Education in Internationalization

Bill Hall, eTranslate, Inc.

Internationalization (i18n) is the design and engineering aspect of making software world-ready. Yet, unlike Localization, which has gained a degree of respect and recognition by educational institutions and industry, Internationalization remains largely unknown to university faculties, textbook writers, and the majority of programmers, who, in the end, must carry out the implementation. Whereas the art of programming already has a long tradition of knowledge handoff from teacher to student and author to reader, i18n remains an area for a few specialists. The phenomenon is world-wide, and the cost to industry must be enormous in terms of code redesign and rewrite, missed release schedules, and payments to expensive consultants, who, whatever their good intentions and motives, as outsiders cannot provide the mentoring and assistance needed to build a company wide tradition of coding with internationalization in mind.

For reasons that remain a mystery, industry, while recognizing the cost and inconvenience of not having i18n-aware developers, do not push back on the universities and training schools for help in this area. Discussions with department chairpersons and university faculty members reveal a substantial lack of knowledge of even the simplest aspects of the subject, despite the fact that modern programming languages and operating systems offer rich internationalization models that are relatively easy to learn and use. Yet, to build i18n as a core element of a computer science education, the first steps must come from the educational community.

What can be done to introduce i18n as a subject in computer science education? How can the software community bring about adding this subject as a core course? Is this even necessary? Can industry provide the initial expertise and funds to help local institutions? Is there help from government funds for this effort? Is everyone happy with the current situation? Should the effort be extended to private firms that provide training and seminars and how could they be influenced? What can be done to push writers to add chapters on i18n in books? In general, how can we establish i18n awareness as a traditional topic of a programmer's education?