A Language-Based Paradigm (Was Re: Avoiding Problems by Avoiding Decisions)

Andreas Pour pour at mieterra.com
Fri May 14 21:06:37 BST 2004

Adriaan de Groot wrote:
> On Fri, 14 May 2004, Allan Sandfeld Jensen wrote:
> > One of my objections against the ISO list is that it only lists countries, and
> > in KDE we might need to make region locales selectable as well.
> That is a remarkably astute observation. Obviously the locale settings for
> Wallonia and Flanders are different; although they're physically diffuse
> in places, each individual choses which locale is hers or his. So this
> _reintroduces_ the problem of how do we decide on the locales we have? The
> ISO list can provide a start; where do we get our additions from?
> Why can I chose Canada (Quebec) as a locale, and not Canada (occupied
> territories north of the 49th just to the west of lake superior)?
> Can of worms. And he who controls the worms, controls the spice.

I hope I can make a counter-proposal which is a compromise (meaning, nobody will
like it ;-) ) of various viewpoints.

First, I would like to observe that KDE does not need a *country* list.  What
KDE needs is a *locale* list.  In other words, a way for someone to select the
language used for the desktop.

This is a critical realization b/c once you realize this, several things follow:

 (1) Country lists are not the relevant standard to look at (such as, UN or ISO)
 (2) This is mainly a language / translation issue to be determined by the
translation teams

So, my proposal is as follows (this is a general outline):

 (a) KDE uses a "locale" list in the control panel (all references to "Country"
are replace with "Locale")
 (b) each translation team is responsible for allocating a list of locale names
for the translation they create in the "default" language (currently, English)
     * some language-type standard should be used as the default, and deviations
from the default should be documented and explained
       o a possible standard is the ISO 639-2
(http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/) / MARC list
(http://www.loc.gov/marc/languages/), but someone who knows more about languages
should probably step in here (all I know is the list is created by the US
Library of Congress and I think it is non-political)
     * this can be more than 1 name for the same language, though the number of
names should be kept as small as practicable
     * the locale names must be bona fide - i.e., the goal of the locale list is
to let a user find his/her language in the control panel and not to make
political statements or to gain control of a name to prevent use by others;
i.e., the locale names should be tailored to the expectations of the people who
will actually be using the translation at issue
 (c) other translation teams should translate the name into the name(s) used by
the peoples they are translating for, as well as take suggested translations
from the locale's translation team (so e.g. if X people have a preferred way of
referring to their language / locale in German, the German team will respect and
include that term as well)

Hence, multiple countries might have the same locale / language entry; or one
country, which contains multiple peoples and languages, would have multiple
locale / language entries (e.g., English and Spanish in the US).

The key is, it is not *country*-based, b/c really, the choice has nothing to do
with a country.  I may choose the German language although I live in Russia or
the US, and I may not speak Chinese (or Arabic or Hebrew or English) even though
I live in official China (or Iraq or Israel or the US).  It is about language.

And as far as language goes, flags are entirely irrelevant.  We should do as
GNOME did and remove the flags.

I think, this is the *technical* (as opposed to political) solution to the
problem.  The technical issue is:  how does a user find his/her language?  The
solution is:  where does the user who uses that language, expect to find it?



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