I’m pleased to present you my interview with Djihed Afifi, maintainer of the GNOME localization for the Arabic language. With a team of only 5 more volunteers, this 22 years old Algerian student (living in Manchester) brought Arabic from unsupported in GNOME to completely translated in a matter of a release cycle, six months.
When and how did you get involved with free software localization?
I remember my first exposure to the OSS world was through a 3 CD set of Mandrake 7 or 6 (can’t remember) that I bought in 2000. At the time it confused the hell out of me as I didn’t know much English.
Fast track to my first year at university, I had to do an essay about the Free Software Movement, how it was built in the late 70’s and the early 80’s, how it developed over the years, how the term “Open Source” came into existence, etc. I was pretty impressed with the whole experience and I identified with many of the ideals of the Free Software World. At that time I tried to get into Red Hat translation into Arabic through Arabeyes, but I was not very active.
2 years later I was employed in a summer placement with a well known chip design company. One of my co-workers was a believer in OSS and its business models (he was also brilliant when coding!), I had a few conversations with him on the viability of OSS, and I read some of his books (Such as “Voices from the open source revolution”). Meanwhile, he encouraged me to open source some of the tools that I wrote for them. So in essence that was my first step into actually getting involved.
Later I decided to get involved into Arabic translation. I started off with GNOME as it was my favourite DE and its simplicity convinced me that it would be ideal for beginners who might consider trying Linux. A few months afterwards we formed a pretty active Arabic translation team that was successful in improving Arabic GNOME translation substantially.
Besides coordinating the GNOME Arabic translation team, do you contribute to free software localization and development in other ways?
I work heavily on the Technical Dictionary. I developed and still maintain a TCL extension and Minbar, an Islamic prayer application. I also maintain the Arabic OpenCD, and take the occasional chance to promote OSS awareness in the Arab world.
How much time do you spend with free software?
Depends really, not that much currently because of studies. But I do contribute heavily during the summer and holidays.
What keeps you motivated to contribute to free software?
The freedom cause and the desire to advance computing in the Arab world. All in all, I find OSS values and consequences largely aligned with many economical and social necessities that I’d like to see fulfilled in the Arab world.
What do you like most in the free software translation work flow?
I guess I don’t like some particular phase per see, but all in all, I very much adore the open nature of it. Right from the source code to the actual compiled message catalogues. You can’t really get much more open that this. This openness really pays off when translating weird messages, when trying to view translations live, when comparing with translations of other packages, when viewing translations of different languages, etc.
What should be improved?
Communication and priorities.
On communications, many teams work in near vacuums in that there is little communications between say, translators, documenters and developers, as well as between teams of different projects. In particular, I believe that translators are under-represented, perhaps because we have not organised and shared our experiences and needs as well as we should. But I’d definitely like to see that change.
On priorities, this is a tough one, people in general like to work on what they enjoy working, and it is hard to convince someone to work on something valuable instead of the next millionth text editor. But as more and more businesses are endorsing OSS you can clearly see that this is being addressed.
On the second block, Djihed Afifi will talk more about the Arabeyes project and the peculiarities of translating to the Arabic language.