Multilingual Word Processors

By Stacey
Oct 8, 2013 · 3 min

Many word processors claim to support various languages, but typically this means simple Unicode font support. True multilingual word processors do exist, however.

Multilingual Word Processors | One Hour Translation

As a native English speaker, it’s easy to forget that most of the world does not, in fact, speak or work in English.

Part of this is a typical sort of blindness that people living in a dominant culture tend to have, and part of it is the technology I use: Much of the software I engage with every day is created and produced by companies and individuals in English-speaking countries, and the Internet itself has a distinct English favouritism you can’t escape. As a result it’s easy for me to imagine that everyone around the world is perfectly content to get their Word Processing software designed for the English Language, when the fact is almost everyone everywhere would prefer to have localised versions of their software. Localisation of technology is the next Big Thing, I think, and just as important as localisation of high quality translation projects.

Not Just Unicode

Wait, you say, my software is already localised! I can switch between a hundred languages in my Word Processing software!

Well, yes, in a sense that counts as localisation, I suppose. There are a lot of fonts and spellcheck dictionaries out there that allow you to compose a document in, say, French, spellcheck it, and send it on its way. However, try working on a document in a language that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet and see how frustrating it can be. Simply having Unicode support is not the same thing as localisation, because you will wind up having to come up with a wide variety of ‘hacks’ just to make your daily work possible.

True Localised Software

There exist a handful of true multi-lingual Word Processors that are popular among writers and translation workers around the globe. Mellen by RedleX Software is a mature and stable piece of software that has proved to be very popular; it has a large number of truly localised versions designed with the native language in mind, usually created by local volunteers, which means they are truly multilingual and not simply stuffed with Unicode fonts and poorly-maintained dictionaries.

Nisus Writer Express is another stable and well-regarded word processor with true multilingual support and localisation.

Not Just Software

In order to have a truly multilingual experience, however, you need more than just software – you also need hardware. Specifically, a localised keyboard. If you have ever tried writing in Mandarin or Russian using a standard US-style keyboard, you know that it is possible in the same way that performing surgery on yourself is possible. In other words, not really possible.

Combining one of these multilingual word processors with a localised keyboard, however, makes for a truly localised experience, improving both the work environment and the final product.

Localisation has been a watchword in translation agencies for some time now. It’s also time to start thinking of localisation in terms of the technology – the hardware and software – that we use.

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