Translations Advocacy

Ubuntu Translations

It might not come as a surprise to you that I start saying that translations are important.

Why translations

Translations are a key part of the Ubuntu community, with deep roots in our Ubuntu philosophy. For many users having an operating system in their language is the only way they’ll be able to use it (*), so it is just natural that we support this and provide tools to lower the barrier to community translations. Others might be proficient in English and be able to use Ubuntu without natural language support, but still choose to work with it in their language.

Languages are not only a vehicle for communication, but can mean a lot of things: identity, culture, evolution, creativity…  there is a long list of values that drive translators to do their work and users to have Ubuntu speak their own language, other than just the accessibility aspect.

Ubuntu translators and those from other projects it includes bring a localized system to millions, and that’s easily said than done. Release after release, a tireless community of volunteer enthusiasts set upon translating the thousands of strings that are part of the operating system and deliver Ubuntu localized in their language.

We want more!

I think this work is just awesome, and I think everyone should get to know about this effort, which does not only enable more people to use Ubuntu, but also makes possible such other amazing stories as keeping an indigenous language alive in our digital age or being the only operating system available in a particular language.

In short, I’d like to hear more about translation teams and the work that they do. I know that many translators blog regularly about their work in their local languages, and I think it would be awesome to translate part of these posts and blog them on Planet Ubuntu to let our global community to know more about translations. It’s not only about raising awareness, but also growing and building a strong and active community.

We’ve already kicked off a series of Translations Interviews, but I’d like to ask translators to blog more on the Planet, tweet/dent about what you and your team is doing and basically spread the word. Translation jams, translation status, areas where help is needed, what you like or don’t like about working with Launchpad Translations, or even explaining a bit more about your language… there is a whole range of interesting topics to talk about.

So, who wants to be the first? :)

(*) For those who’ve never had to use language support, like trying new things and would like to see what it is like for a user who does not speak English to use a system in a foreign language, here’s an experiment you can try: go to System > Administration > Language Support, then Install/Remove languages…, then scroll down to Simplified Chinese, tick the Installed checkbox and then the Apply Changes button. Once the language support is installed, drag and drop any of the Chinese language options in the list so that it is above the English entry. Then log out, lag back in and while doing that choose the language you’ve just installed, and try to play with the system


  • Kévin PEIGNOT

    Yes, you’re right. And there is a lot of job to do.. I mean Ubuntu One web UI is only in English. I’m French, I understand English even if I’ve a very poor English, but I know some people who don’t use Ubuntu One because they can’t use English applications. I helped translating the website on Launchpad, and there is almost every part containing a traduction now in rosetta, but Web UI is still English. I really think making essentials Ubuntu websites (Principal Ubuntu website, Ubuntu One) in more languages, eventually pointing on Loco ubuntu websites for other pages could help Canonical to earn money.

  • Kévin is right. Another use case that is very difficult for non-English speakers is reporting a bug: most triagers and developers expect the bug to be reported in English and if it’s not, nothing may happen to resolve the bug for a very long time.

    Then the issue goes beyond mere translation. For instance, the whole operating system and every app should work as expected with right-to-left languages. I’m not sure that’s always the case.

  • Tony Pursell

    Even where virtually everyone speaks English there are still countries where a local language translation is a *legal* requirement for public service use. Wales (part of the UK, for those who don’t know) is an example of this. The Welsh language translation team is small and struggles, but we will get there some day!