Sunday, November 4, 2012

Challenges with Indonesian & Chinese names from a software developer point a view

A lot of Indonesians have only 1 name (e.g. Soekarno, Suharto), while in western system a name commonly consist of (at least) first name & surname. Many administration software don't take this into account, the software/database don't let either the first name nor the surname to be empty. So this situation creates extra complexity for software developers.

Another problem is about the nobility title (e.g. Raden Soekarno), the title Raden is  comparable with Sir in English, so Raden should be in the title field on the GUI form / database field. Many people don't recognize this, so Raden will end up as the first name and Soekarno as the surname. Strangely further, people will infer that the first name Raden as his calling name, and people start to call him "Hi Raden" (this actually happened to a friend of mine here). I guess this complexity happens also to other non-western nobility title. (I know an African who has quite a long name due to multiple nobility titles).

Another well-known problem is over the order in Chinese names. The surname precede the first name, so for example the surname of Li Peng is Li instead of Peng. Many administrative operator and automation software make mistake by inferring that Peng is the surname.

Despite that the application/database nowadays supports also unicode encoding, in practice we still need to romanize the Chinese names (and other non latin character names such as the Russian Cyric). The probleem is that there is no standard for the Romanization. For example the Chinese family name of my mother can be translated as Guo or Kuo or even in Indonesia as Kwik or Kwiek while their semantic are the same. So the solution is the semantic web maybe?

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