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Ask Slashdot: Do Most Programmers Understand the English Language?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the only-if-they've-called-the-right-libraries dept.

Firefox 330

Shadoefax writes "I have been developing Firefox add-ons for several years and all so far submitted to AMO have been translated (localized) into several different languages. My latest add-on is geared more to the web developer as opposed to the average web browsing user. (It is a utility for examining JavaScript Objects and their methods and properties.) By my reckoning, I believe JavaScript, HTML, CSS and the DOM are all pretty much designed to be easily understood by English language readers. My question is this: Can I assume that most programmers understand the English language well enough that I may forego localizing the UI? While this will save time, effort and bloat, it may also restrict the usage of (what I hope) is a useful tool for developers."Reader Cenan provides an interesting response from the perspective of a developer for whom English is not a first language:

"I am a developer, and happen to speak english as a second language. As much as I find it's helpful to my users to have the program's text information presented to the user in their native tongue, I really hate it if the tools I use speak to me in my native language.

Some vital parts of exceptions tend to get mangled when being translated, and you can't search for relevant information regarding whatever obscure failure you're experiencing unless you translate it back. And Google Translate doesn't do very well with technical terms.

It is especially unhelpful when the exception has been re-thrown from somewhere deep down, and is being presented with some parts translated, some parts not (I'm looking at YOU Microsoft; "Was this exception text helpful to you?" ( ) No ( ) No (x) Hell No!)"


Reader tlambert recommends such a tool only if it doesn't have end-user exposure:

Google translate will do the job well enough for non-English speakers, and almost every programmer is an English speaker in any case - or used to Google translations of CS technical papers, in any case.

If there's actually UI being exposed to an end user rather than a program, then of course there should be some way to localize the end user exposed content, although you should expect that most users won't end up using it, and will opt for English instead, unless it's for data input for text data for storage and retrieval.

For better or for worse, the primary language for IT is English. I generally think it's for the better, since there are concepts that the English language is better suited to representing, either natively, or with coined words/terms/phrases and/or "borrow words". For the last, French is probably the worst language, since they have "language police" whose sole reason for existing is to prevent "borrow words" entering the French language and "contaminating" it. The next most comparable language for "purity" is Japanese, which was represented by Matsumata Ohta when he attempted to prevent the C-J-K unification of the Unicode standard, and eventually got his way by pushing another Unicode code page so that you could, for example, grep -v the Chinese text out of a Chinese textbook on Japanese poetry. Double the storage size for a wchar_t, just so that they could keep the languages distinct in both encoding and rendering, rather than just in rendering.


Reader dejanc responds with an analogy:

"Being a programmer and not understanding English is like being a historian writing papers on the Roman Empire and not knowing Latin. There is a lot of programmers out there who don't understand English or are not comfortable with it, but as a rule, they are not that good.

You have to learn our profession somehow. Yeah, you can learn C or Java from a book written in your native language, but most APIs out there are documented only in English. If you don't speak English, then your resources are severely limited.

That being said, if you can do localization, do it. Localization is usually very easy and doesn't require much bloat. You can have volunteers do the actual translation, you just need to get the strings ready, so it shouldn't be more than a couple of hours of your time.

Some talented programmers are just not talented for learning languages, or prefer to have UI in their own language. They are the ones who Google Translate documentation online, so you'll be doing them a favor."

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330 comments

The standards are published in English (4, Informative)

cait56 (677299) | about a year ago | (#42834133)

All of the protocols that web programming depend upon are published in English. So presuming the ability to read written English is reasonable.
If you collaborating with non-native English speakers, although, you should be careful to not assume that the ability to read or even write English guarantees that they will be comfortable discussing ideas orally in English.

Re:The standards are published in English (4, Insightful)

vidnet (580068) | about a year ago | (#42834401)

You're assuming that the majority of web programmer reads RFCs and the HTML5 spec.

It's not unreasonable to think some people in less anglocentric parts just know tag names as character sequences rather than words (and science backs up the fact that arbitrary character strings works as commands when you're used to them).

Even if they do know the meanings of every word used in HTML/CSS markup, they still might have no idea how to conjugate "to be", much less read english prose.

Re:The standards are published in English (5, Informative)

MisterBuggie (924728) | about a year ago | (#42834497)

As a French speaker, I can guarantee that most programmers here understand little more than the basic programming terms.

