Robert Pathy, Lead Developer
Sprigg Software proudly presents its flagship Sprigg Performance Management system in both French and English this month. What better opportunity to discuss multi-language support – a topic that presents a number of challenges, questions and quirks to the software development world, and world at large.
The translation process varies widely. Open source projects, for example, take a community approach to internationalization. With open source software individuals take it upon themselves to translate shared files and submit them back into the project free of charge. Some packages are translated into hundreds of languages this way.
If, like Sprigg, your code is not open source, you may have fewer translations due to financial and time constraints. Some companies choose not to translate their product at all. Still, from a development point of view, coding for language on a new project isn’t that difficult.
Only three extra characters are necessary to program code in order to make the translation option available. For example “goal” becomes “_(goal)” when coding for translation. After coding each word or phrase in this way the developer then runs a program that searches for the code and generates a po file (standard language file). The file is then sent to a translator who returns the completed po file for the developer to input.
Unicode has made it possible to provide Klingon keystrokes, among other language scripts.
The translation system isn’t perfect but it’s the best that’s out there right now. Developers are still struggling with the perfect way to handle internationalization. The biggest challenge is that word-for-word translation doesn’t always work; context and the way things are expressed are not always accurate.
The language scripts developers can access today are limitless – from Japanese to Russian and beyond. Where translators were once limited by the number of keys on a keyboard, Unicode Standard (a new way of storing characters on a computer) solved this problem. In fact Unicode freed up so much space that in 2004 the Klingon alphabet was made available. (Editor’s note: don’t expect Sprigg in Klingon anytime soon!)
With access to bigger markets, broader use of your product and a global community at your fingertips multi-language support just makes sense. Sprigg is proud to be able to provide both our French and English users an opportunity to use and understand our product in their native language – we plan to provide access to more languages, such as Spanish, in the near future.
Editor’s note: Thanks to a kind reader for pointing out that while Klingon was adopted into the Conscript registry in 1991 it is not, at this time, official Unicode. Our apologies to any Klingon speakers we may have offended.