#8: Govoritye po Russki?

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.

There are 347 languages with more than a million speakers. But even Ubuntu, which has amazing infrastructure for translation and a great community that actually does the work, is nowhere close to being fully translated in more than 10 or 15 languages.

You can see a great chart of this in the Edgy Translation Status page.

Translation is one of the key opportunities we have to create something radically better than what the Windows hegemony has yet been able to deliver. Something that will give millions – tens or hundreds of millions – of new computer users a reason to stick with free software.

If you want to make a difference, and you are not a native English speaker but nonetheless have good English and are a regular users of Ubuntu or the free software stack, please help! It’s dead easy to contribute with Rosetta in Launchpad, and you can translate many upstreams or add translations for your home language straight to Ubuntu – we ship out a new language pack at least once a month.

Our goal is straightforward – build a huge, well managed community to translate free software into hundreds of languages with a high level of accuracy, then make those translations instantly and freely available. It’s like wikipedia for your desktop.

13 Responses to “#8: Govoritye po Russki?”

  1. Simone Brunozzi Says:


    I agree with the statement, but those 347 languages spoken by more than 1 million persons must be confronted with number of computers.
    For example, the Sukuma language, spoken in Tanzania by more than 3 million people, has a correspondent of around one thousand PCs.
    (for language statistics, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers).

    I don’t think that 1000 PCs are worth the effort of translating an entire distribution.

    What about the creation of a new artificial language, easily learnable by people from all over the world?
    It could be the gem in the Ubuntu revolution.


  2. SF Says:


    Maybe you are looking for Esperanto

    And you can translate here :


  3. JGJones Says:


    I work as a Linux administrator for a British deaf organisation – BDA. I’ve learnt a lot about Linux ever since I first started using Ubuntu. One thing I’ve thought about…

    Deaf people in USA/UK are using PC’s with the English language as the choice of language. However I did think about how about expanding the Help section to allow the use of video’s?

    The reason for this, in UK there are many Deaf users that use BSL as their first language and cannot grasp English due to no audio skills. They can use a PC with the English words such as in the menu’s etc, but when they want help, they have to read a Help menu based on that language – English which is often beyond them.

    My thoughts for one possible system of Help was to replace it with a video based menu – where it can show a screencast – ie an example of what to do – Deaf people can then get a visual help system and copy it to do what they want. This would also be useful not just for Deaf people, but for hearing folks that might struggle with the terms in a Help text :)

    Furthermore with videos, it can also be used to show a BSL (British Sign Language) based videos in Help (or ASL – American Sign Language for USA).

    To date there are no operating systems that specifically caters to sign language market – sure they all some form of visible alerts such as flashing toolbars’ etc but no Help etc in their language. Just a thought which can be pretty hard to pull off but hope it’s food for thoughts for you.

  4. poor.isabel Says:

    Unfortunately the Rosetta software is not yet usable enough. I’ve been translating there for a while and not being able to search the strings and manage translations makes the work much harder than it could be. I just hope the needed tools are soon implemented.

  5. Vaclav aka Kingskid Says:

    I’d like to add my 2 cents. Rosetta would really need some adjustments. For instance searching for keywords in order to find specific string that needs correction would be a great improvement. Also adding buttons Previous, Next to the bottom of the page can help to save time when just browsing and looking for a certain word or sentence.
    I beg developers to launch the “Upload file” feature again. Its so much easier to work with PO files but they cannot be uploaded for the time being. This was quiet an obstacle when finishing translations before releasing Edgy – I couldn’t upload “update-manager” so we still have it “one sentence English, the other Czech”. Kinda funny looking.
    Otherwise keep up the good work on Ubuntu and its Ku, Xu and other brothers!

  6. Stefan Chirila Says:

    Dear mister Shuttleworth,

    I am very impressed with your work in the Linux field (namely UBUNTU Linux). You are someone to look up to and a very good example for the meaning of the word “ubuntu”. I have been a Linux user since about 1998 and to be honest, at first i did not like Ubuntu too much, it was rather slow on my 128 MB computer (running the Gnome desktop) and also, my dialup connection did not do well with the constant downloading of packages. Sure it wasn’t annoyingly slow, but i did prefer having 3 CDs packed with applications the way other distributions did it. Lately however i started to dislike other distributions’ policies and learned to love Ubuntu more and more. I found out about kubuntu and the much faster xubuntu and now am planing to burn my personalized app CDs from packages downloaded from the repositories. What i am trying to say is that i find Ubuntu to be one of the few Great Linux distributions around and that i can only imagine it becoming greater and greater as time goes by.

    So, CUDOES :)!

  7. BArrYZ Says:

    I agree with poor.isabel (Rosetta it’s cool, but there are still some improvement to make it a good tool in translation), and i’d like to see Rosetta and all the launchpad project, released as opensource project like Ubuntu, better with a GPL license.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your interesting point of view, Mark.