Most of the specs have been translated into French, so that's not a problem.

Re:The standards are published in English (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#42834567)

And that works out fine as long as you don't need the ones that aren't and aren't worried about what gets lost in translation.

And as long as you don't care about being limited to mostly just French speaking programmers.

Re:The standards are published in English (2, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#42834887)

I dunno about the programmers.

But as far as the 'support' people...no, the majority are NOT English speakers, even if they do claim their name is "Kevin".

Re:The standards are published in English (2, Interesting)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about a year ago | (#42835247)

Neverless, you should always show respect to non-English speaking people and not be condescendant toward them like a comment in the body of the original post where a guy says programmers who do not speak English are not that good. Wow! What a asshole! I always appreciate a GUI and messages translated in my mother tongue when available and I consider this should be encouraged as much as possible. It's not that difficult to show respect to others.

Re:The standards are published in English (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#42834633)

It's probably worth, if nothing else, considering it as a matter of good practice.

The submitter is under no obligation to provide multiple localizations(which can be an arduous and nontrivial task, combining the thrill of tech writing with the skills of a translator); but building an application such that somebody providing a localization for it involves major surgery is pretty...retro.

Re:The standards are published in English (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#42834645)

I've heard anecdotes [c2.com] that speakers of some languages (e.g. French) actually prefer programming languages written in English, because (a) the more regular grammar results in more predictable/compact function/keyword names, and (b) more transparent syntax... or at least a foreign language that abstracts away all of the questions about how to decline the verb in a function name.

For many languages, something as obtuse as Perligata [monash.edu.au] would be required to generate a coherent mapping to their native tongue; with English, native speakers simply accept the broken grammar and move on, and non-native speakers just treat the grammar as a black box, like an English speaker regards the Italian terms embedded in music notation.

Re:The standards are published in English (1)

MisterBuggie (924728) | about a year ago | (#42834731)

Yes, even when they can't speak more than 2 words in English, the French prefer to use English programming languages. Part of it is because of syntax problems, part is peer pressure. Only a noob needs a French programming language.

Re:The standards are published in English (3, Interesting)

e70838 (976799) | about a year ago | (#42834461)

I fully second this. When I was 18, I was reading complex technical documentation in english but was completely unable to have an oral discussion, even writing english was very difficult. Now, I work regularly with foreign people (in english). I still find discussing ideas in english a lot more painful than in my native language.

Concerning translation of development tools, I prefer to have the tools in english, but I know people who really prefer to have them in their native language.

Re:The standards are published in English (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42834687)

I still find discussing ideas in english a lot more painful than in my native language.

That (the curse of L2 competency) is to be expected in virtually all cases of starting learning a language past the age of, say, five or so.

Re:The standards are published in English (5, Funny)

Abstrackt (609015) | about a year ago | (#42835197)

I still find discussing ideas in english a lot more painful than in my native language.

My native language is English and I find discussing ideas with my coworkers and boss painful too.

Re:The standards are published in English (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#42834493)

English is the main language of commerce.
Those who speak their local language and no English tend (The word tend means the masses lean in that way, their are exceptions a lot of them) to be rather uneducated. Now these people are not necessarily going to be using programming tools too often.

That isn't to say if you make your program for that language as well they wouldn't like it better as it is using the language they are more familiar with but I doubt you will see a big shift in usage.

Re:The standards are published in English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834545)

If you collaborating with non-native English speakers, although, you should be careful to not assume that the ability to read or even write English guarantees that they will be comfortable discussing ideas orally in English.

This. Especially when having to deal with outsourced programmers from India or China. Most of the headaches from using these programmers aren't their lack of skill (which is still part of the problem), rather it's their misinterpretation of the requirements or how the function works.

Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834149)

You don't have to be multi-lingual to help people that are going to translate/convert your stuff.

I use internationalized strings in my code so someone can come along later and make a Russian version without being any kind of programmer at all. It's a bit of a hassle and makes things a little harder to read, but I think it's worth it. So if you keep an eye toward, "what would it take for a native speaker to translate this," then you are doing enough. Button labels can be done this way with a bit more work. If you release it, and all the people commenting on how cool it is are speaking in Russian, then find the person who did the first translation and ask them to help with your next version. Odds are they'll be flattered to be included, and might have some UI ideas (from a non-English speaking perspective) that actually enhance your add-on.

