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BXFind 5 advocacy articles for translation (2004.12.30)
BXMindmap OSS in education (2004.12.30)
BXFind Mandrake Linux Tagalog Translation Team : E-Mail from Eric Pareja (2005.01.03"2005.01.03"OpenSourceInThePhilippines"OpenSourceInEducation"[[Localization]])

Open Source in Education

2004.12.30

English is the language of education, business and government in the Philippines, but many people are not as fluent in English as they are in Tagalog and other dialects. As a result, they find it difficult to use English-only software, learning how to use programs through rote memorization and relying on icons and positions to find commands. This discourages them from exploring the computer or improving their skills on their own, and increases resistance to change.

With the rapid progress of volunteer efforts like the Debian Tagalog project, it would not be surprising if a full open source desktop in Tagalog and other dialects would be available in a few years' time. Because these programs are free to download and use, computer shops, cybercafes, schools, and offices would include them in standard installations. People would be free to explore computers and learn how to use them, not hampered by the dual barriers of language and technology.

The Philippine software market is too small for multinational companies like Microsoft to consider localization as economically viable. Piracy reduces the attractiveness of the market even further. Unlike other Asian countries, we do not require special alphabets or fonts in order to produce documents required by government and industry. Localization does not offer a competitive advantage that can be exploited by closed-source software.

On the other hand, open source is uniquely suited for localization efforts. Communities do not have to wait for companies to decide to produce localized versions. They can make the changes themselves. More importantly, they can use and distribute the modified software so that other people can benefit from their work, narrowing the digital divide and making technology available even for people who are not comfortable with English.

In this scenario, a number of issues present themselves. Would employers discriminate against experience in localized open source software on the grounds that those skills may not translate to English closed source software? Would the popularity of translated software result in the deterioration of functional English skills, making us less globally competitive? Would dialects further fragment our IT industry along regional boundaries while making it difficult for people to take advantage of worldwide resources?

Skill transference is an important consideration. Job advertisements specify "Microsoft Office experience." Employers may be hesitant to hire someone who doesn't have all the buzzwords listed. Schools train people in popular software so that new graduates can work right away. Business-minded students and professionals worry that their experience in open source alternatives like OpenOffice.org will not be recognized by employers. As open source software grows in features and compatibility, not only will transitioning to equivalent closed source software become easier, but using open source alternatives side-by-side with or even in lieu of closed source software will become more feasible.

What about the English language? Wouldn't promoting localized computing negatively affect English language skills and reduce one of our competitive advantages over other Asian nations? We promote the use of English in classrooms and offices. Wouldn't localization be a step back? Wouldn't people find it difficult to use non-localized software? On the contrary, localized software can help strengthen people's communication skills. With confidence based on their experience with native-language applications, people can then explore English applications with the benefit of having solid mental constructs to which they can then assign English terms.

With the wealth of regional dialects in the Philippines, wouldn't localization further divide our fledgling IT industry along regional boundaries? On the contrary, developing regional centers of excellence in computing will help the industry grow, and bring the benefits of IT to people previously excluded by their unfamiliarity with technical English. If the applications people use were available not only in English but also in regional dialects, then more people would be encouraged to explore how they can be more productive with computers. Knowledge is not trapped within a single community, but shared with other regions and the world through community members who are comfortable with English or multiple dialects.

Localization is one of the most powerful advantages offered by open source software. Open source is about freedom and choice, and translation efforts springing up around the country are a shining example of how the ability to modify software allows people to add value to it for their community. Volunteers working on translation and localization of open source software are not doing it for themselves, but rather to make it easier for their family, friends and townmates to learn more about computing and use computers to improve their lives. Through open source, Filipinos open doors.

2004.12.29

Thoughts on translation...

(XX: Gah. Nonsensical rambling below. On the other hand, people pick up functional English pretty quickly if they just have room to play. I guess. Sorta. http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/mar2000/nf00302b.htm)

... PERSONAL NOTE, WILL BE OMITTED FROM ARTICLE BUT WILL BE BLOGGED ...

I've scheduled six hours for writing documentation in Japanese, essential if our system is to be used after we return to the Philippines. So far I have spent an hour and a half struggling to express my thoughts, ever self-conscious about my choice of words. Whenever I hit a dead end, I search the Internet for tutorials in Japanese, hoping to find one basic enough for my limited Japanese. I haven't found a good one yet. I don't know what to look for, what words to use in my query. All the pages I have found so far are full of words that I do not know, and reading them is a painfully slow process.

I feel like a child struggling to learn how to use a computer. My inability to express myself or understand the bewildering multitude of words frustrates me. I have the advantage of familiarity. I _know_ the things I want to express. How much more difficult learning must be for people who must learn both language and computer usage at the same time!

PRESENTATION OF PROBLEM (must come up with better transition)

But isn't that the problem faced by students in the Philippines? Most general computing subjects in non-IT schools cover typing and the use of Microsoft Office. Business applications like Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org have an intimidating number of features and

Although English is the medium of instruction in most schools, it is still not the first language for most students.

drills.

Computing

WHY DO PEOPLE RESIST CHANGE?

It is easier to learn how to use programs mechanically by remembering menu positions and icons than it is to read the labels and remember the meaning. If you upgrade software or switch to an alternative, menu positions and icons may change. (XX: Hmm, not a point I'm going to make in this article, as I'm talking about beginning users.)

(XX: but people also hunt-and-peck through menus... This is much harder for a non-native speaker, though)

WHY DON'T TEXTBOOKS WORK?

(Not in application.)

WON'T WE HAVE PROBLEMS WITH FRAGMENTATION?

(worry about understanding first, common terms later.)

HOW WILL PEOPLE ADAPT TO ENGLISH VERSIONS?

(approximate position, anchoring English onto previous concept)

SUMMARY

Won't this make the problem worse?

It is better to give children the confidence they and then widen rather than confront them with high barriers at the beginning.

Sometimes the only computer access is through a cybercafe. When you're paying by the hour, exploration is low priority.

I think the greatest benefit of translation is a sense of community.

This is one of the areas where open source and education are perfectly matched. Open source gives everyone an opportunity to contribute.

The Debian Tagalog project initially aimed to translate the installation of a popular Linux distribution. It has accomplished that goal

classroom

but it is through discussion that we develop communication skills.

they realize that they aren't just passive consumers.

develop their critical thinking skills

that knowledge is not just something to be poured into their brains, but rather something given back to the world.

particularly during grade school

Teachers who listen to students explaining ideas to other students may be surprised at the creative metaphors

Languages don't have words for many things.

Students can _see_ their work in action. That makes all the difference between a


Penguin Power!

So you've heard the buzz about Linux and open source. As a computer science student,

Benefits

Learn from other people's code

Work on real-life software used by people around the world

I maintain planner.el, an organizer module for Emacs.

Caveats

Copyright

Some universities also own the copyright to all work you produce as a student. You need to check

How do you get started?

Resources

Open Source Software and Computer Science Education Keith J. O'Hara and Jennifer S. Kay

Linux in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Minds, Social Justice Bryan Pfaffenberger http://linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=5071

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Page: Open Source in Education
Updated: 2005-01-04
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