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For example:

alter session set nls_date_format = 'DD-MON-YYYY hh24:mi:ss';

changes the date format for the session.

What is nls here?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

National Language Support (because Americans have this weird idea of using MM-DD-YYYY as a date format, and different languages have different words for their months).

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The Oracle Concepts Guide for 11.2 says the following (The note is of particular interest):

Globalization Support Environment

The globalization support environment includes the client application and the database. You can control language-dependent operations by setting parameters and environment variables on the client and server, which may exist in separate locations.

Note: In previous releases, Oracle referred to globalization support capabilities as National Language Support (NLS) features. NLS is actually a subset of globalization support and provides the ability to choose a national language and store data in a specific character set.

Oracle Database provides globalization support for features such as:

  • Native languages and territories

  • Local formats for date, time, numbers, and currency

  • Calendar systems (Gregorian, Japanese, Imperial, Thai Buddha, and so on)

  • Multiple character sets, including Unicode

  • Character semantics

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