.)

Putting aside Bjorn's and morel's proposals, as well as the trouble of moving existing data over, wouldn't this be an easy way to get the basic naming conventions out to the users? Of course it doesn't address all the naming conventions, with their regional and temporal variations. Another problem is that the name preference setting controls all languages, so it may be confusing to users.

9/27/2016 at 8:05 PM

I tried to think along the same lines but didn't get very far. One of the problems I see is there is already something of a struggle between Scandinavian users and American users with Scandinavian ancestry. If the Scandinavian tabs said "patronymic" and the English tab continued to say "middle name", it would be potentially more confusing because each side would be thinking that the other side is obviously wrong.

Maybe that's not a major concern, because we could continue to explain to Americans that it's better to use the middle name field for patronymics (if there is another surname) just because the Scandinavians prefer it. But...

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