, February 28, 2005 (STAR) A Filipina domestic helper in Singapore confessed upon finishing a computer course last year that the first time she heard the phrase "boot up your PC," she thought she was being asked to dress up the computer. Imagine how mortified she was when she was told to "click and drag the mouse."

The language barrier is a real hindrance to learning how to use a computer. Although the Philippines is said to be the third largest English-speaking country in the world, experts believe only 20 percent of the population really has a good command of the language and is comfortable using it daily.

The enormous task of attempting to translate the most common computing terms into Filipino, however, is now underway with an undisclosed "significant in-vestment" from Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft’s Local Language Program is not something new and has been in place in different countries, but it was only introduced here last year after the company realized a real need for it, said Joey Gurango, CEO of WebWorks OS, an independent software developer tapped as project manager to build the database for the Microsoft Community Glossary in Filipino.

"The Community Glossary answers the need for localized applications for a big sector of our society who probably doesn’t really need English to perform their jobs... Google, which doesn’t even have a local operation, already came out with a Tagalog-based interface for its website," Gurango said.

About 8,000 terms related to user interface, menu items, icons, field labels and browser commands, among other things, are the focus of the translation effort. No less than the respected National Artist, Dean Virgilio Almario of the University of the Philippines’ College of Arts and Letters, is overseeing the translation. Although the project is now at a stage of accepting community inputs, the final approval for every translation is still Almario’s.

"When we’re doing this, in our minds we’re trying to develop an academic language that is modern Filipino and intellectual, capable of absorbing concepts from the IT world," said Almario. "What we’re doing is just to explain the words and how to use them so we’re not just translating."

Almario said the results of focus group studies in UP reiterated the universal theory that those who use the language closer to their culture have a tendency to make their learning proficiency higher and faster than those who use another language.

The glossary can be used in a computer system’s so-called presentation layer, where users can read the text in Filipino as they navigate their computer screens. Most of the common menu options, however, remain the same, usually with just a little variation in spelling to conform to the Filipino alphabet.

Although it’s a Microsoft initiative, Gurango said the glossary is platform-agnostic and extensible so others can add to it. Some 5,000 terminologies have already been translated, with the final glossary expected to be completed next month. — Alma Buelva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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