Thursday, July 20, 2006

Localization Saga - My experience with Hindi translations


Story of Hindi Linux

(Tale by volunteer who translated most stuffs of Gnome/KDE/XFCE etc. in Hindi)

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The Background:

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I have been writing Hindi literature since last 20 years or so. To publish them, you need to write them neatly or get them typed. I was always in hunt for an easy way to do this. When I was able to work on a PC AT during late 80s with DOS based Hindi word processor Akshar, I thought it was an ultimate gift to a Hindi writer. Then came Gist which needed an expensive hardware card and thus it was out of reach of common users like me. Soon Windows followed and all kinds of shortcut solutions arrived to work in Hindi on a personal computer.

During these periods, I tried many such solutions for my Hindi specific need. I tried Shusha font but it takes too many key presses to type a single Hindi character. I tried Leap, but it was not so popular and you can’t trade your documents unless others have installed Leap in their machine. Moreover, you can’t use other Windows DTP/Graphics program or copy/paste among other program with Leap fonts. For similar reasons, I never tried Shreelipi. In the meantime, I was stuck with Krutidev, the ascii based font for my simple typing and graphics programs. This period also see dot com surge and many Hindi news papers and sites followed by Nai Dunia came on Internet, but, unfortunately they use different / incompatible fonts from each other. This makes things worst. Due to these reasons, I had made my personal Hindi website in PDF format since I never know or predict which user is using what Hindi font.

So, my hunt for better Hindi support was on. One fine day when I was searching Internet for Hindi sites, I stumbled upon Indlinux. It has some description about how with Unicode Hindi font, an operating system environment can be created in Hindi and they were looking for volunteers to translate stuffs. I came to know that sooner or later, through Unicode standards, incompatibility of Hindi fonts will be redressed. The Idea hooked me and I got myself registered as volunteer translator.

Initial Hurdles:

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When I joined Indlinux as volunteer, only Gnome desktop had Unicode Hindi support by then. There were some odd 4-5000 strings translated mainly by Anurag Seetha & G Karunakar. There were about 20000 strings to be translated for Hindi to appear in a decent desktop. On those days I was working as Addl. Executive Engineer in Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board. On my leisure time, I was translating stuffs at about 1000 strings per month. By then I was accustomed to Krutidev Hindi keyboard, and Unicode Inscript had entirely different keyboard. I couldn’t find any keyboard mapper utility by then. So, I learned a new Inscript Hindi keyboard painstakingly from gorund zero just for translations. It takes me about six months to wipe out old Hindi key board from my memory and equally same additional time to master new, Inscript keyboard.

On initial stage, we do not have any Hindi IT terminology at hand. Lack of online / PC based dictionary make our effort much tedious. More over, there were consistency problem, since with absence of proper terminology; File is translated as Faeel, Suchika, Sanchika or even Reti by different translators. And, volunteers come with great enthusiasm, translate a dozen strings, make noises about them and quickly go out of site after realizing that, translation is tedious, thankless, glamour less, revenue less, highly boring job. With a few hundred translations in our hand, we didn’t have any thing to show the community, and what ever we had was raw, dirty and ridiculous. Indlinux was crawling with steady movement, with only one man support, Karunakar who was busy solving technical riddles and helping volunteers like me to learn bits of things needed for translations.

Finally, gaining momentum:

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During year 2003, some activities at Indlinux gained momentum. I opted for voluntary retirement from my service primarily due to my health ground and started teaching computers to support myself. I boosted my monthly translation rates to about 2000 strings a month. Finally, we had some 60-70% of translated Gnome 2.2/2.4 in our hand. The first Hindi installer script was also ready by then and people started looking and Indlinux’s effort was getting acknowledged all across. At this juncture, Ravikant from Sarai, Delhi coordinated and held a workshop to review and correct the existing translations. Later from Sarai, a fellowship of Rs. Sixty Thousand was also sanctioned and under this project, I started translations full time.

The results quickly started coming out. By December 03, KDE 3.2 comes with full Hindi support and I started translating it. By April 04 end, I was through 90+% of its GUI branches. A review workshop exclusively for KDE was organized at Sarai again and translations were checked in actual working condition by a team of about 20 people. Corrections were made and Hindi KDE 3.2 looks far better as users like Dr. Nagarjun had acknowledged who had since been switched to KDE Hindi Desktop.

Again, as a second Sarai project, I had recently completed translating KDE 3.3 head branches comprising of total 1.1 lakh strings. In between, I translated complete XFCE 4.2, Gaim, Debian Installer, PCQuest Linux 2005 installer and many more.

Now we have RedHat Fedora core 3, Mandrake 10.1, Debian, PCQuest Linux 2005 - all have full Hindi support in their distribution. We have multi Indian language based live Linux CD Rangoli with default Hindi interface. Hindi is shining in Linux. And I am finally able to work in Hindi even in my Unicode Hindi based personal blog (http://www.hindini.com/ravi ) site. Thanks to Indlinux.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

namSte this is a very heartening story of your trVails. i am using android hoogle phone and hope to see hindi on android soon.

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