ELL: Q: What minority language software would you like to see?

Chuck Coker chuckc at TYRELL.COM
Thu Sep 27 22:56:52 UTC 2001

From: <Mike_Cahill at SIL.ORG>
> A basic question here that the technicalities of localization have not
> addressed. Do you have a process or approach in place for translation of
> the computerese terms in pre-technological languages? What will you do
> polysynthetic languages which only have veeerrryyy long words? You may
> solutions and answers to this already figured out, but I'd be interested
> your translation approach.

First or all, let me state that I am a native English speaker and my
experience is ~extremely~ limited compared to the combined experience of
SIL. In fact, I don't even think you can make ~any~ comparison.

The only language example I can think of from my personal experience is
Hualapai (Grand Canyon area of Arizona, United States). The word for
"computer" is "qambaybu:jo" (similar to, but not quite IPA pronunciation).
Obviously this word has been made up in the last 20-30 years. It translates
literally as "place where person stores brains", derived from putting one's
thought in a word processor. The word "adoth" (rice) is borrowed from
Spanish "arroz". "Anabil" (car) is borrowed from English "automobile". The
words "dinyudyu:jo" and "dinyudwa:jo" mean "school" and "post office" -- I
forget which is which. One means "place where letters are made" (school) and
the other mean "place where letters come" (post office).

The Hualapai don't seem to have had too much trouble, aside from some
initial arguments, incorporating new words into the language as needed. They
might not be a good example though, they live in the United States where
"poverty-stricken" people are still better off than most people in the
world, there is 100% English fluency among the speakers of Hualapai, they
buy food at grocery stores and shop at Wal-Mart and K-Mart even though they
have to drive their cars fifty miles each way, they have computers at the
school, etc.

On many occasions I asked about the Hualapai translation of an English word
or phrase and there was some discussion among several Hualapai speakers
before they came up with an acceptable translation. Sometimes new words in
the language were Hualapai-ized English or Spanish words -- Hualapai doesn't
have the ñ, r, rr, x, or z that English and Spanish has.

I make my living as a software developer and even though we speak some
Spanish at home, for a technical discussion with another software developer,
I would still have to use English for a lot of technical words that I don't
even know if there is a Spanish equivalent.

So far, I have addressed problems as they arise. And, of course, I have
asked questions on lists such as this one where there are Mike Cahills to
point out my naivete and/or offer suggestions and insights. ;^)

A big thank you to you all,
Chuck Coker

Chuck Coker <chuckc at tyrell.com>
Software Developer, Tyrell Software Corporation
23151 Verdugo Drive, Suite 204
Laguna Hills, California 92653 United States
+1 949 458 1911 ext. 3

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