Subject: Re: Pitching a "Big Tent" for Free Software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 13:05:05 +0900 (JST)

I think this discussion is interesting, because I know few "power
users" in Japan; eg people who are proficient in Word macros generally 
know several general purpose programming languages.  I think this kind 
of proposal could help more international users become power users.

>>>>> "Ben L" == Ben Laurie <ben@algroup.co.uk> writes:

    Ben L> Ben_Tilly@trepp.com wrote:

    >> 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.)

I don't see why this is a performance issue; it's an easy source-level
transformation.  The source file would start with a dictionary for
English (for the reasons you mention above), optional dictionaries for
other languages, so that any editor with a macro language could
automatically make the substitution.  Dedicated environments would of
course include dictionaries for every language known to man, and some
known only to the gods.  If you're going to do it in Unicode, it would
be easy enough to have all keywords be single characters from private
space.  You could even do it with punctuation that people disagree
about (decimal points, eg).  The parser for execution would just throw
away the dictionaries, since the syntax would be defined in a standard
form.

On the other hand, since Japanese is a (mostly) reverse-Polish
language, this wouldn't help Japanese much unless the presentation
buffer used reverse-Polish syntax.

Yes, I admit it.  I have been thinking about doing a substitutable
interpreter since 1993.  But my faculty prevailed on me not to do it.
(The economists wanted to enforce English usage, the computer jocks
were horrified at the loss of face if the interpreter used in Computer
Intro were "written" (of course I would have just substituted Japanese
in an existing program translator) by an economist.  :-)

    Ben L> Not only anglophones think some of these thoughts - I have a
    Ben L> very good German friend who has several times complained in
    Ben L> no uncertain terms to me about how awful it is to find source
    Ben L> code written in German. He can just about forgive German
    Ben L> comments (my take: never believe the comments, so who cares
    Ben L> what language they are in?)

I've found that English comments in programs written by Japanese are
invariably more accurate than the Japanese comments (probably because
the latter are often incorrect translations of the English comments!)

    Ben L> but German variable/function
    Ben L> names he considers to be major sins. I certainly do, because
    Ben L> I speak almost no German. :-)

Before I learned enough Japanese to get by, I had an automatic
glossing function based on EDICT for Japanese text in programs.  Given 
an online dictionary, I wouldn't have a problem with German or even
Russian.  But that's definitely a YMMV kind of thing.

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