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Re: XML Blueberry (non-ASCII name characters in Japan)

At 7:21 PM -0400 7/9/01, Simon St.Laurent wrote:

>I'm afraid I lack contacts in Phnom Penh, but let's say a young
>developer is given the job of creating a markup language for archiving
>documents.  The text is Khmer, but if we listen to the objections of
>those who find additional Name characters distasteful, this developer
>has to make a choice.

Let's stop imagining what the situation is and try to find out what it really is by actually talking to some of the people there. Do not presume you can transfer the experience of other places and times onto Cambodia or Myanmar or anywhere else. English is a much more contentious issue in Canada and Europe than in Asia. There was a wonderful article by Seth Mydans in the July 1 New York Times about English in Asia, probably available from your local library or for a $2.50 fee on the Web. One of his points was that English is often used by Asians with different native languages who want to communicate with each other, even when there's no native English speaker involved. 

>None of these options seem particularly appealing.  The (not)
>always-delightful CIA World Factbook[1] claims that Khmer is the
>official language, spoken by about 95% of the population.  Does it seem
>reasonable to insist that those working with the markup understand
>markup in a foreign and potentially disliked language?

Khmer is the official language of the country. The CIA World Factbook also lists English and French as common languages, though it doesn't give percentages. According to the ASEAN University Network, the languages used at Phnom Pen University are Khmer, English, and French. Until 1970, French was the main language of instruction. It's not clear what the main language is today, if indeed there is only one.  (http://www.aun.chula.ac.th/cambodia.htm). I'm going to email a few people and try to find out. 

There's been some concern expressed that Cambodia's in too early a stage of computerization to assume that its needs now are likely to be its needs in the future. The same can probably be said for Myanmar. I don't think the same can be said for Ethiopia. Ethiopia is connected to the net, and has a large community of computer literate citizens both inside and outside the country. There's an active Ethiopian Computing & Information Technology Association that took part on the development of the Ethiopic block in Unicode. (http://www.ethiopians.com/EthCITA.html) Has anybody bothered to invite these people to participate in the development of Blueberry? or even asked them if they need it or want it?

If you want to develop technologies that are appropriate for a community, then you have to have people from that community involved in the process. A group of Fortune 500 employees from G7 nations cannot reasonably expect to say what is and isn't good for Ethiopia, Myanmar, or anywhere else without at least talking to and ideally involving the people their decisions affect. 

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo@metalab.unc.edu | Writer/Programmer |
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