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

jochemstoel profile image Jochem Stoel ・1 min read

Occasionally I consider writing an article in Dutch (my language) but then decide that I reach a larger audience when it is in English and "besides, every Dutch person speaks English, especially developers".

Do you prefer to read stuff in your own language? Does it add anything for you? Or is it the other way around and do you prefer it in English because most of the terminology consists of English words anyway?

Enlighten me, please. Thanks.

Discussion (12)

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rhymes profile image
rhymes • Edited

My native language is Italian but I definitely prefer reading documentation in English. It's not like it's not useful to me if it's in my native language but, it's odd I know, it's less of a context switch because I'm so used to technical terms in English that I don't even translate them in my brain.

I google stuff I don't know in English so 99% of the time I'm reading solutions, documentation or books in English.

What sometimes happens, for Italian documentation, because not all developers are good at writing (which is perfectly understandable), I see "spaghetti Italian": Italian sentences with so many english words it makes the reading a subpar experience (striking a balance between writing in proper Italian and keeping the technical jargon is not easy). So when I encounter this I think that it would have been better if they wrote it in English to begin with :D

Also I write inline comments and internal doc in English because "you might not know who's going to read it in the future, they might not know Italian" :D

jochemstoel profile image
Jochem Stoel Author

Thank you. This is helpful. I am the same by the way. :)

fnh profile image
Fabian • Edited

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.

jochemstoel profile image
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.

fnh profile image

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.

sergiodxa profile image
Sergio Daniel Xalambrí

Spanish speaker here, I prefer to read documentations or examples in English, I never try to get this kind of content in Spanish and if I'm redirected to an Spanish version I want to go to the English one.

That said, I meet a lot of people which are learning how to code and they prefer Spanish over English, most of them don't usually has a good level of English too so that is expected.

I also know there are people preferring to read everything in Spanish if possible, even translating words which aren't usually translated (eg. use depurar instead of debug which is most common even in Spanish content).

jakkovanhunen profile image

As a fellow Dutchy, I prefer all things related to development to be in English. Documentation, source, development tools, etc. That way my mind never has to make the switch from "file" to "bestand" for example. Also much easier to comunicate with colleagues who don't speak Dutch.

alicia profile image

First of, I want to raise concern that while this question is interesting you'll probably get a pretty biased result asking it on a mostly english site. People who prefer their native language probably gather on other sites that are in their native language and don't participate as much on here.

That said here's my personal experience: My native language is German and the first programming book I bought was in German, but I ran into problems with the text and had trouble understanding some concepts at first. When searching for solutions on the internet I found a few resources and answers in German, but the fast majority was in English.

After a short while I gave up trying to find a good explanation that I'd understand in German, it was just way easier to find a resource that fit my learning style in English since there were so many more resources. That being said my English was already pretty decent at that time and I only rarely had to look up general words.

z0al profile image
Ahmed T. Ali

My native is Arabic, and I do prefer to read docs in English. Honestly, because most Arabic translations (if any) are mostly, sadly incorrect ... Personally, as a dev I find translating things to Arabic really hard so I usually can't help improving them.

z0al profile image
Ahmed T. Ali

This what happens we I try to translate things ..

Would love some help :D

ardennl profile image
Arden de Raaij

Another fellow Dutch..and not at all! The order day I accidentally arrived on Mozilla's Dutch page for ES6 classes and I had no idea what was going on 'Klassen'? There are also enough things that would not make any sense in a direct translation so every sentence ends up being a mix of Dutch and English anyway.

andreandyp profile image
André Michel Andy

I'm Mexican and I prefer Spanish rather than English. However, usually documentation in Spanish is wrong translated with some exceptions, like Vue.js documentation, so I'm forced to read documentation in English.

It would be great that translations were adaptations instead of just translated words by a machine, but this world isn't perfect, so I'm satisfied if the translations is made by a human.