Apple is Improving the Grammar in Multilingual Apps with User Preferred Pronouns

Apple is Improving the Grammar in Multilingual Apps

During Apple’s highly anticipated WWDC 2023 online event, Alla Shashkina, an engineer in the company’s internationalization team, introduced viewers to the latest news in multilingual grammatical agreement for Apple iOS app development with the phrase “The words in your app matter.”

The technology that harmonizes different languages in Apple iOS apps, so that grammar aligns, was first introduced in 2021. The goal was, and still is, to help app developers create multiple-language apps that are grammatically correct without the need to know about, or worry, about grammar. This iteration of the grammatically capable API is purported to sound better and have more inclusive language.

Interestingly, Apple now views the grammatical adjustment in multi-language apps as a function of user preferences and inclusivity: going beyond a choice of language, the user interface should allow users to create a gender preference/term of address, in some languages a pronoun, such as “she.”

This choice will make the iPhone, for example, greet the user with the appropriate gender designation in languages that have gender differentiation. Shashkina used Romance languages like French and Spanish to illustrate this point, with the result positioned as a more personalized user experience based on a choice that actually makes language adapt regardless of other settings.

More with Fewer Tweaks?

For details on what is possible now in multilingual grammatical agreement for iOS app development, Shashkina used a food ordering app as an example. This type of app is widely popular across cultures and languages, and her example centered on Spanish, a language that has gender differentiation, and in which adjectives need to be in grammatical agreement with nouns. She showed how grammatical agreement between these parts of speech can now work with just a few code changes at string level.

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The new localization coding property is called “concepts,” and it allows developers to indicate which objects (values) affect grammatical agreement. A noun would precisely be a concept. An “agreeWithConcept” attribute is then introduced, and voilà: the qualifier’s gender now matches the object.

Another new attribute helping other components of natural language is called “agreeWithArgument.” It helps create agreement, also at string level, without any code changes. The premise is that, once the agreement relationship with a particular “argument” is established, i.e., a dependency, all components related to that argument will agree without the need for further coding.

Additional language support in European Portuguese and German is also available this year in “Foundation,” the code primer available to developers for iOS.