[Sugar-devel] [IAEP] Sugar Digest 2012-09-18

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Mon Sep 24 07:54:49 EDT 2012

On Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 6:37 AM, Bert Freudenberg <bert at freudenbergs.de> wrote:
> On 2012-09-24, at 01:40, James Cameron <quozl at laptop.org> wrote:
>> On Sun, Sep 23, 2012 at 07:53:35PM -0300, Gonzalo Odiard wrote:
>>> Paint activity was developed by a Brazilian team and a lot of variables
>>> had Portuguese names.
>>> Whit the time, we changed a lot, but there are a few pending.
>> It is irritating that we still store source code in linear text files
>> without built-in internationalisation.
>> As you change these names, they become far less useful to programmers
>> who use that language.
>> The development system would be more open and inclusive if there was a
>> way to keep variable names, and other text, in multiple languages.
>> I've seen nothing yet that achieves this.  It would require editor
>> application support.
> Tile-based programming systems like Etoys, Scratch, or Turtle Art make this a lot easier. They at least support switching the names of built-in functions and objects.
> Translating user-defined names is harder, but not impossible. I don't know of any deployment-ready system, but there have been at least demos, e.g. the 2004 TranSqueak project (details below, though I couldn't find a PDF online).
> - Bert -
> TranSqueak - making the world a smaller place: on-the-fly translation of Etoy projects and instant messaging
> AUTHORS: Michael Rüger, Yoshiki Ohshima (Viewpoints Research Institute, Glendale, CA, USA)
> PUBLISHED: Proceedings of Second International Conference on Creating, Connecting and Collaborating through Computing (C5), 2004.
> ABSTRACT: This work presents an extension to the existing multilingualization work (ml7n) which allows people to collaborate on Squeak Etoy projects across different natural languages. Squeak etoys support several languages, both ISO-Latin based ones (erg., English, German, French), and nonISO languages (e.g., Japanese). Switching between languages for the Etoy tiles is fairly easy to support as the tiles provide a predefined set of words and phrases, which only need to be translated once. There are two areas where we need to go beyond the predefined and pretranslated set of phrases: user supplied names and communication between collaborators. This work presents an approach based on online translation services. We demonstrate a working prototype and a first analysis of the feasibility of this approach.
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There seem to be three threads here:

(1) should we teach children to program in their native language?
(2) should we insist on English as the development language for Sugar
(3) how can we encourage more programming as part of the elementary
learning in schools?

I've not seen studies regarding the merits of (1), but it seems that
common sense would dictate that we not burden students with having to
convolve natural language learning with programming. (One could make
arguments to the contrary, but ultimately, it is a local decision.)

Regarding Sugar, whereas it is a global project trying to service the
needs of children of many languages and developers who do not all
share a common language (other than Python), it is less clear that
code base consisting of a mixture of variable names and comments in a
variety of languages is a productive path. We chose English as the
lingua franca of the project and it is certainly a reasonable choice.
We have made an effort to support the multilingual developer community
by providing automated chat translation (as per the recommendations of
Yoshiki and Michael) and I have observed these services being used by
developers as they hone their English skills.

As far as getting more teachers to pick up on the powerful ideas
associated with programming, it will take time, but already we see
some progress, as evidenced by what has been happening in .UY. Paolo
remains pessimistic and I remain optimistic. Perhaps our differences
are differences of expectation about timescale. I remain hopeful that
the children of the generation of Daniel and Agustine will bring
different skills and expectations of school and school will change
from the bottom up. Yes, that is a long view, but unless we start now,
we will wait even longer. The cool thing is, .UY has already started!!
Now, if I could only get my own country to move forward.



Walter Bender
Sugar Labs

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