multicultural environment in India calls for new approaches to computing
with Indian languages. There is a need for applications across the country
which deal with information common to all the regions. Individually within
each region, where there is homogeneity in terms of the language spoken,
applications need to address local requirements.
Government and public
institutions in the country have traditionally resorted to Bilingual documentation
with English as the base and the regional language as the means to communicating
with the people.
Today we need to cater to
the following requirements.
In almost all cases,
information originates in the regional languages even if it is subsequently
transmitted in English. Often bilingual documents are exchanged between
Government institutions in different regions.
Dissemination of centralized
information to different regions of the country, both in English and the
regional language. Information flows back from the region to the center
as well and this is invariably done in English.
Exchange of information across
the states. This is accomplished through English though the use of the
National Language has been encouraged.
Dissemination of information
within a region. This is done primarily in the local language and to some
extent in English. In the rural setup, the regional language is always
Exchange of information between
institutions (public and private) which have offices distributed throughout
Data shared across
the country is usually independent of a specific language since the nature
of the shared information usually relates to demographic details, schedules
of national events, prices of agricultural products etc.
Types of applications
catering to bilingual document preparation. Though only two languages
may be involved at a time, the regional language can be any one of the
national languages. These are covered by nine scripts. Urdu should also
be supported since it is a national language.
catering to multilingual documents. Such applications are called for
in the study of scriptures and old manuscripts preserved in india. Such
documents are also required to be generated when data has to be displayed
in public places attended by people from different regions of the country.
Typically, signs and posters in railway stations display information in
three or four different scripts.
used in the teaching of languages. Introducing one language through
another is useful and is also effective when the cultural background of
the people speaking the different languages is common or similar. The language
is easier to understand since many words would be common.
of centralized data bases where the stored information is common to
all the regions. While English may be suited well for such applications,
what is desirable is an approach to storing information in a language/script
independent fashion. Postal information remains essentially the same across
the country and this could be an example. All the rules and regulations
in effect throughout the country will also qualify here.
catering to linguistic analysis. machine translation programs, user
interfaces based on natural language queries, generation of linguistic
corpora are examples of these applications.
based applications such a email, chat, search engines also qualify
as multilingual applications. It will be important to permit localized
versions of these applications where knowledge of English will not be required
on the part of the user to run the applications.
different applications mentioned above may be grouped into
While it is entirely conceivable that any application currently supported
through English will qualify for localization, there are still many questions
to be answered about items of information which need to be identified on
a global basis. It is unlikely that in the near future totally localized
applications will be available matching corresponding applications running
in English. Basically one is looking for applications that can be handled
comfortably in the mother tongue so that a large population in the country
may use computers in a meaningful manner.
preparation and data entry
conventional data bases and access the data through a web interface or
client applications running on standard systems.
and manage text data bases which include indexing.
processors similar to a shell where text based applications may be run
with ease. The commands may include standard shell commands to manipulate
files, invoke applications, manage files and directories etc.
Ease of data entry in the regional script as well as in English. Keyboard
mapping must be flexible enough to support all the aksharas, traditional
symbols and punctuation. The use of the keyboard should be uniform across
Ease of transliteration across the scripts. This is important to disseminate
common information, set up centralized data bases etc. There is also the
need to transliterate between English and the regional script to help people
learn the language.
User interfaces should be uniform across the languages, platforms or operating
systems so that training will be easy both for the person learning computers
and the trainer himself/herself. Training programs in different regions
may be easily handled by experts who may not speak the language but can
communicate through a common language other than English. The phonetic
nature of India's languages is indeed very useful for this.
Applications should cater to a large population of children and adults
with serious disabilities, specifically visual impairments.