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Two different sets of experiences about non-English identifiers

Don Park contributed:


> I beg to differ.  XML is popular in China/Korea/Japan
> because they are already familiar with HTML and of all
> the hoopla we are making in the Western Hemisphere
> over it as the next Holy Grail.  They have tinkered with
> Chinese-enabled Forth and other languages, but they
> have accepted limitations of C, Java, and Perl without
> any significant complaint.  I haven't heard anyone
> complaining why the new C# identifiers can't be Chinese.
> Why is it such an issue in XML names?


Pardon me for repeating myself.

I have worked in Japan in a company that used C, a company that used VB, and
now work in a company that is using Delphi to write XML applications (and
has some programmers studying Java so we improve our interoperability). I
have also done a little reading of the Japanese trade magazines.

I realize it is not hard to find C written like it was CoBOL, and it is not
hard to find managers who still think that CoBOL and C can't be
substantially different, since both are procedural languages. It is also not
hard to find managers who say things like, "Who cares if a human can
understand the name of an identifier or procedure? If it is unique, the
machine keeps track of it for us. The meaning should be explained in the
comments and the docs. Any engineer who doesn't read the docs is not an

These are typical comments I have heard on the job here in Japan, though not
at my present company. Some here have been bitten by VB's partial support of
native language identifiers, and would be wary of using them with
Microsoft's stuff. But if Borland's compiler's allowed Kanji in identifiers,
I can't think of one of my co-workers who would hesitate long.

(Back in college, I remember professors extolling the ideal of
self-commenting code. Note that such an ideal is completely meaningless to
my Japanese co-workers, under the present circumstances.)

A few months back, one of my co-workers asked during a meeting if it was
really okay that we are using Japanese in the tags in basically all our XML
documents. There was a little mumbling, no discussion, except to point out
that XML seems to allow us to at least use the ones in the UNICODE BMP, and
nothing more. At this point, no one in our company is using English tags
(except when the English tag makes more sense to them). The advantages seem
to overwhelm any theoretical advantage to using English.

(And, since my Japanese is about the level of their English, I can feel
first-hand the disadvantages. Using the tags is not so bad, it's making new
ones up that slows me down.<chuckle/>)

If we need to publish any of this in an environment where those who can't
read Japanese, but need to work on the structure itself, are sufficient in
number, I suppose we'll just make some translation tables and use a little
XSLT or Perl to do global replaces, both directions.

Joel Rees
programmer -- rees@mediafusion.co.jp
To be a tree supporting all information,
  giving root to the chaos
    and branches to the trivia,
      information breathing anew --
        This is the aim of Yggdrasill.
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