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Languages for zkanji, maybe with your help

November 19, 2011 8 comments

I have received requests several times before, to allow translation of the zkanji user interface to other languages. First of all let me make it clear, this is not an “official” announcement of a new feature, but an explanation of the work needed for the program to be translated into other languages. There might be such an announcement later, but I’d like to hear your opinion and ideas about it now. (I could use a “disclaimer” here, but people usually skip those.)

Nowadays almost every software out there gets translated. It’s not just a dream anymore that could never come true, unless you are a huge company with lots of money for internationalization. Thanks to the internet, there are whole communities helping to translate things into their favorite languages (which is usually their own). But it is also a huge task to attract and keep together such communities, especially if they don’t speak your language.

In a program like zkanji, there are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of phrases to be translated. I can imagine translating them takes months, and it’s not just that, but you would also have to check whether the translations fit in the controls where they will appear. (As you see I was never good at marketing, I can only say the truth…) Of course there will be nothing to translate if I don’t start collecting the lines that should be translated, but I wrote the originals so I deserve it.

The third problem is finding the means to share the translations between me and the translators, and between the translators themselves, who might be able to work together. I only know of the site https://www.transifex.net/ which was made for community translations, and is absolutely free for open-source projects, but I don’t know exactly how it works and how difficult it is to use its output. I admit I have a little distrust with things that were not made by me personally.

This all is probably just a little part of the difficulties anyone has to face who would like to translate a program with even the least complexity. In the case of zkanji, the problems won’t stop here. While I acknowledge the need for the users to see an interface in their own language, the main dictionary that comes with it would and will always be in English. I’m saying main dictionary, because it is possible to create additional ones. (Unfortunately English is needed as some functions (for example adding furigana in vocabulary printing) require a large enough database, or they won’t work.) I think though, that even if there is a possibility to create your own dictionary, this won’t be such a strong pull for most users.

JMdict (the database used in zkanji) has French and German entries, and the documentation says that it has a little Russian and Dutch as well. I have the means to convert those to zkanji format, but it’s already a huge work releasing the program every time (just that usually takes 1 – 1.5 hours), that I would rather not do anything else on top of that.

Though that’s not the only source that could be used in dictionary creation. Funbit, who often posts comments in this blog created a Russian dictionary for the program available from here, with a tutorial on how to use zkanji.

So to summarize the difficulties:

  1. collecting what to translate (work for me only)
  2. finding a community who helps with the translation
  3. finding the means
  4. translation (obviously)
  5. checking the translations (do they fit, are they correct etc.)
  6. sharing the translations
  7. including the translated data so zkanji can work with it (it is only my problem, sorry for bringing it up)
  8. finding some way to include other available dictionaries (I’m hoping I can convince users to update (and maybe host) them)

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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