Little squares, boxes, lines, and funky symbols are often found in blog comments. A friend new to blogging called me about these wanting to know if her blog had been hacked or her computer had a virus. “It looks like alien writing from Star Trek!”
Those strange symbols and characters in your blog comments are foreign language letters that your browser cannot interpret. It doesn’t recognize the language. It is not a problem with WordPress or whatever blogging program you are using. Your browser isn’t translating the characters into their appropriate letters.
Think of it this way. Your web browser comes with a default language. In my case, FireFox comes with English built-in. It recognizes English letters and displays them on the screen for me to read. Because English is one of the romantic languages, using letters similar to French, Italian, Spanish, German and other similar languages, those languages are readable from within my browser.
To add more languages, which would convert those funky characters and symbols into something readable, you must install the different language character sets, called character encoding or HTML character entities, for those languages.
- In FireFox, you can add languages via Tools > Options > Content > Languages.
- In Internet Explorer, look under Tools > General > Appearance > Languages.
- In Opera, look under Tools > Preferences > General > Details.
- In Safari, through Apple Menu > System Preferences > International.
Should You Add More Foreign Languages?
Do you really want to add foreign languages you cannot read to your computer or web browser? While most modern computers can handle extra loads on the memory, older computers can’t. Why add language character sets if you can’t read them?
You can translate them using Google Translate or another online machine translation program to figure out what they said, but these are limited to only a few languages and may not include Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Arabic, and other language characters. Online machine translations for many of these languages are still in development for free access.
You can delete the comments, though those who have those languages enabled in their browsers will be able to read the comments, so I recommend you leave them – unless you are sure they are comment spam. Comment spammers use foreign languages to fool you into thinking these are legitimate comments. The URL that accompanies the blog comment, if one is present, usually gives you a clue as to whether or not the comment is spam. If it is, mark it as spam. If in doubt, delete it. Otherwise, leave it.
No, your blog comments have not been hacked and your computer probably does not have a virus. And no, these aren’t languages from Star Trek. They are just a machine interpretation limitation. Maybe someday we won’t have to add languages to our computer or browser in order to see their character sets. Maybe someday, instantaneous translations will be built into our browsers so we will be able to read any blog in any language in our own language, opening the world up to new life, new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
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