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Creating Multi-Lingual and Multi-Locale Databases

Addison Phillips - webMethods, Inc.

Intended Audience: Software Engineer, Systems Analyst
Session Level: Beginner

Statement of Purpose:

With a shift towards global and enterprise products, system designers discovering an interest in the ability to store, validate and present multilingual data. This presentation reviews relational database support for doing this and presents some techniques for converting monolingual database tables to accept multilingual data.

Paper Description:

This presentation is geared towards developers and system designers with limited internationalization experience.

The general rules for designing multilingual database tables are fairly simple. The table structure needs to adapt to data, linguistic, and cultural differences of the data to be stored. Because each of the major database vendors have implemented support for character encodings differently, this may impact how your specific tables are laid out. Choosing a structure requires us to examine each of the following four areas:

  1. Data expansion due to changes in character encoding. Demonstrates differences in Oracle, MS SQL Server, Sybase, DB2 and Cloudscape using a Java utility.
  2. Data expansion due to linguistic and cultural differences. Beyond changes to handle encoding, multilingual data may have different storage requirements than similar English data, so more storage must be allocated to make data structures generically applicable. Table structures for a postal address entry form are examined to illustrate this principle.
  3. Data normalization of locale-related, locale-intrinsic and locale-neutral fields. Once enough storage has been allocated for each field, the data still needs to be structured to accommodate global users. This means identifying which fields need to be repeated for each locale (because we intend to provide localization of the same value); which fields need to be tagged with a locale (because this affects presentation and validation of the field or of related records in other tables); and which fields have no locale (and should be stored and used in a language-neutral way).
  4. Creation of localized ontologies. Once locale-sensitive structures are created, the tables can be put to use localizing the hierarchical data structures that power many applications.

Examples of (3) and (4) are given using portions of a system database from a webMethods product and the user questionnaire from the webMethods PartnerConnect website.


With a few modifications, database schemas can be implemented which accommodate international data and allow for globalized applications.

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Unicode Standard Conference Board Past Conferences Call for Papers Sponsors Showcase
Registration Accommodation Travel Program Talks and Papers Next Conference
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