Gnome gets Zulu translation

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The Gnome Women's Outreach Programme has selected a South African woman to translate Gnome's desktop interface, used by the Linux operating system, into isiZulu.

Priscilla Mahlangu, a 25-year-old intern at, a non-profit organisation that specialises in multilingualism, software translation and language rights advocacy, has been selected for an internship to work at the programme, sponsored by Google, Mozilla, Collabora and the Gnome Foundation.

The project seeks to involve more women in free and open software development.

As part of the application process, Mahlangu translated a substantive amount of the Gnome interface into isiZulu.

Mahlangu says: “Not many South Africans have computers communicating with them in their own language, so I am excited about localising the Gnome interface into a local language for the next three months.”

Dwayne Bailey, MD, says Mahlangu was chosen out of 27 applicants.

Bailey says: “Thanks to the programme, the Gnome 3.0 release has far more women contributors than any other releases in history. Priscilla's passion for localising open source software into her mother tongue is highly commendable.”

According to Bailey, open source is a traditionally male-dominated sector. However, he notes, Gnome is encouraging more women to work in programming, marketing, graphic design, user interface design, testing, documentation and translation.

He explains that translating the Gnome interface into Zulu, will allow non-English speakers to use a computer.

In addition, he says it aligns with government's open source software requirements, allowing low-cost computer platforms to be delivered to schools and tele-centres.

“It will also help Zulu speakers become proactive and active participants in ensuring that the digital world doesn't leave the Zulu language in the dust,” adds Bailey.

The Gnome Outreach for Women internship projects were revealed on 16 March. Women from around the world had to respond to quick consecutive deadlines as part of the application process.

Eight strong candidates from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa were chosen, with Mahlangu being the only South African.

The aim of the Gnome Project, which started in 1997, is to produce an open desktop environment.

It has since grown into the most popular desktop distributed with free operating systems such as GNU/Linux and Unix.

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17 Aug
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