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Internationalization

2005-11-07

This afternoon's session on internationalization (or i18n, as geeks call it) was a lot of fun. The new catalog software apparently allows you to supply translations of words and phrases that will be used by people who want their library catalog to appear in Canadian French, Armenian, Chinese (simplified and traditional), etc.

I made a lot of suggestions, since I'm a linguistics geek. For example:

In English and other left-to-right writing systems, it makes sense to offer links like this:

< previous | next >

But in Arabic and Hebrew, it might make more sense for next to be on the left, since that's where the next page is.

Phrases like "You are logged in as " assume that the user's name should come at the end of the sentence. But in some languages, you can't just translate one phrase and follow it with a name, you have to embed the name into the phrase: in the name of Ben Ostrowsky are you logged in. And that's ignoring the languages in which "you are logged in" might be worded slightly differently if the user is male.

And then there were the non-linguistic suggestions like "Hey, if you give us an Export/Import function, then we can share our translations with each other without having to retype all these phrases one at a time."

The presenter said that they obviously need someone like me working for them, and said he knew of a house for sale in the vendor's hometown. I'll stay in touch with them about the idea, since we'll be moving when Jodi picks her next school. Since they already have offices all over the place, they probably would allow telecommuting, especially if my job would involve interviewing native speakers to make sure that we get things translated properly. (You don't want to translate that "Home" link as "Casa", for example. The Spanish equivalent means "main page".)

Some sort of winter-wonderland cocktail hour is starting soon. I saw them setting up Christmas trees, pastel castles, and the like inside the main ballroom. I'll go check it out to get some good pictures and use my free drink ticket. After that, I'll probably go to sleep early. There's a walking tour of Loring Park that meets at 6:30am, and if my knee's up to it, I want to see if I can find the Loring Park Micro geocache.

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