Translate Toolkit & Pootle

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About Decathlon

This year, I will help translate 10 opensource programs into my language.

The Decathlon is a project that aims to help volunteer translators form new language communities and help translate opensource software into their languages. Come on, commit yourself to helping to translate just 10 programs this year.

What is the Decathlon?

The Decathlon is a project coordinated by the South African software localisation organisation, During the Decathlon year we will assist volunteer translators to translate opensource software into their own languages and other languages. It is our hope to establish communities of translators who translate not just one program but at least 10 programs this year.

The Decathlon is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.

Previous newsletters

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Here are links to all five issues of our newsletter posted to the above announcement mailing list -- it provides a good overview of the project's progress.

* News about the Decathlon III

Broad aims

The Decathlon has the following broad aims:

  • To help existing online language translation communities grow
  • To help establish new language translation communities
  • To help train amateur and professional translators in the ins and outs of software translation
  • To promote the usage of localised software in various countries
  • To empower and promote minority languages by making available useful software in those languages
  • To test and develop methods to improve language speakers’ access to software translation opportunities
  • To promote the localisation methods developed by

The public activities of the Decathlon project will centre around (a) bringing translators together and coordinating their efforts to translate opensource software, and (b) gaining cooperation from and exposure with various opensource software projects that will be translated.

Ten programs, one year

The name of the project, “Decathlon” reflects our goal for the year. We want translators taking part in the Decathlon to translate ten programs into their languages.

Ten programs is a realistic number for a year — that’s one per month. The number of words to translate in the programs we’re selecting, is between 2000 and 4000 words each. Surely this is easily done by a team of three or four friends in each language.

Even if the volunteers are unable to translate all the words in a program, they’ll be laying the ground work for other translators that join them later. In some projects we may even be able to help translators translate the more visible stuff first.

Selection of programs to translate

The stated requirements for software projects to participate in the Decathlon are:

  • Must be opensource
  • Must be end-user focused software
  • Must work on both Linux and Windows (and/or Mac)

Additionally, the Decathlon project will work best if:

  • The software project assign a contact person to Decathlon to answer questions about the software and try to resolve issues that may confuse or hinder translators
  • The software project’s developer is willing to build a release with the translations in it (within this year)

Naturally we can only be of assistance to programs using localisation systems that work with our tools. This means Gettext PO, Java properties, INI/LNG-type key=value files, and the Mozilla and formats. Hopefully later this year we’ll be able to deal with QT/ts files as well.

Pootle and the Translate Toolkit

Our parent organisation,, has developed a suite of tools to make localisation easier and more effective for both software developers and volunteer translators. This suite is known as the Translate Toolkit. It runs in Python, and is based on Gettext PO.

Another tool to assist with the translation of software, is the web-based translation system, Pootle (dev page). Pootle allows translators to work together more easily on multiple translation projects. Pootle also makes use of the Translate Toolkit, to provide the level of quality checking required by software development systems. Pootle is web-based, but it permits more skilled translators to download and upload partially translated files. Pootle can also integrate with SVN or CVS to ensure that language files remain up to date.

Volunteer translators in the Decathlon project will translate in Pootle. Pootle is easy to use — you’ll love it.

Getting translators

Translators (both amateur and professional) don’t grown on trees, so a lot of our effort goes into finding more volunteer translators. We use the following avenues to find more translators:

  • Linguistics departments of universities
  • Official national language boards and institutes
  • Professional translation associations
  • Forums and portals frequented by translators
  • Existing localisation projects

Getting software development projects

Although software developers are welcome to contact us to have their projects participate in the Decathlon, we generally contact the developers of individual projects on an ad hoc basis if we find that their localisation systems are compatible with ours.

Who’s who

The Decathlon translation effort is a special project by The project leader is Samuel Murray, a professional translator with some technical expertise. He is assisted in technical matters by Friedel Wolff, a full-time programmer for