Eric Sink, ex-developer of what today is Internet Explorer, has today a company which makes software development tools. He always felt guilty for not internationalizing his software, but that might have changed after a conference in Spain:
Even though our product is English-only, we currently get between 30 and 40 percent of our revenue from outside the U.S. […] We’ve experimented with localization and received abysmal results. We’ve been to a trade show where most people’s first language is not English, and nobody even complained.
He acknowledged this wouldn’t happen with end-user software. But, do developers really want software in English?
We have to start separating localization from translation. Many readers said they preferred user interfaces in English, but virtually all wanted dates and numbers in the local format. A Russion company couldn’t use the version control software because it wasn’t compatible with filenames in the Cyrillic alphabet.
As a reader indicated, it’s hard to translate the IT jargon. The original term is often as known as the translated one, or even more. User and translators may disagree about translating or not an expression; I already wrote about loanwords. Another problem is when the translator doesn’t understand what he’s translating, causing amazing bugs. In free software, the open process minimizes this problem. Have anyone here ever translated proprietary/closed-source software?
Many readers complained about the translations’ quality; they found software in English easier to use than translated one. Comment #50 explains the reason: most developers spend as little as possible in translation. They delegate the job to whoever offers the lower job. Obviously this doesn’t happen with voluntary translation, as the Brazilian GNOME one; our motivation is acknowledgment and the satisfaction of a well done job.
Other readers mentioned they prefered software in English for the ease to search for getting help. One can search the Internet for an error message in English and find the solution, but this doesn’t always work for error messages in other languages. Furthermore, in international mailing lists and forums it’s easier to get help if everyone sees the same interface. On the other hand, this applies only to people who know English. In your country, do software developers know English?
I agree with some readers that the lack of requests for translation/localization is due to the very language barrier. The company is located in the United States, its site is in English, its workers speak English, its products are written in English. One has to know English to get interested in the software! I noticed most comments were writeen by Europeans, which are known to be proficient in foreign languages. A Belgian commented he never found, in 20 years of technical support in IT, a user which couldn’t use software in English. This is obviously not true in Brazil and other
poor developing countries.
I have used a lot of software in English, many years ago, when the Portuguese version of Windows lagged an year or more after the English one. Today translated software is the norm, and with GNOME and GNU/Linux the releases are made in tens of languages. Since I’m not a developer, I’ like like to ask your opinion: do developers prefer software in English or in their native languages?