Decathlon to translate multimedia tools

Published in Tectonic

Speakers of Hindi and Tagalog will soon benefit from the work of a project called Decathlon which is translating multimedia software into these languages. Other languages from the Indian and Far Eastern subcontinent, such as Bengali, Nepali, Pashto, Burmese and Tetum, may also benefit from this venture.

Organised by African localisation organisation and funded by a grant from the Open Society Institute (OSI), the Decathlon project is focusing its translation energies on the VLC multimedia program.

According to Samuel Murray, project leader of the Decathlon, the project’s involvement with these languages is part of a larger drive to translate key computer programs into various languages. “Since multimedia often transcends linguistic barriers, we thought it apt to help translate a multimedia player into local languages. We chose VLC because it is undoubtedly the most popular open source media player available,” he says.

The Decathlon is a project to create and help grow volunteer technology translation teams. During 2008 Decathlon will contribute to ten key localisation projects. It is hoped that by promoting software in various languages, the speakers of those languages will shed their fears and excuses for not communicating in their own languages.

“At we believe that people express themselves best in their own language and people should be encouraged to create multimedia such as podcasts and sound bytes in their native languages,” says Murray. “Our way of empowering local languages is to help make popular software in these languages available.”

Decathlon works with volunteer translators, he says. “We also make it easier for volunteers by providing a simple web-based translation system called Pootle, which is hosted at, which makes it easy for anyone to help translate software.”

Murray says that the language file used by VLC is quite large, but translators in the Decathlon will initially focus on the graphical user interface only. “We’ve split the VLC language file into more workable chunks to make the number of source words more manageable,” he says.

The Decathlon project is not formally affiliated or associated with VLC, but according to Murray, that is the beauty of open source software translation. “Organisations such as ours can freely use open source software as a catalyst for creating language communities,” he says.

“Anyone who wants to help translate VLC into their language, can make use of our translation system.”

The Decathlon project is open to anyone who wants to help translate VLC or a number of other computer programs. People who wish to volunteer for translation may contact him at for more details.

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