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Discussion on: How useful are documentation and examples in your own native language to you?

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fnh profile image
Fabian

I have to admit that, even after more than twenty-two years of learning and using the English language, it still imposes a small mental overhead on me. Having said that, the mental overload of bad technical translations is in my experience quite worse than than.

Most books that are worthwhile reading in the field of software engineering and computing in general are originally published in English, and while many of them are also available in my native language, which is German, I usually always go with the english version. Looking at my bookshelf right now, I only see one exception I made in the past ten or so years, I have the classical "Introduction to Algorithms" by Cormen et al. in the German translation. And of course there are a few technicak books I own which have been publish in German originally. But by and large, the vast majority of technical books I read in my life were in English.

Concerning technical documentation, blog posts and the like - well, as a rule of thumb if one is able to produce text of equal quality in either English or their native language, then with English being the undisputed lingua franca of the field, their texts will be of use to a world wide audience, on the other hand, in case someone is able to write well in their native language, but produces english sentences, which would have earned them bad grades in school, they might serve more people by going with their mother tongue.

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Jochem Stoel Author

Thank you for your response, Fabian. Based on your answer I'm having trouble deciding whether you think 'native tongue' articles are a good thing or a waste of time.

To me it doesn't matter. I speak both languages fluently.

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fnh profile image
Fabian

From the perspective of a reader, I think articles in ones native language are certainly a good thing. The command of the english language, even for people in our field, can varies quite a bit.

As an author, on the other hand, they might be a waste of time, but not necessarily so.

Authors should ask themselves, what their motives for writing are and who is their target audience.

I know of quite a few people for whom writing is a tool to learn about topics they are interested in. Some of them happen to share what they write down on their blog, but the general public is really not the main audience.

Others intend to educate or want to share ideas that are important to them - their target audience is the world (or, more modestly, their peers in the field) and then the language of choice is English.

To sum it up, English is a sensible default, but that doesn't diminish the value of writing about technical topics in other languages.