Of all of our accomplishments in 2013, one of the things we’re most excited about is localization.
For Webmaker to truly serve a global audience, we need to engage new communities on the web in languages other than English. However, localization is about more than translation. Everything from colour palettes to images — even makes — are unique to different countries, languages and cultures. While localizing is integral to our goal of getting millions of people around the world to build and teach the web, it is also a lot of work.
That’s where our community has stepped in. Last May, we got serious about localizing Webmaker. David Humphrey, who teaches an open source development class at Seneca College near Toronto, began working with a handful of students to prototype a technical solution for localizing Webmaker’s tools, sites, APIs, and repos. Ali Al Dallal led an experiment by creating I Love You, a program to translate the phrase ‘I love you’ in 100 languages.
While I Love You worked beautifully, it also revealed a series of significant technical challenges for Webmaker. Because the program was not originally designed to support localization, the team faced a nightmare of string translations. That called for restructuring both front-end and back-end code to extract the strings and designing a system for client-side localization.
Ali and Igor Yentaltsev, another student from Seneca, stepped up to the challenge. In addition to developing code and infrastructure for Webmaker, they translated the first two languages themselves: Thai and Russian. Next, they created a project on Transifex for Webmaker, which allowed us to invite our community to contribute even more languages. The response was huge, with nearly 500 people participating. Some languages, like Bengali and French, were completed in just one week. People organized translation sprints in languages like Chinese Taiwan, making incredible progress in a single weekend. Today, only six months after we began seriously thinking about localization, 12 languages are complete and more than 70 are underway. We are incredibly grateful for all the help we’ve received.
Anyone is welcome to help to translate Webmaker on Transifex; all you need is a free account. We even have a page to walk you through it. However, a few other hurdles remain before we can truly serve a global audience. These include:
- rethinking UI design to support languages that read from right to left
- localizing content, and not just tools
- creating tools to download strings
- setting up a staging server for translators to test their work live on our site
- Check out our site in another language by selecting from the menu at the bottom left corner of webmaker.org
- See our how-to page outlining how you can participate
- Read David Humphry’s blog posts detailing the localization of Webmaker
- Visit our Transifex page to monitor our progress
- Contribute GitHub and Bugzilla
- Learn to say I Love You in 100 languages
- Connect with Ali, Igor and David on Twitter