Being clear and logical in the language that I do speak is probably more valuable to foreign-born users than any pidgeon-version of their elegant languages that I would be capable of pasting into my code anyway.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42834535)

Man, am I about to save you some time: http://support.shopify.com/customer/portal/articles/75326-how-do-i-add-google-translate-to-my-website- [shopify.com] . Embed it, and create your page to work with it & let google handle the translation for you.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42834767)

Embed it, and create your page to work with it & let google handle the translation for you.

Google Translate is better than nothing, and much better than it was a few years ago, but is still no where near the level of a human translator. Go to a website written in Russian or Chinese, and translate it into English. You will likely be able to get the gist of it, but the grammar will be atrocious, and there will be some glaring (and often hilarious) errors.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42834941)

Yep, as far as international goes, you want to create websites in languages that draw you the most business, so http://www.playonline.com/ [playonline.com] comes to mind, pick a set language to view the site, those are all different websites, but http://www.aahrpp.org/ [aahrpp.org] uses google translate. It's a matter of resources and budget, as well as need. If you don't have any Chinese customers, you'd be throwing money in a hole by making a Chinese site. Embedding google translate hasn't hurt anybody though, outside of the 1 sec load time :)

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year ago | (#42835043)

Google Translate is great for general knowledge, informational websites like wikipedia, Sally's blog about her puppy, or whatever. I use it all the time, and helps me make sense of the large Russian portion of Livejournal.
 
But Google Translate is completely useless when it comes to navigating foreign travel sites. It just completely fails at understanding a website with time tables and ticket prices, different classes of seats etc. I've tried many times and failed many times to buy bus or airplane tickets in Spanish from multiple carriers in many countries.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year ago | (#42834999)

Google Translate can hopefully let someone glean the basic sense of some text, but its output is nowhere close to being easy to read. And as for grammatical correctness... oy vey.

It makes a non-terrible job of translating into English, but for example when translating into Polish, it tends to produce sentences akin to those in caveman jokes: "Ugh be strong use computer". It's about that bad.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (4, Insightful)

V for Vendetta (1204898) | about a year ago | (#42834641)

Odds are they'll be flattered to be included, and might have some UI ideas (from a non-English speaking perspective) that actually enhance your add-on.

As a native German speaker, let me share a universal UI idea with you, if you even see a remote chance of having your software internationalized: leave enough room on all your controls so that translated text fits nicely in it. A very simple example: English: "Cancel". German: "Abbrechen". Where "Cancel" fits nicely, "Abbrechen" will be cut off, forcefully word-wrapped or whatever.

That said and to answer the OP's question: I'd assume enough knowledge of the English language from programmers. If you try to label your add-on with not too sophisticated English, it should be accessable enough for the vast majority of programmers.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834997)

Fine. You provide a list of all the words in all the languages, and we'll leave enough room for them.

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42835061)

It's kind of funny going the other way though. (Not necessarily from German. Usually stuff that originates in Asia is worse than anything from Europe.) Some programming projects out there you'll see a seemingly long phrase or sentence to describe what something in a program does. If they would just bother to have somebody that actually spoke English look at it, the thing could be described in just one or two words. (So instead of something like "increase volume" on a button's tool-tip, you might have "this makes the volume go up more louder". Of course that seems clumsy and awkward to somebody who normally speaks English.)

If you want your program to be taken seriously while being available internationally, make sure to fix the Engrish. (Ditto going the other way too. Making good use of customer or user feedback certainly helps if you don't have any other help in this regard.)

Re:Pay the penalty where it is cheap. (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#42835217)

Not always possible. I once has a string that said "double". It was translated into about 20 languages just fine- until it went to polish where the string from the translater was a 16 character long word. There wasn't enough room on the control, or even in the control's parent to make it fit. We ended up rebasing just that language to use "2" instead of double. Always leave some extra room, but understand that we can't work miracles, and that translaters can't use completely different terms guessing what we need for a string (they don't know how its used in the app).

Subject-verb agreement (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#42834769)

So if you keep an eye toward, "what would it take for a native speaker to translate this," then you are doing enough.

So what are best practices when names of objects in your interface have to be declined as nouns or conjugated as verbs?

