Sunday Jan 15, 2017

The Power of Unicode: Saves Embarrassment

Oracle follows the Unicode Consortium's character set standards for delivering applications in multiple languages and conventions.

You might think, what's an accent or two between friends, but there's more to it than that.

In this case I'm talking about language orthography, specifically the Irish language equivalent of the acute accent, the fada or síneadh fada.

The fada in Irish.

The fada accent in the Irish language; used on vowels, in this case the letter "O".

A letter in the Financial Times newspaper points out how the presence or absence of the a fada results in different words. Brendan Cahill corrects the newspaper  for its omission of the fadas on their spelling of "Áras an Uachtaráin", the formal address of the President of Ireland.

The letter writer is quite right, of course, about how the fada can change the meaning of a word otherwise spelled the same way in Irish. "Sean" for example means "old", whereas "Seán" means the name "John").

In this case however, I think that given the context, "Aras an Uachtarain" is unlikely to cause any real confusion for readers.

This is not always the case, however.

A missing fada from the Irish word "Mná" on a toilet door in Ireland once confused the late, great actor, polyglot, and polymath Peter Ustinov. He assumed it was "Man" in the plural.

"Mná" in Irish means "Women".

How inconvenient.

Tuesday Dec 20, 2016

Craicing Code in Irish

It's often assumed that computing coding lessons are always taught in English because most (though not all) programming languages use English language syntax.

Not so.

Hour of Code is worldwide

Hour of Code is worldwide

Take this great example of learning to code in Irish (Gaeilge), part of the Hour of Code initiative in 2016, thanks to computer science professor Kevin Scannell (@kscanne), from Saint Louis University in Missouri in the United States of America.

The Irish Independent newspaper tells us that Hour of Code's focus is on "making coding fun through the use of popular games like Minecraft, as well as films such as Star Wars and Frozen".

Coding in Irish with Hour of Code

Learning to code in Irish thanks to Hour of Code and Professor Kevin Scannell.

2016 was the "third year the (Hour of Code) event has been run in Ireland since it was taken up by digital learning movement, Excited", co-founded by Irish member of parliament, Fine Gael's TD Ciarán Cannon (@ciarancannon).

The Independent also says that "Prof Scannell kickstarted the initiative as he loves the language and believes children should be able to access coding lessons in their mother tongue."

Who could argue with that?

Super initiatives. Kudos, or should I say "Comhghairdeas" to all concerned.

Oh, and about that Irish word "Craic". 

Monday Jul 04, 2016

Citizen Developer as Citoyen du Monde: The Role of Composers

Interesting to see that Facebook has announced the launch of a multilingual composer tool that enables users to post status updates in different languages so that friends and followers can see the update in only their preferred language (45 languages are supported). 

This notion of composers is not new of course. They’ve been around for a while and are often encountered in the e-commerce and SaaS spaces. Amazon lets sellers create, customize, and brand their own online stores, for example. What is interesting from a user experience perspective is that composers are now part of the emergence of a global citizen developer role, a role that now finds itself responsible for tailoring the language in the UI of cloud applications.

Dutch Oracle Simplified UI SaaS Release 10

Oracle SaaS Simplified UI Release 10 in Dutch. The language can be changed using a composer.

The term citizen developer itself presents some difficulty and is, in many ways, a contradiction in terms. Nobody seriously expects governments, multinational corporations, and bodies of that nature to hand over their implementation or SaaS customization to “citizens” with basic “Hello, World” programming chops.

Instead, think of citizen developers as more about the empowerment of software owners themselves to make their own changes, be they branding, extensions, localization, or translation modifications. It’s all about enabling customers to take real ownership of their cloud software, without resorting to making source code changes or needing any real software development skills. It's a low-code or no-code approach if you like. In other words, citizen development abstracts away the complexity of programming and integration so that the user experience can be tailored to your heart's desire as if by magic. The tool du jour for the job of making your own digital world? Composers. The very word has an element of artistry to it.

Composers are more vital tools than ever now with the advent of SaaS, be they in the hands of the customers, implementation partners, user experience specialists, or design consultancies who don’t usually have, or need, deep-drive software development skills yet know what the desired result should be. 

Oracle SaaS offerings offer powerful composer tools to enable customers to really make the cloud our own. Check out this Oracle PartnerCast with Greg Nerpouni (@gnerpouni), Director of Applications User Experience at Oracle, discussing Oracle Applications Cloud extensibility:

Greg Nerpouni simplifies the world of extensibility for Oracle Partners.

Composers enable Oracle partners, for example, to make sandbox-safe user experience changes quickly and relatively cheaply for customers, freeing up their own development resources for more critical tasks. Given that 80% of enterprise software applications require customization of some sort, composers are a key part of the partner world's implementation and maintenance toolkit, and of course there is an Oracle PartnerNetwork extensibility specialization available reflecting their importance.

In the multilingual enterprise space, for example, a partner might be asked by a customer to make language changes across their suite of applications quickly and securely, ensuring that the changes are made in just the right places. That’s what’s happened in one case where Oracle PartnerNetwork member and UX champ central Certus Solutions was asked to change the out of the box German translation for performance to another word shown in Oracle’s simplified UI for SaaS. The customer wanted to use the English word instead. Language is a critical part of the UX; like everything else it must be designed.

German Simplified UI language customization

If you need the word Performance for your user experience; then so be it! German simplified UI customization by Certus Solutions using a composer (UI Text Editor).

Other examples might be the need to change all those U.S. English spellings to their U.K. variants; or to make changes in language that reflect how customers actually structure and run their business. For example, employee might be changed to partner. The label My Team is often changed to My Department, a language change that doesn’t require even require a composer tool, but can be done at the personalization level with just a click and overtype if you have the right security settings. In the past, translations for the word worker have proven problematic in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and French, requiring modification for certain customers (let's not go there). There are many examples where composers can be used to change language to reflect identity and the real ways you do things . . . .

Oracle SaaS Ccmposer to change text in the SaaS simplified UI

Autumn? Fall? Who cares! Change terminology in the SaaS simplified UI easily with a sandbox-safe composer.

What is of interest to the translation world is that very few of these composer tools use localization industry standard formats or procedures, and yet seem the better for it. For example, although language changes are made directly into resource bundles or XLIFF files, they are done so at run-time, eliminating context problems. Composer tools rarely have any complex terminology look-up capability, offer TBX support, pack language QA features other than spell checkers, and they do not use translation memory or support TMX. Why not?

Well, they aren’t needed by customers or partners and probably would just complicate things.

Allowing a partner to make language changes is more cost-effective, faster, and a more secure solution than doing a retranslation or taking a UX hit by deciding to leave the language as is.

Perhaps as composers evolve, additional functionality that might resonate in the translation industry might appear in composer tools. But only if the customers and partners demand it. Regardless, nobody in the translation industry is going to be out of a job.


Oracle Applications Cloud global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. A globally-savvy UX making it all fit together for Oracle's worldwide partners and customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!

Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @localization



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