Microsoft is revising the thesaurus in the Spanish language version of its Word 6.0 program because it currently offers offensive synonyms for certain groups of people, a company spokeswoman says.
Synonyms in the current version include "man-eater" and "barbarian" for "Indian"; "perverse" and "vicious" for "lesbian"; and "civilised" and cultured" for "Western".
Microsoft will offer a free new dictionary for the Spanish language word processing program within five weeks, says Renee Dunn, an international public relations specialist. The company is getting help on the project from professors at the Colegio de Mexico and a linguist in Spain, she says.
Microsoft publicly apologised last week after getting complaints from users in Spain and Mexico, she says. Apologetic ads also ran in Mexican newspapers and are expected to appear in other Latin American countries as well.
The software giant licensed the dictionary from a US-based company which it is refusing to name. That firm was following other guides when it used poor judgment in choosing certain words, according to Dunn. "The feedback we're seeing from both customers and subsidiaries throughout Latin America is that some dictionaries contain some of the same translation mistakes," she says. "They haven't been checked for political correctness and a lot of words we use in the US aren't the same as they use."
Ultimately, Microsoft is holding itself accountable, according to Dunn. "We feel really strongly that this is our responsibility," she says. "The hard part with this issue is changing terms and the use of cultural slang ... The localisation process is complex."
This is the first time Microsoft has come under fire for translations in any of its software's foreign language versions, Dunn says. However, the company made some modifications to a world map it had acquired from the United Nations and used in Windows 95 after getting complaints from India and Peru about where disputed country borders were placed, she says.