[techtalk] Multiple Languages on one box

Telsa Gwynne hobbit at aloss.ukuu.org.uk
Mon Dec 13 11:09:48 EST 1999

On Sat, Dec 11, 1999 at 11:19:32AM -0600 or thereabouts, Stephan Zaniolo wrote:
> 	I'm running Red Hat 6.0, kernel 2.2.12, with October GNOME and XFree86
> 3.3.4.  I would like to setup one user account that would be all French

This sounds interesting :) I don't think you need to do it on a 
separate machine. But you might have to recompile programs you
want to speak French to you to include their various language
support options. I don't know whether all programs come with
support for different languages turned on or not. 

I think one of the things you need to find out about is the 'locale'
property. As I understand it, changing your locale alters things like
the language and the character sets. (I should note I don't understand
it very well, of course: I just see regular "How do I turn on <blah>
language?" questions on a couple of other mailing lists and locale
crops up all the time in that. :))

There are several entries in the man pages about locale (man -k locale).
I think you want to do 'man 7 locale', as just 'man locale' gives me
info about a Perl command called that. It's an environment variable,
I -think. 

Many GNU programs have at least some support for different languages.
Have a look in /usr/doc for directories which have a file called
ABOUT-NLS in them (a lot of the Gnome ones do, for example). Looking
at the little chart in that file, it mentions twenty-seven packages
and twenty-six of them have support for the French language. One of
them is bash, which is probably handy. That's dated December 1997,
so I would expect there's more now.

> to do this (or do I need to set it up on a separate machine :^( ?  Is there
> a HOW-TO or something available?  Is there any place I could find an image
> of the French keyboard mapping?

There is indeed a French-HOWTO. You might want to wait until you've learned
French to read it, however... :) Of course, you could always feed it to
Babelfish! It lives in /usr/doc/HOWTO, if you installed the HOWTOs. Or
it lives on your CD or at www.linuxdoc.org if you didn't. If you installed 
documentation in all the different languages, you'll also find a number 
of files kicking around with the suffix (urrr...) .fr (in the man pages 
directory, for example) and in the po (don't ask me why, but po is the 
name of the directory involved) directory in the sources of programs. po 
is where translations live. I have been told what it stands for, but
I forget :)

As for images of the keyboard mapping, I have completely forgotten where
the stuff that defines what letter comes up when you hit a key on the
keyboard comes, but you can get a picture of a French keyboard by
downloading, compiling, and installing 'xkeycaps' by Jamie Zawinski.
It's actually a graphical front-end to 'xmodmap', for altering your
keyboard, but part of what it does is to draw a big picture of whatever 
keyboard you ask for, with what's on the keys where. I don't think it
would be very useful if you're not using X, but it will give you an
idea: I count seven different French keyboard layouts in the current

(It's worth getting anyway, because it's very cool :) I turned my
caps lock key into a 'spare' control key a while back with it, and
now my control key has started sticking, I'm very glad I did! The
caps lock key has now justified its presence on my keyboard: a backup 
control key in a much more sensible place...)

> 	One additional item that may complicate this, my video card is not fully
> supported yet under XFree (It should be under 4.0), so I need to boot into
> runlevel 5.  (Changing to runlevel 3 from 5 tends to send the card into
> suspend mode and won't come out without a reboot. So changing XFree config
> file and restarting X every time is not an option.)

I don't think that any of this would require too much messing about
with X. But I've never tried it...

Bonne chance!


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