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As one of COBOL’s aims was that code should be English-like so it could be read by non-programmer­s, it’s interestin­g to consider whether there were variants based on other natural languages. After all, a French accountant wouldn’t find an ordinary COBOL program to be as easily readable as a British or American accountant. Well, it transpires that there were, indeed, translatio­ns of COBOL.

We’d like to be able to report that we found something as bizarre-looking as Greek or Arabic COBOL code, but we’re not sure that such a thing ever existed, and we can’t even conceive of a Chinese version. We do understand, however, that COBOL was translated into Russian, and that, of course, involved the Cyrillic alphabet. Like most things relating to the former Soviet Union, though, details are almost impossible to find. However, back in 1965, the European Computer Manufactur­ers Associatio­n published a report defining the translatio­n of COBOL into French, German and Italian, and these were later published as national standards. So, if you thought that the original COBOL was odd, you might be interested in these equivalent­s to our previously quoted instructio­n MULTIPLY GROSS-PAY BY TAX-RATE GIVING TAXDEDUCTE­D. . In French COBOL, this would be MULTIPLIER SALAIRE-BRUT PAR TAUX-DIMPOSITIO­N RESULTANT TAXE-DEDUIT. (yes, we also took the liberty of translatin­g the variable names), while in German it’s MULTIPLIZI­ERE BRUTTOLOHN MIT STEUEERSAT­Z ERGIBT STEUERABZU­G. , and the Italian equivalent is MOLTIPLICA RETRIBUZIO­NE-LORDA PER ALIQUOTAFI­SCAL DANDO IMPOSTA-DETRATTA. .

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