LaTeX frustration…

Knowledge of German as a foreign language (sec...
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Anyone who works on software development and in the FOSS world generally is used to seeing books and documentation in English. It is certainly a great advantage to be a fluent speaker and reader.

But it is not always the case – as I have just found out.

Right now I have returned to writing my MSc project proposal and that means back to using the power of LyX and LaTeX. But with great power comes great complexity and it can be tough navigating all of this.

So I discovered there is an O’Reilly “Hacks” book for LaTeX – LaTeX Hacks.

Great! I was going to order it without even bothering to read a review, so sure was I that it would be helpful and useful: until I discovered it was in German and there is no sign of an English translation.

To make matters worse, it seems that the O’Reilly quick reference – LaTeX – is also auf Deutsch.

And there is even 100 neue Latex Hacks

This all has an odd, and unsettling feel to it. A century ago German domination of the physical and mathematical sciences was near-complete. Think of 1905 and Einstein just for starters.

But since the tragedy and disaster of Hitler we are used to thinking of the Germans as great engineers but the US clearly as the world’s leading centre of scientific research. And when a threat to that is identified it is usually seen as being from China (as Barack Obama said only a few weeks ago in his state of the union address). But maybe the LaTeX domination of Germany suggests there is life in the old world yet.

Either that or O’Reilly need to pull their fingers out on translating this stuff.

(The graph shows the numbers of people in EU members states who speak German as a foreign or second language: I did a year of it at High School but would not claim to know much beyond some very basic vocabulary and grammar).

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