NO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834157)

If we do, we would've put in comments.

No (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#42834171)

Or perhaps more accurately, no, or at least not fluently.

You might be able to presume that a majority of programmers have encountered english before, and may have a very basic understanding of it. But that's a far cry from having a practical and functional understanding of it.

Do programmers undertand English? (4, Funny)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year ago | (#42834173)

IMHO, after trying to manage a number of software projects in the 70's, 80's and 90's, no.

No and it was my 1st spoken language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42835133)

English still doesn't make sense to me - I understand English reasonably well but do I "understand" English? Nope. It may or may not be better than other languages but it is not that great of a language. I do realize that my complaints would never be resolved in a perfectly constructed language because human languages get warped and altered over time (for good or for bad... but if it was perfect, then any change would be bad.)

My 1st written language was BASIC.
Exceptions are the modern GOTO.

Developpers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834181)

...Are the most acculturated population I know of. You can safely assume they speak English, at least on a basic functional level.

Cover at least the major ones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834189)

If possible, I would highly recommend covering Russian, Simplified Chinese, and possibly also German and Swedish. Maybe try to get someone else to do it though. Anything beyond those I think would hardly be worthwhile.

Yes, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834191)

.. it is still nice to have localized documentation, like in a wiki. For many people, it is easier if they can specific (for example scientific) literature in their native language.

On the other hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834211)

I by myself wouldn't bother for a small one-man project.

call me selfish (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about a year ago | (#42834213)

but I usually ignore whatever is not in english language. I always tell people that it doesn't make sense to write papers (or software) in polish language because only a minuscule part of world population uses it.

Re:call me selfish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834699)

You're trolling, but I'll bite.

You're selfish.

By your logic, Chinese or even Spanish would be a better choice than English:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers

From a purely practical standpoint it doesn't make very much sense to expect people to author something nontrivial in a language they aren't fluent in. It makes far more sense for the paper to be written in a language in which the author can effectively communicate their ideas. It can then be translated by someone who is good at translating into another language for a broader audience if need be. Just because a smart person doesn't speak English fluently does not mean they don't have ideas worth communicating. That's ridiculous.

Re:call me selfish (2)

Yakasha (42321) | about a year ago | (#42834963)

You're trolling, but I'll bite.

You're selfish.

By your logic, Chinese or even Spanish would be a better choice than English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers [wikipedia.org]

From a purely practical standpoint it doesn't make very much sense to expect people to author something nontrivial in a language they aren't fluent in. It makes far more sense for the paper to be written in a language in which the author can effectively communicate their ideas. It can then be translated by someone who is good at translating into another language for a broader audience if need be. Just because a smart person doesn't speak English fluently does not mean they don't have ideas worth communicating. That's ridiculous.

He's not trolling, that is just the way things are. While there are more Chinese or Spanish native speakers, there are more English speakers in total. Why? Because when people get to school their first choice of a second language is English.

Just delete "native" from your wiki search and read that article.

I speak very good English (3)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about a year ago | (#42834217)

I speak very good English. I learned it from a man page.
Credits partly to John Cleese.

Re:I speak very good English (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42834555)

I speak very good English. I learned it from a man page.

If you're a foreigner, chance are that you no speak English very well [youtube.com] anyway!

Re:I speak very good English (1)

guantamanera (751262) | about a year ago | (#42835083)

From experience. [youtu.be] I have noticed that anglophones, specially the ones in USA choose not to understand if the accent differs. And if they understad you then they might mock your accent. My coworker claims he can't understand black peoples english and needs subtitles when watching a movie with black actors.

What is this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834227)

Stupid fucking question Friday?

Just gave a talk in China in English (1)

adisakp (705706) | about a year ago | (#42834229)

If you're dealing with developers with a formal college education, they have a pretty high chance of understanding English. I just gave an English talk to developers in China Runtime CPU Performance Spike Detection Using Manual and Automated Compiler Instrumentation [gdcchina.com] and while there was a translator (you could get headphones), most of the attendees chose to listen to the talk in English.

You may consider making localizable strings for the UI contained in an INI or other file though and be able to check if a local file with the country extension exists. If you have enough users for the product and make localization easy, you'll find a volunteer to do the work for you.

Let your customers dictate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834231)

I would wait, and if enough people express interest in another language (or languages), then work on translating. No need to translate it to a given language if no one in that language is using it.

