Localization 2.0: Programming in Arabic Script

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The world is changing from day to day as localization continues to see amazing developments that push traditional boundaries. Did you think computer programming languages would always look like random nonsense and always in English? Think again! Ramsey Nasser has taken localization to the next level and in the process created a beautiful programming language based on the Arabic script.

The programming language  is called قلب. This Arabic word, that is more or less pronounces as ‘qalb,’ is Arabic for heart. According to Nasser’s explanation, he has developed the language not only for its effectiveness, but also for its beauty. Nasser: ‘قلب, as far as I know, is the first programming language that is a conceptual art piece.’

However, Nasser added that the language is Turing-complete as well, which means it can perform any computation the user wishes for.

Fellow at the Eyebeam Art+Technology Center in New York, Nasser has already created quite a few algorithms In the language. The قلب language is Scheme-like: it has its roots in Lisp, which is a very popular programming language among computer scientists.

The uniqueness of قلب lies in the fact that it is not only functional, but easy on the eyes as well. The length of the lines that connect the letters of the Arabic alphabet can be altered, which means the appearance of the code can be changed without changing its function. قلب  thus the perfect example that form and function can go together beautifully!

Beauty isn’t the only reason why he created this Arabic computer language: almost every programming language is focussed on Europe and the United States. Regions which do not employ the Latin alphabet often have a great disadvantage, as the English words of most computer languages mean nothing to students whose native language uses another alphabet.

This is a great example of taking control and localizing a product which has to a certain extent been monopolised by the English speaking world. Once upon a time there were no keyboards with Arabic….

Nasser: ‘If we are going to really push for coding literacy, which I do; if we are going to push to teach code around the world, then we have to be aware of what the cultural biases are and what it means for someone who doesn’t share that background to be expected to be able to reason in those languages.’

Want to take a look at this revolutionary programming language? Download it from Nassers github page here.

By the way, we may do localization here at Kwintessential but Arabic programming language is way beyond our scope!

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