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From: (Henry Spencer)
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Subject: Re: compiler for Chinese development language
Date: 20 Oct 2005 00:25:27 -0400
Message-ID: <05-10-143@comp.compilers>
Keywords: i18n

Torben_Ægidius_Mogensen <> wrote:
>In most cases, the actual English-language meaning of a keyword is
>only a reminder of what it means in the programming language...
>Hence, I don't really think it is much of a
>problem that keywords are in English even if you don't speak English.
>In some sens, it may be an advantage, as you are not confused by the
>broader meaning of the English word...

A number of years ago -- I think it was at the CHI 83 conference -- I
heard a presentation that had some relevance to this.  The researcher
had decided that he was going to get experimental proof for the
obvious fact that the cryptic Unix command names, like "grep",
hindered users.

He came up with a modest subset of the commands for doing file
operations of various kinds, including grep, and chose more
"intuitive" names for them.  He found a bunch of computer-naive people
-- much easier in those days than it is now! -- and split them into
two groups; one learned the Unix names and the other his improved
names.  He compared the error rates for the two groups.

To his surprise and embarrassment, the Unix-names group consistently
made about half as many errors.  (They did use the on-line help
facility more, suggesting that they found the Unix names harder to
learn and remember.)

He speculated on possible reasons -- he hadn't yet had time to pursue
the matter in detail -- and concluded that the most likely reason was
exactly what Torben suggested: the broader meanings of the English
words caused confusion, while the cryptic Unix abbreviations were
associated only with their specific functions.

"Was there any difference in user satisfaction?"  "We didn't learn
much about user satisfaction, because they were all so thrilled to be
using a computer for the first time..."
-- is temporarily off the air;               |   Henry Spencer
mail to henry at instead.               |

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