Tech should be multilingual

Published in ITWeb

Businesses can use multilingual Web 2.0 applications and business development tools as a way to grow markets, says MD Dwayne Bailey.

“Having technologies in one of SA’s official languages, other than English, could mean the difference between five million and 40 million customers,” he says.

There are many people in SA and Africa who don’t speak English, the primary language of the Internet and technology, he says. “Businesses that include African languages essentially prove they identify with those particular groups of people. Even people who do speak English will appreciate a home language version of a Web site, for example.”

For e-government to succeed, it is critical it considers translation into the languages used in rural areas, he adds. “Government has been expounding the values of e-government, particularly in rural areas. However, very few of the presentations on government technologies include information on local language translations.”

The company recently contributed to the development of Mozilla’s popular Web browser Firefox 3, in Afrikaans. He says there are plans to include more of the local official languages. is also developing an XML translation tool sponsored by NLnet Foundation, a Netherlands-based donor organisation focused on open standards and open source software.

The project aims to develop software that converts documents in the Open Document format into XLIFF, a standard used by translators to share and exchange translations.

“The XLIFF tool allows translators to work with any document, without having to consider what software package they are using. Translators are essentially just looking at the text and not having to worry about changing software or learning how to read programming code.

“This software will allow us to support the South African government’s drive to open standards, and to help translators, not only in SA but across the globe, to work more quickly and with higher accuracy,” notes Bailey.

The XLIFF converter is being developed under an open licence, using open source tools.

The OpenDocument Format is an ISO standard for information exchange of office documents. It has been approved as an SABS standard and was adopted by the South African government at the end of October last year.