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Re: [olpc-software] Scaling and localization in package management

On Wed, Mar 15, 2006 at 06:39:36PM -0500, Alan Cox wrote:
> Another factor to remember: a lot of local languages sound attractive don't
> forget that many many people speak a local language but do not read or write
> it, and often read or write a more widespread language of the area. They may
> not want their local language for the computer.

I've been living in Maharashtra, India for about 4-5 years so I can offer
one data point.

There are three languages in Maharashtra: Marathi (the local language),
Hindi (the national language of India), and English (what everybody calls 
"the international language").  As an American, the first thing that 
surprised me about Maharashtra is that the literacy rate is way below 100%.
I knew it intellectually, but it's another thing to experience a culture
like that.

What I've seen is that the practical effect of marginal literacy is to lower
the barrier to learning English.  If it takes the same amount of effort to
become literate in English or literate in Marathi, which language would you

Some Maharashtrians might accuse America of cultural aggression, but this is
a minority.  Most people, especially educated people, learn English & Hindi
and rarely look back.  On one hand, Marathi is good for poetry. On the other
hand, the most important need is to be able to communicate with the rest of
the world.  If there is a desire to preserve Maharashtrian culture then
those culture traditions can be translated to English as well.

I've been approached 3-4 times by college students who propose to
localize Gnome or KDE in Marathi. I showed them gettext and pointed them to
the web sites for translators.  As far as I know, nothing ever happened.
Frequently, these students just want to meet an American.  Such absurd
flattery just makes me feel sad.

Perhaps the message to take home is not to become too anxious about
translating OLPC software into every language worldwide. Some of the
initiative should be taken by those people having the language as their
mother tongue.

Anyway, that's my opinion.  I'm probably biased.

Make April 15 just another day, visit http://fairtax.org

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