Yep, this is the right place to ask... (4, Insightful)

SolitaryMan (538416) | about a year ago | (#42834239)

You should've made it a Slashdot poll for accurate results.

Re:Yep, this is the right place to ask... (2)

olip85 (1770514) | about a year ago | (#42835121)

I have noticed that since Slashdot has been bought by Dice the Slashdot polls seem to be aimed at gathering information for commercial purposes.

Read Slashdot ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834245)

Keep reading Slashdot, and decide for yourself.

My impression is an overwhelming 'no'.

Is it really that hard? (2)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about a year ago | (#42834247)

How hard is it to store all the UI strings in an editable file? Wouldn't that also make your life easier if you decided to tweak the English version?

As for your code being hard to read, name the strings after their English content: $UI_Text_File_Menu_Save

Re:Is it really that hard? (1)

godrik (1287354) | about a year ago | (#42834543)

Part of it is static strings, but some other things might require more complex processing. The internationalization features of android are quite large and definitely more complicated than switching strings.

Though as a first cut, that's probably good enough.

Re:Is it really that hard? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834617)

How hard is it to store all the UI strings in an editable file?

It can be very hard. You have to take into account differing widths of translations so they don't get clipped. You should also consider left-to-right vs right-to-left in the whole UI layout (buttons, tabs, panels etc).

What's more is the grammar. Words are inflected, word order is different in different languages, idiomatic expressions might be hard to come by.

Consider this, for example: Finnish does not have a direct translations for "yes" and "no;" instead, you use verbs. So, the dialog "Close file? Yes - No," should appear analogously to: "Shall the file be closed? Shall - Shan't" On the other hand, the dialog "Allow file to execute? Yes - No," should be expressed like this: "May the file run? May - Mayn't."

Yes/No dialogs (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#42834849)

Finnish does not have a direct translations for "yes" and "no;"

You're not supposed to use yes/no dialogs anyway. For example: "Shall the file be closed? Close - Cancel" or "May the file run? Run - Cancel". Or does the button phrasing practice [gnome.org] apply only to English?

Re:Yes/No dialogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42835149)

I don't disagree (although your principle isn't followed everywhere); I was just trying to illustrate the difficulties of translation.

Another grammatical example might be the string: "Found [1701] matching words in [English]," where the count and the language name are variable. You might have a list of languages readily translated into Finnish: "English-englanti," "Finnish-suomi" etc. However, the phrase "in English" is "englanniksi" and "in Finnish" is "suomeksi." Moreover, in Finnish, adverbials normally don't modify nominal expressions so you'll have to render it with the analogous adjective instead: "Löytyi [1701] hakuehdon täyttävää [englanninkielistä] sanaa."

Definite yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834269)

Yes, being able to survive as a programmer at least in part depends on ones proper understanding of the english language.

Localized comment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834287)

I bet if you analyse any ageing programme you are likely to find a tonne of words spelt differntly. Most programmers realise localization is a grey area for every organisation. Now If you don't mind, i need to get into my favourite aluminium pyjamas and go eat some yoghurt.

Read the comments on Slashdot... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834295)

And it becomes pretty clear that most programmers have almost no command of English.

Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834323)

Not living in an English speaking country (Spain), I can tell you that here nearly nobody knows English. Maybe, younger people know a bit more but at the university 18 year old guys are frigging afraid of it.

As I work on the games industry I'm already used to do multi-language stuff, and I can assure you it's not going to slow your plug-in. Just create a "text manager" class and ask it for MENU_FILE_TEXT instead of hardcoding the string.

All that said, IMHO, not learning English in the Internet age is absurd, and if you and others punish lazy people with English only stuff, I'm fine with it :-)

Language traitor! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834445)

You are perpetuating English privilege!

Based on Experience (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834351)

Based on my experience reading documents, code comments, and emails written by American programmers: no, they do not understand the English language at all.

Headline Fail (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about a year ago | (#42834369)

Should be: English, programmer! do you speak it?

Not always a good idea for developer tools (5, Informative)

Cenan (1892902) | about a year ago | (#42834381)

I am a developer, and happen to speak english as a second language. As much as I find it's helpful to my users to have the program's text information presented to the user in their native tongue, I really hate it if the tools I use speak to me in my native language.

