[bitcoin-dev] BIP- & SLIP-0039 -- better multi-language support

Weiji Guo weiji.g at gmail.com
Tue Nov 6 16:16:41 UTC 2018

Hello everyone,

I just realized that BIP-0039 is language dependent. I was assuming the
other way till I looked closer. The way the seed is derived from a BIP-0039
entropy, as is shown below, depends on which language to generate the
mnemonic sentence:

   Entropy <=> Mnemonic Sentence => PBKDF2 => BIP-0032 Seed

Therefore when a user choose a non-English mnemonic code he or she is stuck
with that language. Meanwhile only a few native languages are supported.

SLIP-0039 does not solve this issue in a user friendly way by providing
only an English wordlist. That's understandable as it aims to provide SSS
capability. However those users who do not speak English or recognize
English words will suffer.

What I am trying to bring to attention of the community is that, no matter
if we make a new version of BIP-0039, or a new BIP (with SSS support), or
to enhance SLIP-0039, we really need to address this language issue.

Here are what I propose:

1. The mnemonic code should be only a representation of underlying entropy
or (pre) master secret, seed, whatever. In this way, the same seed/secret
could be displayed in English or in Chinese or other languages. Then there
could be 3rd party conversion tools to support translations in case any
wallet software or device does not support all specified languages. Now it
looks like:

   Mnemonic Sentence <=> Entropy => PBKDF2 => BIP-0032 Seed

2. Given that only 8 languages are supported in BIP-0039, we should allow
the seed/secret to be represented in decimal numbers, each ranging from 0
to 2047. So those who cannot find a native language support yet having
difficulty coping words in other languages could choose to just use numbers.

So far I don't have a preference how this should be implemented. I'd like
to hear from community first.


Weiji Guo
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