Norbert’s Corner

Searching for Java Documentation Beyond English

December 3, 2004

If you’ve been searching for Japanese documentation for J2SE 5.0, it’s finally available on Translating over 10,000 web pages is a huge effort, even with the use of translation memory and other fancy technology – in the end, it’s still humans who have to understand deeply technical material in one language and render it into another without losing critical information. It’s quite amazing that the localization team got it all done in just two months after we shipped the English version. As an extra goody, we also pushed out a Japanese version of the Java Internationalization FAQ – the FAQ is not part of the J2SE documentation bundle anymore, but it used to be, and so I managed to convince the localization team that it should remain available in Japanese.

Searching all this new content unfortunately is still a problem. The engineers supporting the search functionality on the Sun developer sites have recently done quite a bit of work to enable searching for non-English content, such as consistently using UTF-8 for the search string and the results pages. You can now, for example, search for “增补字符” and find the Chinese version of an article about supplementary character support. However, searching for “国際化” does not find the Japanese internationalization pages or anything else. That’s because a long time ago, when the search functionality didn’t work for anything other than English, the Japanese J2SE documentation was excluded from the index, and some folks at Sun are concerned that users who don’t understand Japanese would be offended if the search engine suddenly returned lots of Japanese pages. The obvious solution is to look at the browser settings and return only pages that the user can actually read, but that’s not implemented yet. So, for the time being, if you want to find non-English content on, you’re still better off using Google.

What about other languages? Well, Sun management has noticed that there are many enthusiastic Java developers in China, and that Java documentation in Chinese is now the most requested RFE in our bug database. They also noticed (again) that translating our entire documentation is a huge effort, so it’s not clear yet if and when this can happen. In the meantime, Sun China has set up a vibrant developer web site, and Java Studio Creator is moving ahead with both Chinese localization of the tool and a Chinese version of its developer program. Sun Korea has created a Korean Java site as well, and Sun Japan has had a Japanese one for a long time. For European developers, the assumption has so far been that they usually know English well enough to get by, but as Sun reaches out to larger numbers of developers, this assumption is being rethought as well.