Some vital parts of exceptions tend to get mangled when being translated, and you can't search for relevant information regarding whatever obscure failure you're experiencing unless you translate it back. And Google Translate doesn't do very well with technical terms.

It is especially unhelpful when the exception has been re-thrown from somewhere deep down, and is being presented with some parts translated, some parts not (I'm looking at YOU Microsoft; "Was this exception text helpful to you?" ( ) No ( ) No (x) Hell No!)

Re:Not always a good idea for developer tools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834581)

I have the exact same issues.

But there's a tiny little twist that needs mentioning. No matter how good your understanding of the language is, there is always a matter of background, whether cultural or social, small influences that completely change the context or confuse anyone who isn't a native speaker. I can't think of any examples at the moment, because they're minor annoyances, but on a grander scale, you can see this in all kinds of technical books, one particular book about django springs to mind.

Re:Not always a good idea for developer tools (1)

MisterBuggie (924728) | about a year ago | (#42834651)

I agree with you. The translations are often difficult to understand, and on the more technical parts can end up completely contradicting the English original. Being able to access the English version is essential, but only if your English is good enough. Some coutries have a good enough general level in English that programmers don't have much trouble. But in a lot of countries, programmers, like most people would have trouble even ordering a drink. Including France, where programmers have had English lessons at school for at least 7 years.

Re:Not always a good idea for developer tools (1)

AlfaMike (1902786) | about a year ago | (#42834667)

I particularly hate when Google identifies my country and redirects me to the local version. It prioritizes results in my native language and for technical searches it is incredibly annoying because the best material is always in English.

Re:Not always a good idea for developer tools (2, Funny)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | about a year ago | (#42834883)

Real exception message on Spanish localized Windows:

La memoria no pudo ser "written"

What?

No (1)

jlechem (613317) | about a year ago | (#42834405)

After working for various companies, if they're a US only company sure. But anything with a remote chance of having non US/English speakers is doubtful. I am currently working on code chock full of Japanese comments and variable names. It's a huge freaking PITA. And I'm sure they hate it when I add English comments and variable names to their pristine Japanese code.

Let demand drive the translation (2)

Jason Gleim (2836481) | about a year ago | (#42834425)

If you review any of the conversations over on Code Project I think the answer is a resounding 'no'... most programmers don't understand English... or at least fail to use it properly even if it is their native tongue. But I digress... Why don't you let demand drive your decision? Architect the tool such that localization is possible and wait for demand to dictate if/when you go through the hassle of translation.

Not as big a hit as you'd expect (1)

NitWit005 (1717412) | about a year ago | (#42834453)

If they're programmers, they'll get the idea. Pick up a Japanese or Korean programming book and see if you get the idea. You probably will to some extent. They're jam packed with English: Function names, concepts, application names, and so on. People in technical fields have often muddled through multiple user interfaces with English words. They won't usually be as stuck as you might expect.

Please do! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834477)

It is totally OK if your documents are untranslated, and stuff like inline comments should be english only, but anything that has a GUI really needs be translated.

I have a german-only desktop, that includes a german Firefox and - although I understand english quite well - I like anything that integrates with it to be german as well, or else it feels alien.

So, as a potential user of your add-on: Please do make it translatable. You will limit your user base if you don't. And I suppose this issue is a lot more problematic for asian languages.

As a side remark: I learnt to program BASIC at an age where I didn't know any English at all. I didn't know that these IF THEN ELSE ... things were English words (and I was pronouncing them quite funnily), but that didn't keep me from using them. So someone writing Javascript might not be understanding English at all - especially for speakers of non-western languages, that might very often be the case.

German comments (2)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year ago | (#42834481)

I wouldn't assume. SAP is full of German error messages. Star Office / OpenOffice / LibreOffice still have German comments in the code.

Unicode is software doom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834495)

Having to filter text, manage IO, and deal with the !@#$!@$!@#$ varying case insensitivity or broken ordering of modern computer language settings is an amazing waste of programming time, and can easily triple the program size, the programming time, and the QA to test it all. Throw it *out*. Write it robustly in standard "POSIX" language, also know as "C". It's as help as using the metric system instead of furlongs/fortnight and calculating interest in shillings and tuppence.

