Re: Multilingual Documents [was: HTML forms and UTF-8]

From: Otto Stolz (
Date: Wed Nov 24 1999 - 06:01:16 EST

Am 1999-11-23 um 18:04 h hat Chris Pratley geschrieben:
> 4. It is simply easier for people to create monolingual documents. Even if
> the author is fluent in two languages, keeping the versions in sync with
> edits and making sure they say substantially the same thing is a hassle most
> people don't want (but many governments are forced to adhere to)

This remark hints to a possible fallacy in the surveys discussed in this
thread: I have seen no definition of "multilingual document", though any
survey (and the resulting statistics) crucially depend on it.

If only documents containing the very same content in several languages
are deemed "multilingual", then the ratio between those documents and the
other ones will indeed be exceedingly small (as that notorious limerick
says: "it requres good light and a very strong sight in order to see it,
at all").

However, the software features discussed in this thread are required (or
at least useful) for any document containing text in several languages,
so all of these should have been included in the surveys and statistics;
and the questionairs should have clearly said so. Examples for such multi-
lingual documents comprise (but are not limited to) dictionaries and
glossaries, bibliographies and citations (including foreign product and
company names), quotes (including mottos, proverbs, ...), and proper names
(very common in Europe, e. g.). You will find "LANG=en" spans in virtually
100% of my own German web pages, for instance; and this very note con-
tains a clause in German, as I am too lazy to retype the automatically
generated quote-heading.

> 5. [...] (When I was growing up in Quebec, I did not see a large fraction
> of documents that were bilingual, except for certain government public-
> ations and advertisements)

I guess, in Quebec, more than 50% of all English e-mail items will contain
a person's or place name in French; right?

> 6. Another point made by a couple of people is that you can measure the
> ratio of documents (as we were discussing), or you can also measure the
> percent of users who *ever* have to create even one multi-language document.
> This percentage is considerably higher than the percentage of multilingual
> documents, more like 10-30% of users as opposed to <1% of documents. If you
> are strictly looking at business cases, then this is a misleading number,
> because a feature that makes a significant percentage of users' work easier
> is more valuable than one that makes a tiny percent easier. So measuring
> per-document makes more sense.

I rather think that a feature that makes the work of a significant percentage
of users easier, will constitute a business case. So measuring per-user makes
more sense.

> And, just to reiterate, anyone who knows me knows that I (and Microsoft) are
> all in favour of supporting multilingual usage in Office

Glad to read this -- and I have seen this already working in Word 2000.

Best wishes,
   Otto Stolz

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