On using the English language versions of your software

Tomasz Szynalski wrote a blog post about using the English language versions of the software. His primary argument for doing this is one that I agree with wholeheartedly... it makes searching for answers or solutions to problems on the internet a lot easier. Far more people use the English versions than the localised versions. The English versions are often the originals, too. This means that you're more likely to get more results when you search for any error messages received in English.

I started using computers at a time when software wasn't even available in other languages, including my native Dutch and I wouldn't dream of using software in any language other than English, but that's not just because of habit. I also do try to keep up with the Dutch language versions of the software so I can help the poor saps who call me when they're experiencing trouble and I thus know where to direct them. Still, there are other reasons for using the English language versions as well.

Does that mean there's no place for localised software? Of course it doesn't. There are some people who are incapable of using English language versions simply because they've never learnt English or they're not (sufficiently) fluent in it. Having localised software makes the user experience a lot more pleasant for those people.

Another thing to take into account is that the software should at least be able to handle the language of the locale. This is easy in Dutch, as the language only has one letter that doesn't exist in the English alphabet (the "ij" (a single letter), which is obviously easily worked around by using the I and J rather than that single letter, although it does mess up the sorting somewhat. In other languages, this is not so easy, especially if software is written for ASCII text only, rather than UTF-8 or any of the other Unicode variants. That's nasty if your name is "孙博凯". That might end up being rendered as "Y[ZSďQ" or "孙博凯"

Update (2011-06-24): Microsoft have a special page to help translating to/from localised error message in Microsoft products available at http://www.microsoft.com/Language/en-US/Search.aspx


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