Python, Dutch, English, Chinese, Japanese, etc.
showell30 at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 4 04:38:07 CEST 2007
The never-ending debate about PEP 3131 got me thinking
about natural languages with respect to Python, and I
have a bunch of mostly simple observations (some
factual, some anecdotal). I present these mostly as
food for thought, but I do make my own
continent-by-continent recommendations at the bottom
of the email. (My own linguistic biases are also
disclosed at the bottom of the email.)
Nationality of various technologists who use English
to some degree (keywords in their languages, etc.):
van Rossum -- Dutch-born, now lives in California
Wall -- American
Matz -- Japanese
Ritchie -- American
Stroustroup -- Danish-born, lives in Texas
Gosling -- Canadian
McCarthy -- American
Torvalds -- Finnish-born (but family spoke
Swedish), lives in Oregon
Stallman -- American
Berners-Lee -- English-born, did major work in
A sampling of largish countries where English is
fairly widely known:
United States (82% of inhabitants speak it at
home), Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, South
largest country in the world by population
Mandarin Chinese has 850 million speakers
written Chinese dates back 4000 years, employs
second largest country in the world by population
official languages: Hindi, English, and 21 others
major software outsourcing center (anecdotal)
Hindi is Indo-European language with distinctively
different alphabet from English
10th largest population
world leader in robotics
Japanese language mostly spoken in Japan
major linguistic influences: Chinese, English,
kanji = Chinese characters
hiragana and katakana -- syllabic scripts
Latin alphabet often used in modern Japanese (see
some European alphabets:
Spanish -- accented, includes digraphs ch and ll
German -- accented
French -- accented
Italian -- accented, no J/K/W/X/Y
Bringing Python to the world (all opinion here):
Even in English-speaking countries, Python is
Even in environments where programmers commonly use
ASCII encoding, Python is greatly underutilized.
Any focus on the current English/ASCII bias of
Python should mostly concern Asia, due its large
population, the 80/20 rule, the prevalence of
different writing systems in large Asian countries,
Asia's influence on technology in general, etc. (not
to mention Ruby!)
Python should be *completely* internationalized for
Mandarin, Japanese, and possibly Hindi and Korean.
Not just identifiers. I'm talking the entire
language, keywords and all.
Lobby EU for more funding for PyPy. Promote
cultural acceptance of English-ized spelling in the
context of writing software programs.
Marketing, marketing, marketing.
Focus first on translating Python documents, books,
etc. to Spanish.
write Python code for the XO-1 (aka $100 laptop)
more Penguins than people
My linguistic biases:
1) I speak American English natively.
2) I live in a very multilingual city.
3) I took 6 years of French in high school, but I
get very little exposure to the language in my
4) I hear a LOT of Spanish in day-to-day life, and
I have first semester literacy.
5) I have never learned Arabic, Mandarin,
Japanese, just to name a few major world languages.
6) I have written software that has been
translated from English to other languages, but I only
once been the primary person to do the actual
internationalization, and it was a small project.
7) Lots of U.S.-based programmers that I have
worked with speak English as their second or third
Yahoo! oneSearch: Finally, mobile search
that gives answers, not web links.
More information about the Python-list