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Re: Key bindings proposal

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Key bindings proposal
Date: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 11:39:39 +0900

Stuart Hacking writes:
 > On 4 Aug 2010, at 17:19, Tom wrote:

 > > Which brings the question: is Emacs only targeted to English-speaking 
 > > users? Internationalization is a natural feature of modern software.

No, it's not "natural".  Look at Wikipedia, which grows "naturally" --
and with separation of language at the top level.  Localization, ie,
compartmentalization, is easy and natural.  But the infrastructure
needs to be internationalized, which is unnatural and a lot of work.

Fortunately most of that work can be done incrementally.

 > Just a few thoughts:
 > Won't we encounter problems due to much of Emacs' UI being closely
 > tied to the underlying source code?

Yes.  But UI internationalization is a solved problem.  There are some
Emacs-specific problems such as "Russian Ctrl-X" (on a Cyrillic
keyboard, the user doesn't think of the key as "X" -- is C-x defined
by the row/column position on the keyboard, or by the label on the
key?)  But these are basically at the level of inconvenience (even to
the Russian users, according to what I've read).

The real problems are in getting LISP to be internationalized, ie,
integrating string-handling with gettext.  Should concat look up
strings?  Should the LISP interpreter do it when passing args?  etc.
That is a fairly delicate design problem.

 > Even in software that is localised, the source code is usually in
 > English. Emacs goes a step further by having much documentation
 > written inline with the code.
 > A lot of the emacs documentation comes from source code
 > doc-strings, command names, arguments. As I see it, we could at
 > best hope for partial localisation. It would be a large effort to
 > achieve 100%.

Docstrings are a solved problem, by gettext.  Even translating them is
a solved problem, there are several projects which will help, and it
can be done incrementally.

Ditto Info files and the like.

 > I think there would be not insignificant changes to the build
 > process and possibly some re-architecturing where string management
 > is concerned. Is there a big demand for localisation?

I don't think either the build process or string storage is a big
issue.  There may be technical issues in the latter due to string
compaction in garbage collection, but they're probably pretty

Yes, there is a big demand for localization.  Most Japanese and
Chinese programmers speak English very poorly, and read it only with a
fair amount of effort.  Even a surprisingly large number of Indians
have some trouble with English.  If Uday Reddy is right that many
users means many recruits, well, there are probably 50 million
potential users Emacs could reach with better localization.

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