One great way to both attract new users to your project is by providing it in their language. The added ease of reading documentation and user interface elements in one’s own language takes a lot of the stress out of learning a new piece of software, and can quickly distinguish your product over others in the same space, even those with similar or even better features.


But, if you aren’t multilingual, how do you go about it? Well, it also appears that providing a mechanism for translation attracts new developers and contributors to your community, because it’s something that’s easy for people to do if they speak another language than the one in which the project was written.

As a citizen of the United States, I’m aware that I’m a part of a tiny percentage of the world who is not multi lingual. I used to live in Kenya, and the old joke went something like:

What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

But most of the rest of the world speaks at least two, and usually more, languages. So translating a few user interface components, or a page of the documentation, isn’t a huge investment in time or effort, so it’s an easy way for someone to get involved in a project.

There are several resources for projects wishing to have translations done. By using one of these services, you can reduce the effort required for someone to contribute translations, without having to learn about your particular documentation format, your revision control system, or even know much about your product.

The Pootle project is a SourceForge project is a web-based translation tool. The tool itself is available in numerous languages, and the project website offers extensive resources about making your project translation-ready. The earlier in your project’s life you read this stuff, the more work you’ll save for yourself later.


Launchpad has a free service that coordinates translation for projects, and is used by a large number of projects, so has an interface that potential translators may already be familiar with. It’s easy to register your project there, but you’ll need to do some initial work to make your project translation-ready. Having text in the code, rather than in resource files, makes translation more complicated. Likewise, your documentation should be in formats that are portable between operating systems, and not tied to a particular application that someone might not have.


DuoLingo looks like an interesting approach, but hasn’t yet launched, so I can’t really comment on how it works.

Get Localization was another service that was recommended to me, but which I haven’t used myself.

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