Re: Optimus keyboard

From: William J Poser (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2007 - 12:57:35 CST

  • Next message: Christopher Fynn: "Re: Optimus keyboard"

    Marnen Laibow-Koser wrote:
    >I believe you're missing the point here. I do a lot of multilingual
    >typing on Mac OS X. It's easy enough to switch keyboard mappings,
    >but that's really not the problem. The problem is that once
    >switched, it's annoying to squint at Keyboard Viewer to see what
    >character is on which key. And Mac OS users are fortunate in that
    >Keyboard Viewer is easily accessible: I *still* haven't found a
    >reliable equivalent in Kubuntu or Windows XP.
    I agree that a keyboard like this would be very handy for those
    who switch writing systems frequently. However, it is not clear to
    me that this is relevant to the original question, which was
    whether the lack of such a keyboard is the sticking point for
    widespread use of minority languages. A great many minority language
    users do not need to switch back and forth constantly - if they are
    going to use their minority language, they just need a keyboard
    that lets them enter it efficiently. For such users the switching
    issue is not important - what is important, beyond being able to
    obtain the keyboard mapping they need, is LEARNING the minority language
    mapping, for which keycap covers and on-screen keymaps may be quite
    adequate. Once they learn it, they will touch type, so the issues
    raised about keycap covers falling off and becoming dirty and so forth
    are not really relevant.

    It is true that SOME minority language users will also have to write
    frequently in a larger language. If they need to switch back and
    forth frequently between languages with incompatible keyboard
    mappings, something like the Optimus would be valuable. The question is,
    how large a proportion fall into this category, and how large a
    proportion fall into the category of those who would largely or entirely
    write in their minority language if they could.

    As I said before, I'm not unappreciative of this keyboard. I'd like
    to have one. What I question is whether it is the key to enabling
    significantly greater use of minority languages. The fact that for
    certain classes of users who write in several languages or who
    frequently mix languages within documents this kind of keyboard wold
    be very useful does not necessarily make it a key to writing in
    minority languages.

    I suspect that, unfortunately, the relevant data does not exist.
    What I would like to see is evidence that, e.g., speakers of Hausa
    in Niger would, if they could, write (almost) entirely in Hausa,
    or would, nonetheless, write mostly in French, or would write
    50% of the time in French and 50% in Hausa. Does anyone know of such


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