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Thread: WebAIM-Forum Digest, Vol 157, Issue 25


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From: Pyatt, Elizabeth J
Date: Thu, Apr 26 2018 8:23AM
Subject: WebAIM-Forum Digest, Vol 157, Issue 25
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There may be some testing required, but here are some comments on the questions .

Hope they make sense.

> On Apr 25, 2018, at 2:00 PM, = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = wrote:
> From: "Karlen Communications" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
> Subject: Re: [WebAIM] PDF forms Languages and Accessibility
> Date: April 24, 2018 at 3:17:39 PM EDT
> To: "'WebAIM Discussion List'" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >

To expand on Karen's point, if your document is English you can tag it as just "English" and not "English-US" or "English-US". However, I would recommend providing some sort of tag for the Document level, especially if your audience contains non-English speakers.

For instance if a person is normally listening to French, using the French speech engine to read English would be like listening to the cartoon character Pepe Le Pew reading the news. It's very extreme.

Note that many bilinguals may be used to hearing their language being read in a cheesy American/British accent, but it's really not ideal.

Finally, it should be note that some "dialects" in different languages are really very far apart. For instance Adobe Acrobat has a language option "Brazilian" for Brazilian Portuguese (pt-BR) which is a good global standard. However, if a separate document is needed for Portugal, the forms might be different enough to require the separate tag pt-PR.

> The language of a PDF should be generic like English, French, Spanish and not localized. This lets the person who does use a localized speech synthesizer keep listening to the document in the language/pronunciations they are used to and not forcing them to listen to the document in a different localized language. For example, I use a UK English voice. It takes me two or three pages of a document with American pronunciations to understand what I'm reading. By using "English" as the language of the PDF, my speech synthesizer choice is respected. It is the same if the document is multilingual. Use the generic French or Spanish and this lets people use the localized speech synthesizer they are used to hearing.
> Cheers, Karen
> Question 1) Which code should they enter into the language field, 639-2 or 639-1? If 639-2 is it B (Bibliographic) or T (Terminology)?

It looks like Adobe Acrobat is giving you options for the major languages so I would use that for now. However, you may need to manually enter in some codes for other languages

Per WCAG (and also per Karen), language tagging for HTML is "keep your language tag as short as possible. "

That is, if a two-letter ISO-639 code exists (as it does for most major world languages), use that version. If a language does not have a two-letter code then then a 3-letter code from ISO-639-2 or ISO-639-3

I will assume that screen readers will follow this rule although there could be exceptions depending on the technology.


To take specific examples, languages like Arabic (ar) and Hindi (hi) would use two letter codes. But some others minority languages may only have a 3-letter code so that would be the one used.

> Question 2) For Chinese, the list does not show Mandarin or Cantonese.
> Should they just use the code "zh"?

That may need to be tested. Unfortunately, the history of Chinese language tagging is complex


In Mandarin there are two scripts in use - Simplified vs. Traditional. The Simplified script is used in Mainland China and the Traditional script is used in Taiwan so it's worth checking which script you need.

And then you can see how the screen readers handle them. It's possible that they can recognize the different types of characters and adjust accordingly…or not.

The W3C recommends zh-Hans (Simplified) vs. zh-Hant (Traditional), but in earlier times, codes like zh-CN and zh-TW were used.

As for Cantonese, if you are creating a separate document for Hong Kong or the Cantonese speaking populations, there are multiple tags for Cantonese including the older zh-HK and the newer zh-yue. You may need to determine which one works.


The screen reader would definitely need a separate Cantonese speech engine installed. However, many educated people in Hong Kong may also be using the Mandarin engine also.

I'm sorry I don't have more specifics.

> Sara Willhite
> Analyst

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
Accessibility IT Consultant
Teaching and Learning with Technology
Penn State University
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