I've had the opportunity to develop two multilingual systems. The first was a special-purpose decision support system to help schedule orders in paper mills called BCW-Trim. The system was installed by several dozen paper mills in Canada and the United States, and it was designed to work in either English or French.
All messages were stored in separate files (one set English, one set French), with the program written to use variables initialized either to the English or French text. The appropriate language files were included when the system was compiled to produce either the French or English version.
The second program was a groupware system called GroupSystems, for which I designed several modules.
The system has been translated into dozens of different languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Finnish, and Croatian. This system enables the user to switch between languages at will by storing messages in simple text files. This design is far more flexible because each individual installation can revise the messages at will. Without this approach, it is unlikely that there would have been sufficient demand to warrant the development of versions to support less commonly used languages (e.g., Croatian). Alan Dennis

1. How would you decide how much to support users who speak languages other than English?
2. Would you create multilingual capabilities for any application that would be available to non-English speaking people? Think about Web sites that exist today.

  • CreatedMarch 13, 2013
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