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2.3.3 Specifying a Priority List of Languages

Not all programs have translations for all languages. By default, an English message is shown in place of a nonexistent translation. If you understand other languages, you can set up a priority list of languages. This is done through a different environment variable, called LANGUAGE. GNU gettext gives preference to LANGUAGE over LC_ALL and LANG for the purpose of message handling, but you still need to have LANG (or LC_ALL) set to the primary language; this is required by other parts of the system libraries. For example, some Swedish users who would rather read translations in German than English for when Swedish is not available, set LANGUAGE to ‘sv:de’ while leaving LANG to ‘sv_SE’.

Special advice for Norwegian users: The language code for Norwegian bokmål changed from ‘no’ to ‘nb’ recently (in 2003). During the transition period, while some message catalogs for this language are installed under ‘nb’ and some older ones under ‘no’, it is recommended for Norwegian users to set LANGUAGE to ‘nb:no’ so that both newer and older translations are used.

In the LANGUAGE environment variable, but not in the other environment variables, ‘ll_CC’ combinations can be abbreviated as ‘ll’ to denote the language’s main dialect. For example, ‘de’ is equivalent to ‘de_DE’ (German as spoken in Germany), and ‘pt’ to ‘pt_PT’ (Portuguese as spoken in Portugal) in this context.

Note: The variable LANGUAGE is ignored if the locale is set to ‘C’. In other words, you have to first enable localization, by setting LANG (or LC_ALL) to a value other than ‘C’, before you can use a language priority list through the LANGUAGE variable.

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