For a totally multi-lingual distribution, there are many things to translate beyond output messages.
gettextoffers a complete toolset for translating messages output by C programs. Perl scripts and shell scripts will also need to be translated. Even if there are today some hooks by which this can be done, these hooks are not integrated as well as they should be.
bison, are able to produce other programs (or scripts). Even if the generating programs themselves are internationalized, the generated programs they produce may need internationalization on their own, and this indirect internationalization could be automated right from the generating program. In fact, quite usually, generating and generated programs could be internationalized independently, as the effort needed is fairly orthogonal.
recodeprogram is able to reconstruct at execution. Since these descriptions are extracted from the RFC by mechanical means, translating them properly would require a prior translation of the RFC itself.
gccto allow diacriticized characters in identifiers or use translated keywords; ‘rm -i’ might accept something else than ‘y’ or ‘n’ for replies, etc. Even if the program will eventually make most of its output in the foreign languages, one has to decide whether the input syntax, option values, etc., are to be localized or not.
As we already stressed, translation is only one aspect of locales.
Other internationalization aspects are system services and are handled
are many attributes that are needed to define a country’s cultural
conventions. These attributes include beside the country’s native
language, the formatting of the date and time, the representation of
numbers, the symbols for currency, etc. These local rules are
termed the country’s locale. The locale represents the knowledge
needed to support the country’s native attributes.
There are a few major areas which may vary between countries and
hence, define what a locale must describe. The following list helps
putting multi-lingual messages into the proper context of other tasks
related to locales. See the GNU
libc manual for details.
The codeset most commonly used through out the USA and most English speaking parts of the world is the ASCII codeset. However, there are many characters needed by various locales that are not found within this codeset. The 8-bit ISO 8859-1 code set has most of the special characters needed to handle the major European languages. However, in many cases, choosing ISO 8859-1 is nevertheless not adequate: it doesn’t even handle the major European currency. Hence each locale will need to specify which codeset they need to use and will need to have the appropriate character handling routines to cope with the codeset.
The symbols used vary from country to country as does the position used by the symbol. Software needs to be able to transparently display currency figures in the native mode for each locale.
The format of date varies between locales. For example, Christmas day in 1994 is written as 12/25/94 in the USA and as 25/12/94 in Australia. Other countries might use ISO 8601 dates, etc.
Time of the day may be noted as hh:mm, hh.mm, or otherwise. Some locales require time to be specified in 24-hour mode rather than as AM or PM. Further, the nature and yearly extent of the Daylight Saving correction vary widely between countries.
Numbers can be represented differently in different locales. For example, the following numbers are all written correctly for their respective locales:
12,345.67 English 12.345,67 German 12345,67 French 1,2345.67 Asia
Some programs could go further and use different unit systems, like English units or Metric units, or even take into account variants about how numbers are spelled in full.
The most obvious area is the language support within a locale. This is
gettext provides the means for developers and users to
easily change the language that the software uses to communicate to
These areas of cultural conventions are called locale categories. It is an unfortunate term; locale aspects or locale feature categories would be a better term, because each “locale category” describes an area or task that requires localization. The concrete data that describes the cultural conventions for such an area and for a particular culture is also called a locale category. In this sense, a locale is composed of several locale categories: the locale category describing the codeset, the locale category describing the formatting of numbers, the locale category containing the translated messages, and so on.
Components of locale outside of message handling are standardized in
the ISO C standard and the POSIX:2001 standard (also known as the SUSV3
fully implements this, and most other modern systems provide a more
or less reasonable support for at least some of the missing components.