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Article translations

Hi Joel,

I came across your website a few weeks ago, and I had a really great time going through the numerous interesting articles you wrote about software engineering.

What I don't agree with is the fact of translating the articles to other languages. I believe that anyone envolved in software engineering activities in this world should have the basic english level required to understand those articles.

By having them translated, you really aren't doing your readers a favour.

Guy
Friday, October 04, 2002

I have to smile at such a narrow world view...

Martha
Friday, October 04, 2002

Is that a similar attitude to the "If you shake them enough eventually they'll speak English"?

Somewhat short-sighted...

John C
Friday, October 04, 2002

Homygosh...

nowhere man - split personality
Friday, October 04, 2002

Joel is just eating his own dog food. I doubt he's doing it because he thinks it broadens the audience a whole lot.

Big B
Friday, October 04, 2002

I believe that anyone  envolved  in conversations that include the lofty phrase, "in this world", should be required to have travelled further than their local post office.

Robin Debreuil
Friday, October 04, 2002

Guy, are you a time traveller?

Robert Moir
Friday, October 04, 2002

i could go into how ironic it is for Guy to rant about software developers needing to be literate in English while his own post has misspellings, but i won't.

rather, i think it's an interesting point.  i don't agree that english should be adopted as a universal operating language as in air traffic control, but, on the other hand, hasn't that essentially already happened? 

i'm not familiar with programs written in other languages, but aren't the computer languages themselves the same?  class, switch, case, etc.?  and isn't it just the variable names that are different?

if one is doing windows programming, and gets a different version of windows, are the libraries also translated into a different language, or is Scripting.FileSystemObject universal?  if it is, then isn't Guy's point *almost* valid, haughty though it is?

nathan
Friday, October 04, 2002

Hey Nathan, can you tell me which word(s) I've misspelled ? I just re-read my post and still can't figure out what I've done wrong...

FYI, I am a french engineer working in Germany and trying to participate in an american forum, so please don't be too cruel with me.

Guy
Friday, October 04, 2002

Just because you asked:
envolved = involved (spelling error)
english  = English (proper names should be capitalized )
favour = favor (since Joel's site is a US site, it could be argued that we should be using 'American' spelling)

Also, to reply to an earlier post, I've talked with several non-English speaking programmers. They use the same, Engligh language, token that everyone else uses (i.e. 'if,' 'switch,' 'case' etc), but to them they are just that -tokens that they memorized, not English.

jeff
Friday, October 04, 2002

Except he was talking about reading, no, enjoying an article, not writing keywords. Comments, identifiers, documentation, specs, reference books, courses, and conversations are all in the native language... I know plenty of brilliant software engineers that are not fluent in English - my brother and sister in law for starters. And plenty of software "in this world" that chokes on Kanji ; ).

An interesting thing about the keywords, though they have english names, they have very exact not-so-english meanings. Often that trips me up on a new language, I assume more (or less) than I should based on what the word usually means. With familiar programming languages it isn't an issue of course (regardless of your native tounge), but I was learning Eiffel this year and noticed it happening a lot.

Robin Debreuil
Friday, October 04, 2002

>What I don't agree with is the fact of translating
"fact of" is awkward at best. Try "...don't agree with is translating..."

>envolved
I think you meant "involved"?

>basic english level
Proper names are always capitalized in English, even when they are used as adjectives.

(Note that even with these minor errors, your post had better grammar than the majority of internet writing.)

To elaborate on my opinion, I agree that knowing English is useful for programmers. But that's mostly a result of how programming languages are written, and isn't a good thing in and of itself. Different languages provide different perspectives, different basic premises, different values even. I dread the day when we lose that by standardizing on one language.

Martha
Friday, October 04, 2002

Stardardization on English is already happening. For instance, there is no way to become a software engineer in Denmark without English reading skills. I'm currently studying CS at a Danish university, and every single book in our curriculum is in English as well as about half our lecture notes.

The same goes for software documentation. I doubt that there is any technical documentation for any programming language or operating system written in Danish anymore. It would be a waste of money. We'll read it anyway, and the market is so much larger for English. Even Microsoft stopped translating technical documentation several years ago.

