Ever since I interviewed its founder Dwayne Bailey a few years ago, I’ve been continually amazed by Translate.org.za,
a nonprofit project dedicated to translation/localization (or as they say down there, localisation) of free and open source software into the 11 official languages of South Africa. Courtesy of Translate.org.za’s website, they are, in English: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu or as written in the constitution: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.
More amazing than the fact that Dwayne started a project dedicated to this lofty goal is the fact that they’ve achieved it, making OpenOffice.org the first office suite to be localized into a South African language. OpenOffice.org is now available in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages. The project also localized the Firefox web browser and Thunderbird e-mail client into all of those 11 languages and created a web-based translation tool, Pootle.
When I interviewed Dwayne, his statement that “free software in your own language is true empowerment” really stuck with me. In addition, Translate.org.za has made a great case for enabling computing in languages of smaller diffusion as a way to preserve them, an effort that they’ve advanced through the development of a South African language keyboard.
So as it turns out, many other people also think that Translate.org.za is great, and they’ve just won an award from the Pan South African Language Board for their work. Dwayne’s announcement states: The award ‘Multilingualism and Nation Building: eBusiness Institution of the Decade’ is recognition for Translate.org.za’s ground breaking work in the area of multilingual software. This work recognises Translate.org.za’s historic invention of the country’s first multilingual keyboard, open source spell checkers, and translation of software such as OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Firefox, as well as their ongoing effort to work with universities to train students to translate software through our Translate@thon programme.
Says Dwayne Bailey, Director of Translate.org.za, “Ngiyabonga kakhulu! We are very honoured to receive this award, especially as it is given by our peers and because it recognises our contribution over many years to all of South Africa’s official languages.”
So, congratulations and best wishes for another decade of great work!