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British Localisation of Free Software

This section is part of something like a blog. To contact me or comment on this, see my email page.


Links to related projects

I try to keep my British localisation projects link page up-to-date, but I lost a few minor links last time. More importantly, the only surviving Cornish link now 404s - anyone know any replacements or additions?

Multilingual blogging is covered on another page.

English Enforcement

Is English Enforcement in free software programming a growing problem? I was surprised to see a call for all programs to be English-only [cakebaker] from a Swiss software developer. Half of the time, supposedly-English-speaking programmers use nonsensical variable names, so who cares if they mean something in another language? It may even help someone if they know that language. Not all programmers are monoglots and English- enforcement isn't healthy. I doubt speaking English will be a key factor in What Makes a Programmer? [rabble] any time soon. Even many English-first- language(1L)-speaking programmers don't use English properly, having grown up in places like the USA or England since they stopped teaching language and grammar at school. Many German-1L-speakers seem to speak USA English rather than normal English too. What's a bit more language butchery between friends?

Code without translated documentation has many problems being maintained or used anyway, whether the source documentation is English or some other language. Also, I've seen API docs written by English-as-a-second- language(2L)-speakers where they've misphrased something and it's ended up just plain wrong. With a few exceptions, documentation is a translation from code to prose and is best written by 1L-speakers in their first language, like other translations. That's not always possible, I know.

The problem may not just be free software. Apparently, English should be the only language needed for software patents [BLOG@IP::JUR], according to industry groups and some others. Patent-English is barely comprehensible to a 1L-English speaker, so I think this makes EU software patents even more unreasonable. The patenters push to give away ever less information about their processes, arguing that being understandable costs too much. In return for this violation of the spirit of patenting (public knowledge in return for protection), we should refuse to give them monopolies in new fields like software.

Internationalisation can have unforseen problems. The Elephants Dream film used an insult to label Catalan subtitles in the menu [slashdot], because the only source they used was wikipedia and it had been vandalised. They should have read The Wikipedia Hall of Shame or Doh, the humanity! Wikipedia is notoriously unreliable. Why didn't they ask the translator, I wonder?

Germash and Englitsch

My language-jumping post in English about a German advert got the entirely fair feedback of "That's the worst Germanism I've ever seen giving me the creeps!" as well as a pointer to German influence in US English.

An Uneasy Multilingualism

In the past, I have suggested that it was a mistake to make a state-based fsfe-uk mailing list instead of a language-based fsfe-en list. The discussion resulting from a call for Welsh and Irish help is a pretty sad example of some reasons why.

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This is copyright 2006 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.