Linux speaks Xhosa fluently

Published in ITWeb

Linux now speaks Xhosa fluently thanks to the efforts of an organisation called Founded earlier this year by Dwayne Bailey to “spearhead” the translation of desktop software into African languages, has completed the translation of KDE, a desktop environment for Linux.

Bailey says the project was sponsored by Obsidian Systems, a local Linux support and development company. Obsidian director Evan Summers says “supporting this translation effort has been a way in which Obsidian Systems can make a big impact on the lives of fellow South Africans”.

“The translation does not remove all barriers to computer access, but it helps to eliminate one. Translation together with low cost computers, open source software and low cost Internet access will go a long way to making a dramatic IT impact on South Africans, especially the poor.”

Bailey says the translation, which has taken three months so far, has been done from a low level and includes translation of the kdelibs and kdebase, as well as individual applications.

Applications translated include the Konqueror Web browser, a word processor, spreadsheet and the KMail e-mail application as well as many other productivity tools. Bailey says a full-time employee is doing the translation, although in the future he sees the project being carried forward by volunteer workers. “We made it into KDE 2.2.1 and should have … user documentation in KDE 2.2.2.” plans to translate the Mozilla browser next, to allow users of the Windows platform access to a Xhosa Web browser. Bailey also plans to create a Xhosa dictionary, as well as translating OpenOffice. Bailey says the project has received sponsorship from the Shuttleworth Foundation to cover the future work of the project.

“I see this [Xhosa translation] as a learning thing for the project,” says Bailey. “I want to do all the languages, hopefully Zulu first, but if I get volunteers from other languages we will do those.”

Bailey says he chose KDE because it has good tools and because “KDE developers are very conscious about translation”. He says there is a certain amount of work involved to maintain the translation with each new release of KDE but he doesn’t see this limiting the project to one language.

The motivation for the project, says Bailey, comes from two sources: “It is good to spread Linux as widely as possible … but this translation can also make a real impact on people’s lives.”

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