The Challenges of Bidirectional Languages

With the emergence of western relations with the Middle East, emphasis on bidirectionalization (sometimes written as b18n or BiDi) of web applications has increased in recent years. In basic terms, bidirectional languages contain text from multiple alphabets and content written in both left-to-right and right-to-left forms.

This past February, Roozbeh Pournader, an internationalization expert at HighTech Passport, spoke on this issue and offered a number of insights and ideas as to how to overcome bidirectional hurdles within software internationalization and localization. You can see a screen shot from the presentation to the right where some bidirectional issues are explored (notice the sentence structure). Pournader touches on the fact that in order to localize your application into a bidirectional language, you basically have to hack your own program; it isn’t easy. But when looked at in the right light, bidirectionalization is an opportunity to enter a new market and gain trust with a new group. It’s just part of the internationalization and localization process; do it right the first time and you’ll be rewarded.

Roozbeh Pournader’s talk focuses on the common problems of bidirectionalization, current approaches taken by the industry, and gives suggestions for avoiding headaches while providing some examples of bidirectionalization for web apps.

Also, be sure to read up on bidirectionalization with a great whitepaper from Enlaso: http://www.enlaso.com/Language_Tech_Center/White_Papers/Content/103_Arabic_and_Bidirectional_Challenges.pdf

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