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1.3 Using This Package

As a user, if your language has been installed for this package, you only have to set the LANG environment variable to the appropriate ‘ll_CC’ combination. If you happen to have the LC_ALL or some other LC_xxx environment variables set, you should unset them before setting LANG, otherwise the setting of LANG will not have the desired effect. Here ‘ll’ is an ISO 639 two-letter language code, and ‘CC’ is an ISO 3166 two-letter country code. For example, let's suppose that you speak German and live in Germany. At the shell prompt, merely execute ‘setenv LANG de_DE’ (in csh), ‘export LANG; LANG=de_DE’ (in sh) or ‘export LANG=de_DE’ (in bash). This can be done from your ‘.login’ or ‘.profile’ file, once and for all.

You might think that the country code specification is redundant. But in fact, some languages have dialects in different countries. For example, ‘de_AT’ is used for Austria, and ‘pt_BR’ for Brazil. The country code serves to distinguish the dialects.

The locale naming convention of ‘ll_CC’, with ‘ll’ denoting the language and ‘CC’ denoting the country, is the one use on systems based on GNU libc. On other systems, some variations of this scheme are used, such as ‘ll’ or ‘ll_CC.encoding’. You can get the list of locales supported by your system for your language by running the command ‘locale -a | grep '^ll'’.

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 LANG for the purpose of message handling, but you still need to have LANG 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's 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 LANG environment variable, ‘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.


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