Language support for non-native speakers

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/05/09, original URI:

A while back, someone asked a question that was forwarded to me by a colleague:

Re:the MS Arabic keyboard,the keystrokes are set up according to some arbitrary layout.This may be useful for people whose 1st Arabic and are using some standard Arabic keyboard.However, this is not useful for someone whose 1st lang. isn’t Arabic.It would be helpful if there were a keyboard that was phonetically-based.That is,if I wish to write Aleph,I would type 'a' on the roman keyboard. Likewise for the Arabic diacritics: when I wished to type a kessra,I would type SHIFT+i.

Not focusing on the suggested solution but on the problem itself for a moment.... :-) 

It was just a week that I was pointing out that the same issue exists for languages like Korean -- where the input method assumes native speaker knowledge of Hangul. The same argument applies to Yi (assumes knowledge of Mandarin), Japanese (assumes knowledge of Kana, not Romanji) and so on.

The fact that suh knowledge may be present (or in some cases even should be present) is besides the point. Or at least it should be -- there ought to be more than one way to skin this cat, shouldn't there?

Basically for many languages that are primarily used in a particular place, support for the language is very tied to the needs of the particular place, in some cases to the detriment of users of the language elsewhere....

Knowing this is an issue does not make the solution readily apparent, though.

You see, for obvious reasons some of our best advocates for languages can often be found in Microsoft's in-country subsidiaries, but for equally obvious reasons the whole scenario of those who are not in-country is often outside their expertise and possibly their prioritized interest and probably beyond their ability to measure benefit of in a way to allow a business case to be made.

After all, it is hard for someone in country to think of people outside the country as "their customers" even on the case where they are using the language support of the region.

Globalization support in Windows has enabled a framework for multilanguage use worldwide that as of yet Microsoft has only scratched the surface of.

A big question (in my mind, at least) is what to do to try to solve this problem (or at least improve the situation!). I'll be talking about some of my thoughts here in future posts....


This post brought to you by (U+11d4, a.k.a. HANGUL JONGSEONG RIEUL-PIEUP-HIEUH)

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referenced by

2007/05/13 Keyboards that map any language to any other language, or the lack thereof

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