Japanese Programming

I’m certainly guilty of being a little to anglo-centric from time to time (pizza is an American food, right?), so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that you can program in languages other than English. You can see the full list on Wikipedia. Since I’m into both computers and Japan, I thought I’d give a few of them a spin.

Dolittle ドリトル

According to its Wikipedia page, Dolittle is a programming language for education developed by Osaka Electro-Communication University. Its creators called it Dolittle because they wanted to make a programming language that made it very easy to start programming.

A basic tutorial for working with the turtle can be found here.

Here’s a basic program for moving the turtle around:

左ボタンボタン"左" 作る
左ボタン動作=「かめた30 左回り」。
右ボタンボタン"右" 作る
右ボタン動作=「かめた30 右回り」。
時計!「かめた10 歩く実行

Dolittle is available as a Java applet on its website if you want to try it out.

Himawari ひまわり

Himawari means “sunflower” in Japanese. The language itself was made for use on Windows 98 through XP. The goal of creating the language was to make it easier for beginner programmers in Japan to learn how to program by removing the need for them to learn English keywords at the same time. According to its (questionably neutral) Wikipedia page, it is the most reliable Japanese programming language.

Konnichiwa, world!表示

Nadeshiko, なでしこ

Nadeshiko is the successor to Himawari. It extends the working range of operating systems to Windows 98 to Windows 7.

Nadeshiko is dynamically typed, but if you want to specify the type of your variable, you do it in this cool way:


An explanation of what’s happening above:

The first two characters on each line are the names of the variables, 場所 basho (place) and 年齢 nenrei (age), respectively. The next two characters after that, とは, are equivalent to the = or := assignment operators in most programming languages. The remaining characters on each line are the types of the variables, 文字列 mojiretsu for string and 整数 seisuu for integer. If you’re interested in more variable type names in Japanese, you can read about them here.

Here’s Nadeshiko’s official website.


There are a few more Japanese programming languages mentioned in the Wikipedia article that I didn’t get into. As for whether working with these languages would help someone studying Japanese gain more proficiency, I’m fairly certain few of the keywords used in these languages would be of much use in daily conversation. Looking through the documentation for each of these languages, however, taught me a few new words I can now use.

Bonus - Metasyntactic Variables

When people are giving code examples in Japan, do you think they use foo and bar? They probably do, but in addition to those, there are (I had no idea they were called this) metasyntactic variables that are unique to Japan.

In Japanese, the words hoge and piyo are commonly used, with other common words and variants being fuga, hogera, and hogehoge. Note that -ra is a pluralizing ending in Japanese, and reduplication is also used for pluralizing. The origin of hoge as a metasyntactic variable is not known, but it is believed to date to the early 1980s.

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