Translation-Community Manager

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Chris Leonard was appointed in April 2016 as Translation-Community Manager, and he leads and co-ordinates the efforts of the Sugar community to enable users to experience Sugar in their own language.

This role is not meant to eclipse the Translation Team, the coordinators, or anyone else interested in helping out with localization.


Translation often refers to the specific task of providing text in a target language from the text in the source language. For software, this task is divided into two steps:

  • Internationalization (I10n): Developing features in underlying software that enables localization;
  • Localization (L10n): providing local-language equivalents for text in the software.

Sugar has two major components:

  • Sugar Desktop: Provides the basic means for user interaction with Sugar. (Note that the Journal activity is a part of the Sugar Desktop.)
  • Sugar Activities: Several hundred individual activities are available from (ASLO) that users can install and run. Many Sugar activities can run by themselves on a GNOME Desktop, or in a browser if they are Sugarizer Activities.

Internationalization (I18)

Sugar is primarily written in Python, with a significant portion written in JavaScript and some in SmallTalk. I18n is supported by giving developers a means to identify text that can be displayed to the user. Alternate text can be provided in additional languages, and users can select alternative languages for Sugar to display.

Selecting an alternate language requires other technical steps. The language must be visible in Sugar in the Language Control Panel (sourcecode). After selecting a language, other aspects of Sugar will change for the locale, such as displaying right-to-left writing systems (Arabic, Hebrew) and displaying decimals (with '.' or ','), multiples (1000s), dates, and so on.

Localization (l10n) is a Pootle instance; a libre web application that supports the localization of Sugar by displaying the original Desktop and Activities texts and creating and managing alternative texts.

The overall process is fail-safe in that if an alternate language is selected, but there is no string available in that language, Sugar displays the original string found in the code. This is typically English or Spanish. Each translated strings is immediately available for use in subsequent releases, leaving translators to only provide strings for new texts in new releases.

When alternative texts are not provided, original texts are displayed.

User Environment

Sugar is the default desktop for OLPC XO laptops, and over 2.5 million have been sold. In daily use at schools and other institutions throughout the world, these laptops are typically used both in a language of instruction (such as English, Spanish, or French) and in another native language. For example, in the Philippines there are two official languages, Filipino (Tagalog) and English.

While users can take advantage of Sugar and the laptops in English, they would also enjoy using them in Tagalog. Some native languages are indigenous languages that have relatively few speakers, but are important. Sugar's primary localization opportunity is to become available in such languages.

Localization is typically done by language specialists with some technical skills and effective access to the Internet, plus language skills in the target language (e.g. Tagalog) and the source language (e.g. English.) When possible, I18n and specific language help arranged by the Translation-Community Manager enables Sugar users to perform this localization on their own laptops.

To install or update an Activity on, chat with the Translation-Community Manager.

When translating to an indigenous language, the Translation-Community Manager can help by providing intermediary languages, such as Spanish. For example, the Latin American indigenous language Aymara has many more speakers who know also Spanish than who also know English.


The Translation-Community Manager is responsible for leading the community in providing the Sugar experience in users' native languages.

They will:

  • Work with the community to recruit volunteer help in supporting the translation process (occasional professional services to seed L10n efforts may be contracted as well.);
  • Advise the Sugar Labs Oversight Board of supporting projects that need funding and to manage these projects, if approved;
  • Develop and maintain the I18n capabilities of Sugar and its activities;
    • Arrange for development and maintenance of the I18n infrastructure such as;
    • Arrange for an inventory of Sugar activities in ASLO ( showing the current I18n and L10n status of each;
    • Arrange for development and maintenance of I18n infrastructure to support new and emerging platforms and software environments for Sugar;
  • Work with the community to identify schools and institutions that have deployed Sugar and to arrange for members of the community to reach out to these deployments to offer help with localization or other needs;
    • Arrange as needed to add a language to those with I18n support in Sugar and Sugar activities;
    • Arrange for a simple and well-documented procedure for these deployments to provide their own translation and to share the results with the community;
  • Report monthly to the Sugar Labs Oversight Board and to the community and to the public on the status of the translations program, preferably by blogging informally (blog posts can be any length) to using plain language that is understandable to almost all.
  • Report every 4 months on tactical/strategic/financial choices; reports can be of any length and should be posted/archived together to a unique URL (linked from one month prior to the completion of each 4-month cycle, mentioning:
    • What actually happened over current 4-month cycle and/or since the last report, including community/financial summaries (absolutely fine and no shame at all if actions were different from prior cycle's projections: we learn by doing or we don't learn at all!)
    • What can and should happen over the coming 4-month cycle? Community workflows are never 100% rational: how do we tactically nurture continuous improvement?
    • Long-term strategic/impact recommendations on an annual basis. Or optionally more often, if he/she is so inclined.

The Sugar Labs Oversight Board will affirm continuation (or renewal) of the contract before the end of each 4-month cycle.

(It is anticipated that this will largely be a "rubber-stamping" procedure; the expectation is that the contract will renew—insofar as funds allow—while the translation community strengthens. But this "dead man's switch" is a critical check to keep us—each and all—conscientiously engaged, accountable, and involved.)