Localizing honorific titles

The code hasn’t been uploaded yet for the very good reason that it hasn’t been fully written, but nextSIS is being designed from the ground-up to support multiple languages. Right now, we can switch between English and Korean by altering a value in a configuration file, but the eventual goal is to (probably) put a language-related flag on the top menu bar and allow the application language to be easily and immediately changed within the application (changing the configuration file only changes the interface as pages are reloaded following actions).

But this idea of being able to change languages ‘in application’ raises an issue related to localization which, to be fair given that we are based in Korea, we always knew we were going to have. The issue – or the downright problem if we’re being honest about it – is that while English (for example) has ‘honorific titles‘ such as Mr. and Ms., there are often no direct equivalents in the Korean language. To an extent we can stretch a point on honorifics such as Mr., Dr. and Miss and Mrs. (the latter two being phonetic approximations in Korean of their English counterparts), but we’re lost on Ms. because that’s not really a supported cultural concept.

What this means in practical terms is that while we can load up our people-related records with lots of titles in English, when we switch to Korean we might be staring at blank lines in pull-down menus in some cases – even if the data itself is being retained (the blank line with an ID of 2 is still different to the blank line with an ID of 3). Of course, actually people aren’t generally likely to be switching their interfaces between languages – rather they will choose one or the other, but it may raise a problem where people are using it in a multicultural environment and choosing different versions within the same organization.

On the general subject of culturally customized interfaces, in launching the first version of nextSIS we would ideally deliver an application that was fully ready for global use, but what is more likely is that we will deliver a system which can be configured as much as possible, but which we have to accept we are likely to have to change as new local culturally-related requests are made (assuming we attract any users!)

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