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I am most of the way through adding I18n to my application with the primary goal being to get it usable in Japanese as well as English. One of the functions of my website is that there are tables which when you click on the headers the column is sorted by the content which is usually alphabetical order. Now I know nothing at all about the Japanese language and I can't work out if sorting by alphabetical order is actually possible or if it actually makes sense and is useful.

Is alphabetical order as useful or possible in other languages which do not use the latin alphabet?

  • Not fit for a full answer but make sure you understand the specific rules. As an example, traditionally Spanish sorted CH between C and D, but that was changed a few years ago and are now considered two different letters; Ñ is a distinct letter that shorts between N and O (and don't be tempted to replace it with an N as that alters the meaning of the words and may lead to some embarrassing substitutions). – Diego Sánchez Oct 8 at 6:03
  • I think you may need to speak to some Japanese users to find out if they use an ordered Hiragana list for sorting of if they use some other criteria. – Andrew Martin Oct 8 at 7:41
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Interesting question, I've found this: https://www.freejapaneselessons.com/lesson01.cfm

'The Japanese alphabet does not contain letters but, instead, contains characters and, technically, they are not alphabets but character sets. The characters in the chart below are called Hiragana. Hiragana is the main alphabet or character set for Japanese.'

From my ignorance, I understand that they have Hiragana for this kind of purposes. Could you share your website? Maybe the alphabetical order may not be the best solution.

  • I unfortunately can't share the site. Sorting is not a hugely necessary feature and I suppose if the language doesn't support it then the users probably won't miss it anyway. – Qwertie Oct 8 at 11:26
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No, it's difficult to do it sorting by alphabetically in all languages. Instead we can use a dummy variable, say if you have 5000 number of list and we can give a unique ID for each list to make that sorting work.

  • I'm not sure that introducing your own numbering system to items in a list would be helpful to the user unless they are fully familiar with that numbering system. The point of alphabetising a list is that the user knows roughly where to find the thing they are looking for: "My thing starts with 'P' so I'll scroll until I reach 'P'". – Andrew Martin Oct 8 at 7:38
  • @AndrewMartin That was my thinking as well but when I asked a Japanese person about this they said that sorting by text is uncommon and instead IDs or dates are mostly used. – Qwertie Oct 8 at 7:52
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TL;DR Not a good idea

If you do alphabetical sort for languages (pretending even that languages that don't use the latin alphabet have an order) you would be changing the order of your interface. So let's say a user mixes up their language settings by accident or they are trying to help a friend who uses their native language on their device. It will make it even more difficult to try and use patterns to accomplish tasks.

I say this from personal experience with trying to navigate android and the play store in Cantonese.

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