Subject: Re: Pitching a "Big Tent" for Free Software
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 11:47:43 -0500

Kragen writes:
> Ben Tilly writes:
> > PS Speaking of internationalization, I am betting that it is 5-10 years
> > the outside until we see a scripting language (or macro language) with
> > source-code written in Unicode in your choice of language.  (With the
> > of keywords translated to be a set of words in your favorite language,
> > a minimal grammar.)
> Visual Basic is a scripting language (or macro language) currently
> translates its keywords to your favorite language.  Microsoft has been
> big on this Unicode thing; I wouldn't be surprised if it supported
> scripts written in Unicode.

Had not heard about this.  Somehow I doubt that Microsoft implement this
very well...

> People I've heard mention this nifty feature, language-specific
> keywords, have universally complained about it; it means
> (a) it's hard for them to interact with code written by speakers of
>     other languages (e.g. call it, be called by it)
> (b) it's much harder for them to understand code written by speakers of
>     other languages
> (c) their skills are less portable

The right way to do it would be to have the code internally compiled to a
language-neutral representation, and then allow each person to read a
version decompiled into their own language.  This would be harder to
understand, but I don't see why it would be significantly worse than code
written in C with comments and variable names chosen by someone who speaks
a different language.

Clearly the "right approach" to this idea would also allow translation of
the variable names as well for  a project or module expected to be used
from multiple languages.

Now I am not going to say that this idea is better than forcing everyone to
use English-based languages and syntax.  After all the existing base of
technically competent people have learned English, and world wide most
educated people are trained in English, so short term it is definitely
several steps backwards.  (Not to mention performance issues.)  But it does
make sense for languages addressed to end users.  Also I think that in the
long run it will do a lot to encourage people who natively speak different
languages to get into computers.  (Even if they are eventually forced to
learn English and English-based programming languages.)

At least those are some thoughts from an anglophone...