Firefox Translated Into Ugandan Language

A two-day translation marathon has resulted in a version of Mozilla's Firefox browser Firefox in Luganda, Uganda's most widely spoken language.

The software will be made available by Makerere University's Faculty of Computing and Information Technology (CIT) with the aim of giving non-English speakers a browsing tool.

Software experts from Translate.org.za, a South African company that develops translation software, guided and trained 300 students from CIT as well as Luganda linguists from the Institute of Languages at Makerere in the translation exercise. During the two days, experts from Rhodes University and Translate.org.za introduced participants to localization practices to speed the process.

A CD that contains a translated Firefox interface will now be distributed by CIT for a small fee to cover administrative costs while an electronic version will be placed on the CIT Web site for interested users to download.

Friedel Wolff from Translate.org.za said that work remains to be done on the browser.

"There is now a Firefox browser that is 80 percent Luganda but the local community with help from CIT needs to continue to work on it to do some improvements before it is disseminated," Wolff said.

In 2004, seven volunteers spent a year and half translating the older version of Firefox but the application was upgraded before they could distribute the translation.

Africa's academic community has emphasized the importance of supporting local content and languages online in order to reach the rural population, given that the continent is home to hundreds of languages.

Professor Venansius Baryamureeba, the head of the CIT faculty, said there is now a need to develop online content in Luganda, and that the software development department at CIT is interested in continuing with the translation work.

"We have got the skills and are now in a position to be able to translate Firefox and other software into other indigenous languages," Baryamureeba said. "And we will do this because we want to contribute to narrowing the so-called digital divide."

Lorenzo Dalvit, a lecturer from the department of ICT at Rhodes University, said it was a great experience but also a lot of work for the team that did the translations. At Rhodes, the university administration and Translate.org.za have initiated a project that is helping translate software in use within the university into non-English languages.

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