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Basic Concepts of Japanese Support on Linux


The goal of the linux-nihongo document is to create an internationalized Linux system. Software that has been internationalized handles multiple languages, dates, times, and currencies, and is sometimes suffixed with the I18N notation for internationalized software. The goal of an internationalized Linux distribution is different from the Japanese Extension and Debian-JP distributions which have tried to localize the software for use in Japan. Localization refers to the support of specific software attributes of the local country such as menus, currency, national holidays, help menus, and timezones. Localized software sometimes has the L10N suffix. Multligualized software has the ability to support multiple languages, but it may not have the dates, times, currencies and full internationalization support.

An example of multilingualized software is the Netscape browser. Japanese fonts can be easily selected from the Options menu and can be used to display Japanese web pages. There is also a localized version of Netscape with Japanese help screens and menus. Most global Linux-Nihongo users prefer multilingualized software with English help and menus.

An example of internationalization is the Macintosh operating system. The Macintosh OS can support Japanese with the addition of the Japanese Language Kit. The Mac OS is a very successful implementation of internationalization and can be made to support Korean, Chinese, and a number of other languages with the proper language kits. There is also a localized Japanese version of the Mac OS called KanjiTalk that has menus in Japanese. In both Windows '95-J and KanjiTalk, various localization attributes can be configured for localization within the control panel. Some of these attributes are date symbols, currency symbols, and timezones.

Linux and most UNIX systems with X-Windows come with international support. This is why a program like Netscape can display Japanese with no modification to the English system. Linux follows a internationalization model of OS design. The developers of the Japanese Extension (JE) and Debian-JP Linux distributions leveraged on these design attributes of Linux/GNU/UNIX/X-Consortium to create a Linux system with many Japanese localization attributes.

  Linux handles global localization settings through the use of a Locale model. When you set the LANG variable to Japanese with

   $ export LANG=ja_JP.ujis

you cause the man program to look for Japanese manpages and X programs such as xcalender to display the menus in Japanese. There are usually two sets of X resource application defaults, one in English and one in Japanese. You can set the global default to U.S. English with

   $ export LANG=En_US

The locale string is usually comprised of a two letter language code, an underscore, and a two letter country code. A listing of the available language codes is found in the appendix in section 15.4.1 and a listing of available country codes is found in section 15.4.2. The locale model for Japanese is a bit more complex due to the different encoding methods. The encoding method is sometimes indicated after the JP country code and a period. Some locale strings are:


Specific application defaults can be set in your X resources.

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Craig Toshio Oda