Rosetta is a web-based platform that does exactly what I thought needed to be done: it makes open source software translation really easy for lots of people, and it makes it easy to collaborate on a translation project.
Instead of having to edit .po files manually, this web interface allows you to easily just ... translate. Read the message, type your translation, save. It's that easy.
Well, almost: the result still should be combed over with a something like POedit.
But Rosetta nontheless is an incredible project about which I am very excited, and I congratulate their team and the 8796 translators (according to public page stats) working to make free software available worldwide. I especially like logging into the website and being able to see the progress on each translation for each of the O.S.S. projects they work with. (Currently there is no Wordpress 2.0, just 1.5, unfortunately. There is also no Swahili team, prior to myself and Ndesanjo.)
The Rosetta project is, I believe, originally the translation interface for the Ubuntu Linux community. Ubuntu is a distribution (a version) of the Linux operating system.
For those who are new to the world of Open Source, Linux is a platform for your computer, just like Microsoft Windows or Apple's Macintosh OS. But Ubuntu-flavored Linux is free, community built and, indeed, community oriented. Ubuntu Linux is "beating out" a lot of the more traditional flavors of Linux because it is more user friendlily. I like to think of Ubuntu Linux developing enough to enter the mainstream as a free alternative to Windows.
From the Ubuntu website:
"Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of who we all are". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.
The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and alter their software in whatever way they see fit.
The Rosetta project has a lot of these fuzzy overtones. I love it. I would encourage anyone with strong language skills to log in and start translating one of your favorite programs.
I had the pleasure of spending this weekend with Ndesanjo Macha (English Blog/Kiswahili Blog/Profile at Global Voices) in Greensboro, N.C., about an hour from my house in the woods near Pittsboro. We're working together on a Kiswahili translation of WordPress, the excellent open source platform for this website.
We are fortunate to have the aid of the great invisible WordPress translator's community, which has collaboratively published at least a couple (1 2) of essential how-to's. Also there is of course the PoEdit team (mostly programmer Vaclav Slavik, I think), which makes the software that edits the software. Do you guys sell T-shirts, or what?
1 Geek + 1 Native Speaker = Native-Language Software for Millions.
Any techno- or translation-minded folks please email chris at nonprofitdesign dot org. Help translate your favorite Open Source software into a new language.
I'm hoping we'll be finished with it pretty soon, and we'll be promoting it to the 30-80 million estimated Kiswahili-speakers in the world. (Mostly in Kenya, Tanz. and Uganda: here's a wikipedia article about Swahili.)
In the meanwhile, I've transferred him to a shiny Wordpress 2.0 blog. It's embargoed for now, but his new domain will resolve in a few days. He's excited about WordPress because Google's Blogger, while being terrifically easy to use — is so limited a platform that it hurts to use. (Seriously, Google: you don't have categories, for god's sake. That's so 2005. The workaround hacks are hideous. ) And Blogger certainly does not have the same blogger-developer community.
Ndesanjo has been using Blogger with great success in Tanzania for some time now, and he says that he sees new Tanzanian bloggers every day. (However, he sent me a link to a new Tanzanian blog portal. I signed up and found an extremely small user base‚ writing in English.) But most of the Tanzanian bloggers stick to good-ole Blogger and have had to hack their templates a bit to get key phrases into Swahili.
Yikes. Who wants to try to figure out a content management system template on a dial up connection? With no documentation? No thanks. That's where we come in with the translation.
Ndesanjo recently described the Swahili blogosphere in this way:
is nearly impossible to translate most of the poems and convey the same message. Most of the time these poet bloggers are challenging each other with creative use of complex and deep Swahili, which is an established tradition in Swahili poetry.
So keep your aggregators tuned for developments on that front. You can read Ndesanjo's regular summaries of the Swahili blogosphere at Global Voices.