English is the de facto language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834519)

Being a french speaking developer, I can tell that it's not possible to rely on software being available in another language than English. I even sometime install English version of software when a french version is available to be sure that I have all the latest patches. To be a developer, understanding English is not an option, it's a prerequisite. That said, having a localized version is always nice.

Most programmer can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834525)

As a french canadian, my born language is french. But we have english courses since the primary school. Not enough to be bilingual, but
everybody with some college will be able to read, write and probably discuss in english.

You can find alot of website, documentation and books in french but you get alot more of doc in english. So you get the better of the two world if you
can work in english too.

I cant tell for others countries but well.. i can say that close of 99% of french canadian I.T Workers can at least read and write in english.

Re:Most programmer can (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | about a year ago | (#42834833)

In Quebec, however, it would be *illegal* to use English-only software in the workplace. All software must be available in French. This applies not only to any sort of government job, but to all companies within Quebec.

If it doesn't have end-user exposure, no (1, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#42834529)

If it doesn't have end-user exposure, no. Google translate will do the job well enough for non-English speakers, and almost every programmer is an English speaker in any case - or used to Google translations of CS technical papers, in any case.

If there's actually UI being exposed to an end user rather than a program, then of course there should be some way to localize the end user exposed content, although you should expect that most users won't end up using it, and will opt for English instead, unless it's for data input for text data for storage and retrieval.

For better or for worse, the primary language for IT is English. I generally think it's for the better, since there are concepts that the English language is better suited to representing, either natively, or with coined words/terms/phrases and/or "borrow words". For the last, French is probably the worst language, since they have "language police" whose sole reason for existing is to prevent "borrow words" entering the French language and "contaminating" it. The next most comparable language for "purity" is Japanese, which was represented by Matsumata Ohta when he attempted to prevent the C-J-K unification of the Unicode standard, and eventually got his way by pushing another Unicode code page so that you could, for example, grep -v the Chinese text out of a Chinese textbook on Japanese poetry. Double the storage size for a wchar_t, just so that they could keep the languages distinct in both encoding and rendering, rather than just in rendering.

Hell I've worked with Americans (2)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about a year ago | (#42834565)

that I wondered if they "Spoke english". (Ok, I'm from the US but some of us here, our english sucks.)

Good ones do (2)

dejanc (1528235) | about a year ago | (#42834593)

Being a programmer and not understanding English is like being a historian writing papers on the Roman Empire and not knowing Latin. There is a lot of programmers out there who don't understand English or are not comfortable with it, but as a rule, they are not that good.

You have to learn our profession somehow. Yeah, you can learn C or Java from a book written in your native language, but most APIs out there are documented only in English. If you don't speak English, then your resources are severely limited.

That being said, if you can do localization, do it. Localization is usually very easy and doesn't require much bloat. You can have volunteers do the actual translation, you just need to get the strings ready, so it shouldn't be more than a couple of hours of your time.

Some talented programmers are just not talented for learning languages, or prefer to have UI in their own language. They are the ones who Google Translate documentation online, so you'll be doing them a favor.

Re:Good ones do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834953)

There -are- :p

Regional Differences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834609)

I don't mean to offend, but as part of my profession I've had been force to understand english as part of my work, and while we try to do so (in latin america) I must say that people in Spain for example refuses to do so. They just assume that is your fault if you don't translate, and I don't think that is something that only applies to one country, the same should probably apply to many other nations too.

That's a good question, let's ask them... (2)

realsilly (186931) | about a year ago | (#42834653)

.... Hey Programmers, what does the following string say in English?

"01001000 01000101 01001100 01001100 01001111 00100000 01010111 01001111 01010010 01001100 01000100"

Re:That's a good question, let's ask them... (4, Funny)

admdrew (782761) | about a year ago | (#42835095)

"Zero one zero zero one zero zero zero, zero one zero zero zero one zero one, zero one zero zero one one zero zero, zero one zero zero one one zero zero, zero one zero zero one one one one, zero zero one zero zero zero zero zero, zero one zero one zero one one one , zero one zero zero one one one one, zero one zero one zero zero one zero, zero one zero zero one one zero zero, zero one zero zero zero one zero zero.", duh.

Worst hello world evaaaar.

Always internationalize your software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834713)

My advice is: always internationalize your software — make it possible for people to adapt it to their languages and local cultures. You might think it's not strictly necessary as of now, but I believe software needs to be prepared to grow and be extensible in the future, cultural adoption included.

