Re: Go for ultimate localization!

From: skaller (
Date: Fri Oct 29 1999 - 06:29:14 MET DST

Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1999 14:29:14 +1000
From: skaller <>
To: Benoit Deboursetty <>
Subject: Re: Go for ultimate localization!

Benoit Deboursetty wrote:
> At least, there is a certain consistency in C allowing only
> English characters: were I in a normalization committee, I would even
> demand, in the C norm, that a compliant source code has everything,
> identifiers and comments, in American English (you must be hoping I will
> never be given such power).

        FYI: as it happens, I _am_ in the C standardisation committee,
and the latest version of C, code named 'C9X', which has now passed
the final NB balloting, as well as C++, which is already an
Standard, permits a certain subset of ISO10646 in identifiers. All the
characters are in the first (unicode) plane.
[The actual subset is listed in Appendix E of the C++ Standard]

        However, neither permits any variations on keywords :-)

> In other words, localizing error messages, charsets is fine: also
> *localizing the parser* seems more consistent to me.

        I have no opinion on the idea of allowing _alternate_
keywords, or even syntax, more amenable to international use.
However, I would like to be 'pedantic' and object to
the word 'localisation'. I would STRONGLY object to
localising ANY aspect of the ocaml language, and this is one of my
for objecting to the current Latin-1 support.

        I advocate _internationalisation_, not localisation,
that is: all the possible characters, grammar extensions,
new keywords, or what ever, are universally available to

        On the other hand, I _would_ support localisation
of diagnostic error messages and documentation: that is,
if you speak French, you get errors in French.

> Of course, this
> raises again the issue I was speaking of in my previous post: using
> languages different from the "computer esperanto" in computer programs
> would probably block international exchanges

        I am not at all sure about that. Have you considered it
might _facilitate_ international exchange? For example, Japanese
programmer able to use Japanese extensively in a programming
language might now be free to release it internationally,
without feeling bound to 'Anglicize' it. This would make
it harder for non-Japanese speakers to understand than
Japanese speaker -- but 'harder' is better than
'impossible because the program was never publically released'.

        I personally feel embarrassed that I can't follow
dialog in French, reading this group. But that is surely
MY problem, and I am grateful so many French can read and
write MY native language (English with an Ozzie accent :)
> every French computer
> scientist sounds really suspect to a non-scientific person when he speaks
> of "strings" all the time. The same with "bit". It's also because of
> things like that, that computer people are sometimes thought of they
> can't communicate.

        Now, that cannot be the reason -- because it doesn't explain
why the same is thought of English speaking computer nerds. :-)
> [ "un string" is only an underwear in French. And there is a
> very unfortunate collision between the English word "bit" and another
> word. ]

        The mind boggles. An anecdote from the C++ Standardisation process:
when a new feature of the C++ library was being developed, which
'auxilliary' information, it was originally called 'baggage'.
The name was changed to 'traits'. I was one of the people who said that
'baggage' has unfortunate connotations in Australia (at least),
refering to a sexually promiscuous woman in derogatory masculine slang.

> Of course, such an extension won't probably be used in business as
> long as everybody speaks English at work in almost every software
> development group anyway.

        I am surprised: is this really the case in France, for example?
It is not in Japan (perhaps the language is more alien?)
> All this may be very difficult to implement, I don't know, I am
> telling things from the user's point of view.

        I do not think the difficulty of implementation is any more
than a minor issue. The major issue, surely, is, that: at least
in most programming languages, _something_ is universal, even if
the keywords tend to be derived from English. If too many
alternative ways of doing the same thing are available, we may
end up with a mish mash language (sort of like English itself

John Skaller,
1/10 Toxteth Rd Glebe NSW 2037 Australia

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