How To Accomplish It

I was pointed at this lament from Microsoft engineer Michael Kaplan (not to be confused with Mozilla hacker Mike Kaply) about the problem of the localization of Microsoft products into regional variants of languages (e.g. Mexican Spanish or British English). It says:

And despite all the lip service (pun intended) that people pay to the need to support “local experiences”, despite complaints from former MSFTies like Mike Williams or not-yet-quite-former MSFTies like me, despite the work of cartoons like Darby Conley’s Get Fuzzy with the multitude of cats who visit from non-US English speaking places like Manchester that many can’t understand and even more random references, no one thinks the problem is bad enough to bother with.

No one wants to “get” the problem here though.

How many days would [Microsoft executives] have to use products while they struggle to understand the words before it would become a mandate to care about local experiences in all of the other places that English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, etc. are spoken besides the few places we localize to….

But to be honest I don’t see how it could be accomplished. And since no one gets made an executive by finding ways to have stuff cost more money, the problem perpetuates itself.

Well, Mike, I can tell you how to accomplish it. You need a community that rocks, and an understanding that, as Mitchell Baker and John Lilly wisely said in a recent interview, paying “the experts” to do something does not guarantee quality.

For Firefox 3.5, we have two versions of English, two of Portuguese, two of Bengali, two of Norwegian, two of Tamil and an unprecendented four of Spanish. Heck, there’s even another version of Catalan in the works (although not for 3.5), a language with only about 10 million speakers. Of course, we always want to do more. If Firefox isn’t available in the language variant used in your region, why not tax the incredible powers of the l10n-drivers by offering to do a localization for your region? After all, they seem to find coping with 74 pretty easy, so we need to stretch them a bit… ;-)

5 thoughts on “How To Accomplish It

  1. That other version of Catalan is not going to get into a shipping Firefox, you picked one of the counter examples, sadly.

    It’s a lengthy and non-converging discussion on what Valencian is, and who’s authorized to say that. We’re going to keep offering it on AMO, but not anything more exposed than that. Doing anything there is just making twice as many people happy as happy, and it’s rather independent on what we do.

  2. Oh, OK :-) But our reasons are, at least, political and not financial. And the fact that we are open source means that the Valencians can have a langpack if they like – just not an official one.

  3. > And since no one gets made an executive by finding ways to have stuff cost more
    > money, the problem perpetuates itself

    Is this another way of saying they have no competition. Did I hear monopoly?

  4. Norwegian is actually a pretty good example. Only 5 million speakers and we provide two official localizations for it: Bokmål and Nynorsk

  5. Just for allusions, I’m fine with current situation for now, but I would not like that there could be any kind of suspiciousness around our work. So I will be fully open about what we do and I will happily answer any question you might have.

    In fact, the actual problem with Valencian is that there has been some other people trying to provide other localisations in the past, but not using an official normative (actually with a spin-off alphabet) or intentionally not proper locale codes. You can track the bugs and read more about this at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_secessionism
    This has lead to confusion and stressful situations between my community and different people from Mozilla, who, understandingly, were not be aware of the issue.

    Centring upon technical and constructive issues:
    Valencian variant is generated semi-automatically from generic one using scripts, similarly to some British translations, such as GNOME ones (http://live.gnome.org/BritishEnglish). Later on, it’s further reviewed by people and scripts are improved. You can check the differences of both translations if you feel interested.
    I wonder whether this approach could be exported to other languages. I know that this is a sensitive issue but, for instance, I noticed differences between Spanish (Spain) and Spanish (Argentina), from a Spanish speaker point of view, are several times more stylistic than dialectal.
    Another case could be Portuguese in the future. Despite there have been some recent protests, specially in Portugal, in the long term different written variants could get closer after a recent spelling reform (http://www.simultrans.com/articledetail.cfm?PostingID=78). Therefore, an automatic approach could also be applied as far as communities agreed.

    By the way, I found one bug related to these topics: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=403215 What was the final outcome of this, in the end?