  8. AlexandreP Says:

    Based on what I’ve read some time before (I don’t know if it is [still] true or accurate — you will be able to correct me if I’m wrong), Launchpad has difficulty to upstream the work done in translation to the original projects’ CVS or Subversion repos. Same for downstream from the projects repos. And some has reported that Launchpad automatically adds a credit to itself on translations done through Rosetta. Doing twice the work of translation (on Launchpad for Ubuntu and on the CVS repos for the projects) and the credits problem might be the cause of less people participating on Rosetta. (Again, I repeat that I’m not aware of the situation right now, how it has evolved.)

    And I agree with poor.isabel : one interesting thing that could be added to Rosetta interface is the ability to search part of a string into a package translation and get in return all the strings which contain that part of a string. It would be very helpful in correcting typos.

  9. Aciel Says:

    Ya govoruy po Russki! A vy Mark? I hope your time spend on my birth land was a worth while and it must have been amazing experience! I also think Tartine is a great place to go about and I m also a fan of mozilla. I am going to join your great ubuntu and hope its like wikipedia because I love wikipedia! ;))) Spasibo ya toje lublyu russkie bani( saunas) i sneg;)))

  10. Eric S. Johansson Says:

    your position that widespread adoption of Linux will need increased language support. I’ll argue that you also need significantly improved handicap accessibility if for no other reason than if the user is not handicapped now, they will become so as they age. A great example I’ve experienced recently was teaching my 81-year-old aunt how to use a cell phone. Hint: smooth plastic cases are way too slippery for old fingers.

    handicap accessibility is important for other arenas. For example, many corporate and governmental organizations require software they purchase, must be adaptable to the needs of handicapped users. For the blind, this means the screen readers must work. For the profoundly handicapped, they must be able to use a variety of keyboard alternatives. And for those with upper extremity disorders, they must work with speech recognition.

    given enough time and energy, the needs of vision impaired users and profoundly disabled users can be accommodated. Windows makes it much easier but Linux doesn’t make it impossible. Unfortunately, today upper extremity disabilities are not supported at all in Linux. You have no choice but to use Windows and the ability to bridge from Windows speech recognition to Linux is exceedingly poor. One could even say Linux makes it impossible.

    It’s highly unlikely that Linux will ever have native speech recognition. Tens of millions of dollars and years of development time not to mention legal time to avoid the patent minefields are not likely to be available. Even speech recognition using wine is low probability. There are too many issues surrounding the speech recognition side of handicap accessibility to make it happen on volunteer efforts.

    I think the best solution will be based on mixed Windows/Linux virtualization solution. This solution makes it possible for handicapped users and organizations supporting them to come up with the best environment based on the user’s needs and wishes without artificial constraints. The end user would be able to choose between nuance or Microsoft speech recognition. The missing component is a bridge allowing you to drive Linux gui environments from Windows.

    Unfortunately, I consider this also low probability effort. Not just because it’s technically difficult but because a disability with chronic pain saps your energy and your sensibility tools strain other parts of your body. After work, all you want to do is rest your throat, your hands, and your mind. unless we can find developers with hands and a willingness to learn how to make a good interface from the people that need it, support for upper extremity disabilities will be a long time coming.

    Which is why I ask you, in thinking about additional support for languages, also think about additional support for disabled users because we are your future.


    Obligatory disclosure: I’m disabled (RSI in hands/arms), I use speech recognition on Windows because I don’t have a choice. I use Linux on virtual and real machines but admittedly rather poorly because there are significant bugs in nuance NaturallySpeaking that make it very difficult for disabled users like myself to use open-source and even non-Microsoft applications.

    if you find something wrong in the text above, just remember, speech recognition and use. It makes mistakes, I correct some.

  11. Fabian Rodriguez Says:

    In reply to Simone Brunozzi, I think the power of free open source software is that if there is demand from ONE user to have support in a new language, that single person could actually provide the translation, technically speaking.

    I once translated Psi instant messaging completely to spanish for my parents. Fortunately there were no rules about gathering >1M people interested in that particular translation ;)

    Not everything must be measured by “offer and demand” and the capitalistic approach to markets.

  12. JanC Says:

    Mark, I have to agree with some of the other people here, and disagree with your statement; Ubuntu does *NOT* have a good translation infrastructure. The current infrastructure is pretty simplistic, and doesn’t give translation teams the tools they need to deliver consistent & high quality translations.

    E.g., Ubuntu probably has the *worst* Dutch translation of all Linux distros, due to bugs in Rosetta (including one that reverts all fixes to old, faulty translations), and worsened by a lack of QA tools. I know that those bugs and deficiencies are being worked on, but until they are fixed (we were promised a release last week, but nothing happened…), most of us aren’t really motivated to do any translation work anymore.

    Actually, most people tell me that “Rosetta sucks”, and, given the facts, I currently can’t but agree with them…

  13. stefan.waidele.info » Blog Archive » Shuttleworth: Challenges for Free Software Says:

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