Re: Internationalizing Linux

Horst von Brand (
Sun, 06 Dec 1998 13:03:36 -0400

"Mark H. Wood" <mwood@IUPUI.Edu> said:


> Yup. VMS has the same thing. The documentation kit includes two binders
> containing a listing of all the messages in the base system, sorted by the
> horrible-identifier for easy access, and explaining the message in some
> detail (often with suggested responses). IBM organizes the text a bit
> differently but the principle is the same. Anyone who has a basic
> understanding of how the Roman alphabet is organized, can look up the tag
> whether he understands English or not. The books themselves are of course
> localizable. (IBM actually did away with human-readable text altogether
> in the messages -- you *have to* go to the book to know what happened,
> until you learn the codes by heart.)

Great. "English is too hard on sysadmins, let's better get everybody learn
5-letter codes for Linux. Which we'll change around as we see fit just to
keep life interesting"

I had to live with IBM codes for some time, and hated it every time I saw
one: No way to remember what it was all about, only way out was to grab the
(rather large) codes manual. And that was normally on loan to somebody else
trying to debug a random program. Just to find out it was way off target,
or a ridiculous informative message much of the time. People are _much_
better at remembering a phrase in an alien tongue than 5-letter codes.

This is a _hard_ problem, starting on the kernel is the wrong end to start!
There are plenty of manuals to be translated faithfully (!), and many, many
programs to internationalize. When that is done, take a stab at the kernel.

As things stand, it is sadly easier to teach people English than to teach
computers to talk in human languages.

Horst von Brand                   
Casilla 9G, Viņa del Mar, Chile                               +56 32 672616

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