A bit about some Arabic script but not Arabic language stuff...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/08/19 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/08/19/10051301.aspx

All companies both big and small can often see the things they do influenced in interesting ways by the people who are in them.

In the case of Microsoft, you can see proof of this in support for languages like Persian (aka Farsi).

Despite the fact that there is no Iranian standard keyboard in Windows, there is a Persian locale and other support.

This is not for Iran (a place we are not allowed to ship software to), it is nominally for the expat community.

But even more than that, the particular expats who work for Microsoft are able to act as advocates for much of what is to be done. And thus they are able to help influence decisions relevant to them based on their interest in and advocacy of their language.

Of course with a large company like Microsoft the same could be said about many different languages, but Iran is in the very small group of languages whose most obvious advocates are people we cannot actually communicate with. But if you look at that list (one that contains other areas disputed for a variety of reasons like Myanmar and North Korea), Iran stands out for two very interesting reasons:

It made me think of blogs like Arabic ≠ Hebrew, and Hebrew ≠ Arabic and in particular the Phase 4 piece of it, as Persian is one of several languages that has interesting challenges for being a non-Arabic language that uses the Arabic script, and which for all of the times it is "lumped in" with Arabic, some of the time the actual result is very different.

Another interesting development a customer asked me about on the "Download Languages for Windows" page I blogged about the other day is the following entry:

Language Native name Base language
edition required

Windows 7

Windows 7

Windows Vista

Windows Vista 

Dari درى English (any edition) Coming soon Not available

Interesting, right? :-)

Now Dari can at some point be added to that list of languages that includes Persian, Urdu, and Pashto representing user interface languages in Language Interface Packs!

Now all of these languages have an issue that is particular to them, and this is an issue I'll be talking about in a future blog (perhaps tomorrow!)....

Otaku on 19 Aug 2010 8:31 AM:

This is interesting. One recommendation for MSFT is to look at pan-Iranian languages as a single family called "Persian", and prepend them with "pe" and then country or dialect. So "pe-Ir" for Iran/Farsi, "pe-Af" for Afghanistan/Dari, "pe-Ta" for Tajikistan/Tajiki. If needed, others could be added in like "pe-Ha" for Hazaragi. This would be not unlike Chinese for PRC, HK, TW and S'pore. Also, for the most part, like Chinese simplified<->traditional and vocabulary differences between 普通话 (China) and 國語 (Taiwan), these scripts could be transliterated to another one with a high amount of consistency and accuracy. Meaning if you type something in Perso-Arabic script in Dari and want to show it in Cyrillic for Tajiki, it could be very accurate once auto-converted to Cyrillic script. This way, if and when embargos are lifted with the Islamic republic, a "pe-Ir" is ready to deploy.

Like you said though, the diaspora of Iran in other countries is very strong (e.g. Tehrangeles/Los Angeles, Tehranto/Toronto), so if nothing else, this would signficantly benefit these technocrats.

Some of the most active developers are coming out of Iran these days. In the Area 51 forum proposal area of StackExchange (from the Stackoverflow guys, Jeff Atwood, Joel Spolsky, et al.) the Iranian developer community is one of the most active: area51.stackexchange.com/.../persian-information-technology-and-computer. They are certainly not limited by lack of direct support from MSFT or other companies.

Michael S. Kaplan on 19 Aug 2010 9:41 AM:

Although the idea is not without some merit, there are many reasons why Microsoft would have great difficulty moving in that direction, up to and including 1) the fact that the others using BCP-47 tags aren't doing their locales that way, 2) that it confuses language vs. dialect vs. script determination, 3) it can insult people who don't see it quite that way and some of those people are in government, 4) it breaks existing usage that for some of these locales has existed for more than half a decade, and more....

Joe Clark on 19 Aug 2010 1:27 PM:

The word is expat (expatriate), not ex-pat or, exponentially more nonsensically, Ex-Pat. You are not talking about people who used to be Pat.

Michael S. Kaplan on 19 Aug 2010 2:39 PM:

Fair point...fixed now. :-)

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