Per, Denmark
Friday, October 04, 2002

Guy,

You're a real genius dude! reward yourself with an ice cream or something for this revelation.

vividly vivid
Friday, October 04, 2002

ah!  Guy is not some isolationist backwaters American programmer, as i was led to believe!  does this not lend some credibility to his original statement?

i think hidden under his rather startingly premise that all programmers should learn English is probably some real-world experience where not learning English is a hindrance.

i understand where syntactical keywords can be memorized tokens for non-native English speaking programmers, but what about code libraries?  as we programmers are taught to use meaningful variable names, doesn't that imply that there is meaning to the names?  that it shouldn't just be memorized and never thought of again?

nathan
Friday, October 04, 2002

...what I do find confusing with other languages is where to stop translating though. There is a huge and ever growing 'computer' vocabulary - words like class, instance, interface, pattern, command pattern, source code, font, PC, Intel486, user interface, motherboard and on and on. How would you translate these to another language?

In a language like French its hard because there are often tempting similar words, but then should you change the acronym too? Lots of subtle mapping issues! Where as in Chinese, roman letters aren't a great fit so often (not always) a new word is created, sometimes based on meaning, sometimes sound, sometimes a synonym... What letters would you use in Arabic for Intel486? What numbering system? It is the same uncertainty you get when calling the autobahns 'German interstates' or the TGV 'French bullet trains', or even 'cyclones are Indian typhoons' when explaining the word to someone who is Thai... Just with software the words and meanings have to always be so precise.

Obviously it all works out, and just like in English you end up either learning a new word, or giving a new meaning to an existing one, but the process of coming to a consensus has always seemed very mysterious to me.

Robin Debreuil
Friday, October 04, 2002

Robin - you seem to be making a point that it all works out in the end, but you're actually kinda convincing me that Guy is correct in his original post.  it would certainly be simpler if all programmers would just learn English out of necessity.

maybe i'm the isolationist, backwaters programmer here...

nathan
Friday, October 04, 2002

To finesse this whole issue... the only point worth considering is whether this is good for Joel.  Clearly he wants readers to have a lower energy level when reading his stuff.

As a side-benefit he looks thoughtful, which he is being.

anon
Friday, October 04, 2002

Clase, instancia, interfaz, patrón, patrón de comandos, código fuente, fuente (yes, same word, different meaning), PC (wheee!), Intel486 (why you would want to use that as a word?), interfaz de usuario, placa madre.

I guess everybody prefers to speak his own language. There are some words that aren't translated, of course. Software, Hardware, diskette (we use this funny french word for floppies), RAM, byte, bit, and so on.

Leonardo Herrera
Friday, October 04, 2002

Hey Nathan,

I think that argument holds more weight the closer your language is to English. Obviously Danes, Sweedes or any germanic language group would do well to work in English, because with a month of effort they can tap into a much bigger resource pool. With latin languages it is a bit harder but certainly worth learning it to the point that most simple words in say the .Net framework make sense. It is a big advantage to speak English because the size of it means the resources will be greater. I'm sure that is why so much software is made in English countries, N.W. Europe, and India. I think overcoming an English view of things can lead to thinking that English + western europe is international.

If you go beyond there, English gets much harder to learn, so there is more likely to be a second 'local' thing happening too. Look at embeded systems or the whole console thing in Japan, or the Russian programming scene etc. Most programmers I know here in China speak very poor english by european standards (or no english at all), but they have their own world to work in, their own libraries, their own boards, books, problems, requirements etc. Not knowing English does cut you off from a lot of code, but I would guess that most code that doesn't come with a Chinese manual doesn't work very well in this enviroment anyway. Bottom line, you can't expect all Chinese software developers to learn English, it just won't happen. Same goes for about half the world. But there are plenty of programmers, and they don't sit on their hands waiting for someone English to solve their problems any more than we wait for them.

I'm not sure if in the end code will be made translatable, much like programs are today, or if it will just evolve into kind of semi independant islands or specializations. I'm pretty sure you won't see four years of English ever being a prerequisite for CompSci though. People who are very interested in programming often aren't all that interested in exotic languages - er, spoken ones that is ; ).