While English is a kind of de-facto language on the Internet and anything around its technologies, that doesn't necessarily hold true for programmers.
If you want to see a real life example, head over the Mozilla Developer Network [mozilla.org], where you can find technical content available in several languages. Those pages are not translated for the sake of translating, but because they answer to an actual need from programmers. You can find another example in the Firefox Developer Tools [mozilla.org] — which, by the way, are not a requirement to translate in order to have an official localized build on the release channel, but are actually translated into lots of languages.

Yes we do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834779)

Most of us know enough english to read technical terms. I think you can find some people that will not understand english in some niches around bussines logic programming (java stuff), but it will be rare. Also, fuck these retards!.

Sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834785)

...everyone, except Italians and Germans.

I know the English term. (4, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a year ago | (#42834891)

But I can't figure out what the translator has used to name it in my native language.

So from one perspective - not using English in the tool you use may cause more confusion than help. Especially for programmers.

Re:I know the English term. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42834961)

Mod parent up.

Reading English, no problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42835163)

However meny devlopers I knows had problems wiv writin.

It's not just programming. (3, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#42835167)

English is the current lingua franca of international business, education, science, technology, diplomacy, entertainment, radio, seafaring, and aviation. It has replaced French as the lingua franca of diplomacy since World War II. The rise of English in diplomacy began in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, when the Treaty of Versailles was written in English as well as in French, the dominant language used in diplomacy until that time. The widespread use of English was further advanced by the prominent international role played by English-speaking nations (the United States and the Commonwealth of Nations) in the aftermath of World War II, particularly in the establishment and organization of the United Nations. English is one of the six official languages of the United Nations (the other five being French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish). The seating and roll-call order in sessions of the United Nations and its subsidiary and affiliated organizations is determined by alphabetical order of the English names of the countries.

When the United Kingdom became a colonial power, English served as the lingua franca of the colonies of the British Empire. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations which had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using English as the lingua franca to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others. The British Empire established the use of English in regions around the world such as North America, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, so that by the late 19th century its reach was truly global,[21] and in the latter half of the 20th century, widespread international use of English was much reinforced by the global economic, financial, scientific, military, and cultural pre-eminence of the English-speaking countries and especially the U.S. Today, more than half of all scientific journals are published in English, while in France, almost one third of all natural science research appears in English,[22] lending some support to English being the lingua franca of science and technology. English is also the lingua franca of international Air Traffic Control and seafaring communications.

Basically, if you want to get anything done, you do it in English.

Some day another language may replace English as the lingua franca like French replaced German and Latin. When you have multiple cultures trying to do things, you need to have a common language to do it in.

None of this should surprise anyone.

--
BMO

Most do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42835169)

most do speak and understand english, but most is just something like 60%, the other 40% do understand only barely, so if you really care about your users, translate, it you care only about the majority.

Mixing languages (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#42835177)

I find mixing my native language (dutch) and english during development only helps to confuse things since pretty much all terminology is english.
When given the option, I always use english language versions of technical software (some software insists on showing me (badly) translated dutch, though). I even comment my code in english if the entire front-end is dutch only.
For office software and such, I prefer my native tongue.

English preferred, depending on your locale though (1)

kbahey (102895) | about a year ago | (#42835189)

I am a developer too, and English is my second language (I am from Egypt, and Arabic is my first language). When I learned programming, it was in English using English text books and magazines, ...etc, whether BASIC or COBOL (long time ago).

Once, after many years in development, I was supporting a place that got a software package developed in Morocco. French is the lingua technica there. So, the source code was totally unitelligible to all of us except one of the Moroccan developers who worked for the company developing it.

All the variable names and comments were in French, and did not mean anything to us, making the code very hard to follow.

With English being the language most used internationally for businesss and such, I imagine this is true outside of the Francophone countries (and perhaps Latin America too)?

Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42835229)

You don't have any other problems? You don't think other thoughts?
Focus on cleanliness and function, the language is not a real problem. I've been using English-based programms sind I've been 6 years old and didn't speak or understand any of it.
The Internet pretty much has squashed the language barrier by allowing everybody to communicate in English. Localization may be great for state mandated programs, but for the rest of us I actually despise localisation.

Proud european speaking.

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