scríbhinní ⁊ deocháin do chuallucht na Gaelainne


Celtic languages and the localisation of Microsoft products: an overview

Author: Mícheál Mac Lochlainn, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.

Published 31st August 2013.

Updated 18th October 2013.


Irish, Gaelic, Scottish, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Celtic, localisation, globalisation, translation, internationalisation, language, Microsoft, Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Language Interface Pack, Multiple User Interface.


Software localisation

Insular Celtic language (ref) localisations of many software products, both commercial and free, have been available for some years; these languages are the Goidelic languages (ref) of Irish (ref), Scottish Gaelic (ref) and Manx (ref), and the Brythonic languages (ref) of Welsh (ref), Cornish (ref) and Breton (ref). Naturally, some of these localisations are better than others. Good quality translation requires time and skill and it can be difficult for lesser-used language communities to bring the two together. Budget's a factor — the world has to be made go round and everybody has to eat — but it is really just a secondary one since all it can do is buy time and skill. True, time sometimes needs to be paid for but work can be done for free and in this age of open source software, localisation work often is. On the other hand, no amount of pounds, shillings and pence can pull a genuinely unavailable skill down from the air.

Microsoft products and localisation

Microsoft Corporation has a mature, ongoing multi-national localisation programme (ref) for its software products, which include Windows (an operating system), Internet Explorer (a Web browser) and Office (productivity tools: Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc...). As part of this programme, localisation packages are available, in the form of free downloads, that render the user interface of some versions of these products in Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh. There are no similar localisation packages available for Manx, Cornish or Breton at the moment.

This article

Various Irish (ref), Scottish (ref) and Welsh (ref) language promotion bodies actively publicise these localisation packages and provide instructions on how to install them.

This article is not a recycling centre for those instructions. The idea is to provide a slightly more in-depth, comprehensive and technical resource, not only for techies but for anyone interested in understanding the thinking and technology behind Windows-based PC localisation. So while it is technical enough in places it is hopefully still accessible to non-techies, which is why there are quite a few explanations that no systems administrator would ever need.

Rather than focussing on any one Celtic language in isolation, the article considers them all together, in context as part of a linguistic continuum. It gives a detailed overview of the technical concepts involved in user interface localisation and discusses terminology, background information, wider contexts and so on. It also provides up to date lists of links that will bring the reader to the appropriate sections of Microsoft's Download Centre, where they can obtain Celtic (and other) language localisation packages for themselves. Finally, it provides some basic instructions on how to install one or more UI localisations on the kind of standalone computers found in the home and in small businesses.

It is intended that this article will be updated from time to time, as things move on and as products and localisations develop and change.

Spell- and grammar checking

Document proofing tools like spelling and grammar checkers are all really outside this article's terms of reference because they don't actually localise the computer's user interface in any way. But with that said:

I'm as well to discuss a few points about Office 2007 or 2010 before I move on. If you're still using one or both of these, and want to use Microsoft Office proofing tools without installing user interface localisations, I'd advise you to have a read of this Microsoft community discussion (less than a month old at the time of writing, and see the reference to 'exotic' languages while you're at it), even though I'm not sure that it really clears anything up. Is it so that Microsoft is after withdrawing standalone proofing tool installers that used to be available for Office 2010 or are (free) standalone installers a new thing and were you, until Office 2013, expected to install a whole localisation package just to get the spell checker?

So out of curiosity I gave four hours trying to hunt down some pre-2013 standalone proofing tool installers. I managed to snare one for Office 2007. On Foras na Gaeilge's website (ref) I found an, admittedly dead, link to an, admittedly obsolete, Office XP Irish Language proofing tools add-on. And that's all I have to show for half a day's work so unless I'm after missing something obvious, it looks like this species definitely did exist one time but is now gone to join Raphus cucullatus.

So where does that leave you and your copies of Office 2007 and 2010? Well be very wary of non-Microsoft sources that claim to provide 'discontinued' Microsoft installers. You wouldn't know what you'd catch. If you do have genuine standalone spell checker installers for them that you downloaded from Microsoft years ago, don't lose them. If you haven't any, you could do a lot worse than give Gaelspell a try.