Robin Debreuil
Friday, October 04, 2002

>I believe that anyone envolved in software engineering...

Yep. I myself decided to translate an article to my native language and get involved. My english may be lacking, but I dont care...know why Guy?

Patrik
Friday, October 04, 2002

Nathan,

>maybe i'm the isolationist, backwaters programmer here...

I think most people do a good job here, making themselves understood in English. I think its pretty much like "Doctors practicing medícine should learn Latin, you know". Most MDs know Latin enough to do their trade. Most programmers know enough English to make themselves understood. American programmers included ;-)

Patrik
Friday, October 04, 2002


And most chefs knows their share of french, too :-)

Leonardo Herrera
Friday, October 04, 2002

As soon as anybody from a non English speaking background does anything significant in the field of science or mathematics or IT they should just shut up.

Otherwise let us English speaking dudes get on with it.

Alberto
Friday, October 04, 2002

Sorry - that's such a bad troll even I have to retract it.

Alberto
Friday, October 04, 2002

How good are the translations anyway?


Saturday, October 05, 2002

<As soon as anybody from a non English speaking background does anything significant in the field of science or mathematics or IT they should just shut up.>

Linus Torvalds - Finland
Edsger Dijkstra - Netherlands
John von Neumann - Hungary

and that's just off the top of my head... 

nathan
Saturday, October 05, 2002

Alberto, would you kindly look at a list of the Nobel prize winners of the last 100 years or so? I find your statement untrue and awfully shortsighted.

Even though I agree that all software developers should be able to read and understand English to at least some extend, better yet even speak and write it, I still think that article translations are a good idea. Especially complex ideas might just be easier to grasp in your mother tongue, even if you have some knowledge of the English language.

I work for a (German) company with a two language policy. Due to the fact that we have offices in other countries (like the US and Malaysia for example) and that many of our colleagues here in Germany came to us from other countries (like France, Japan, China etc.), all internal correspondence is supposed to be bilingual German/English. Some of our meetings are held in German, others in English and all employees are able to speak and understand English to some extend. Still most technical debates between the software developers are held in German, because that is the language most of us are most familiar with. Some of the books we buy for our library are bought in the English version, others in the German translation, depending on who will probably work with the book most and what language he feels more comfortable with.

Even though I am not a native speaker of English, I normally prefer the original English version of a book or article. This is not true for all of my colleagues, though, and would surely not blame them for it.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Saturday, October 05, 2002

Nathan and Jutta,

Yes I know, I was just stirring the pot really, as I typed I was thinking of Linus Torvalds and how incredibly ethno centric I was being, but I thought "what the heck" I'll do it anyway.

As I say, I was just trolling for a reaction. :-)
In the end, it was too obvious and weak a troll, even for me.

Alberto
Saturday, October 05, 2002

Guy, did you buy that ice cream I recommended earlier?

Vividly vivid
Sunday, October 06, 2002

Esto es alguna mierda loca!

Jack lives over there ->
Sunday, October 06, 2002

Agsighin ohn  dadad od  ho daddjoad sss'!

josmxph
Monday, October 07, 2002

I realize that I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to commend everyone on a remarkably even-handed discussion. This is the kind of topic that can lead to flame wars on other boards.

I’d like to suggest that a further reason for the translation: non-technical readers. Much of the material in the Joel on Software archive is relevant to a broader audience than just coders. While it is true that most programmers in the western world learn English, not all of their less-technical coworkers do.

Moving far, far away from my point: this discussion reminds me of the father of one of my friends in university. He was an Anglican minister here in Canada. At one time he was involved in a project to translate the bible into the native languages of the peoples that live on the shore Hudson’s bay (For those of you that aren’t familiar with Canada… we are talking far north). The challenge was to find ways to translate nouns like sheep, camel, and desert to people that live on the shores of an icy sea and still survive off trapping most of the year. Now that would be a difficult translation job.

Geoff
Tuesday, October 08, 2002

> How good are the translations anyway?

The Dutch translations are not that good as the originals. The translations seem to lose the writing style that makes the original articles so enjoyable to read. So I definitely prefer the English articles, even though I'm a native Dutch speaker.

Frederik Slijkerman
Wednesday, October 09, 2002

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