Monday, August 8, 2011

Modkit Japanese Edition and the importance of internationalization and localization

Last month, we received an email from Manabu Sugiura, a researcher at Tsuda College in Japan.  He was setting up a workshop for a little over a dozen middle school and high school girls using the Lilypad Arduino and Modkit.  He got in touch again last week to say that he had made a private version of Modkit and translated the whole interface, including code blocks, into Japanese.  Below are some screenshots and a video of Manuba's Japanese translation of Modkit.

Manabu's email, and all the effort he put in to the translation has us thinking about the importance of graphical programming tools in another aspect of democratizing programming and engineering: Internationalization and Localization.  Computer languages are largely English centric.  While there are many non-English programming languages and many localizations of popular English-based programming languages, these seem like second class citizens in the English dominated world of computer programming.  In many cases, localization simply means translating an IDE's menu buttons.

Blocks based graphical programming environments like Modkit have the opportunity to change this.  Scratch, used by over a million kids and novices for game and animation programming, already has many localizations which has been instrumental in its worldwide adoption.  As we continue to dispel myths that graphical programming environments can't be as powerful as traditional tools, we are reminded that in many cases such as internationalization, graphical programming tools can be more powerful.  We'll be working on a way to make localizations easier.  Thanks to Manabu for the inspiration!