a thought on microsoft... & "why would you want it in [language]"

Donald Z. Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Fri Nov 12 19:09:13 UTC 2004

Keola, Some quick comments re part of your message...

Quoting Keola Donaghy <keola at LEOKI.UHH.HAWAII.EDU>:
>                 ...         . Among some of
> the more snide replies I've received from MS have included "Why would you
> want it in Hawaiian, don't you all speak English anyway?"  :-/

MS being so huge, there may be different tendencies within it, as it were. I'm
aware of people at MS who are doing significant work re unicode and African
languages whose operating assumptions are different.

Regarding the phrase you quote, it is similar to the thinking in so many cases
that limits the expansion of use of languages other than the dominant
international ones. I've heard similar, though more innocent sounding,
questions re French and African languages. The following quote from Kenneth
Keniston (1999) re India puts this issue in a different light:
"It can be argued that, given the fusion of language, wealth and power in India,
there is simply no market (and perhaps no need) for software in any language
other than English. Asked about localization to Indian languages, international
software firms sometimes reply, ~QBut everyone speaks English in India,~R by
which of course they mean that the present market consists of people who speak

Coming full circle with this theme, MS's efforts with certain languages can be
seen as representing their recognition of markets - which I guess can be as
much a cause for concern as celebration.

Don Osborn

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