In this series of interviews we’ll get to know who they are, about their language and how they work.
This week we’re introducing you to Timo Jyrinki, the Finnish translation team coordinator.
Timo Jyrinki on Ubuntu Finnish translations
Could you tell us a bit about you and the language you help translate Ubuntu into?
I co-lead the Ubuntu Finnish Translators team with Heikki Mäntysaari. The language itself is obviously strongly associated to Finland, where ca. 93% of the population of somewhat over 5 million have it as a native language. It’s known for being difficult to learn, one of the biggest reasons being the ability to conjugate the words in myriad of ways. We don’t use word like “to” or “for”, and partially because of that – e.g. the subject and object can be in any order while the sentence stays understandable. One word can have a rather complex meaning, like “kauppasikinkohan“, which means something like “also your shop, I presume, or?”. For reference, see the 2253 forms of the word “kauppa” at http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~fkarlsso/genkau2.html.
But in reality Finnish is not terribly hard, it’s often also simply that people speaking Indo-European languages have learned one or two other Indo-European languages, which is obviously kind of on the easier side if compared. Finnish has also some “easy” stuff like pronunciation, which is quite straight-forward (if odd for Indo-European language speakers probably) with only a few bigger exceptions, where as in English (at least for us native Finnish speakers) the pronunciation of some specific letter (like “a” or “e”) changes enormously from word to word. The ä:s and ö:s are of course hard to say if you haven’t done it before, and likewise for the STRONG “r”. I think I’m not wrong to say that Finnish speakers speak surprisingly good Japanese pronunciation wise and vice versa, mostly the l/r thing is very difficult (for both).
I’ve a wide variety of free software interests on my free time, so I’ve become a Ubuntu Member, Debian Developer, Openmoko activist (using Neo FreeRunner as my only phone, with Debian), founding member FSF Europe’s Finland team and also a variety of other translation teams besides Ubuntu’s. I started using Linux (SuSE) in 1997. I’m also the press representative of Finnish Wikipedia. On work time I usually work somehow on/with MeeGo.
How and when did you become an Ubuntu translator?
The main reason for founding Ubuntu Finland in February 2005 was actually the wish to start translating Update Manager / Notifier etc. into Finnish. In Ubuntu 5.04 they were translated into Finnish, then. The web site, forums etc. grew as side-tracks of that, as I also wanted to offer information about Ubuntu on the web in Finnish.
What other projects do you help with inside the community?
If you mean the Ubuntu community, I’ve not only translated but fixed a couple of I18N problems in code, as well as filing bug reports about that kind of problems. It’s important that there are people that sit between developers (especially if their native language is English) and translators, so that both understand the needs of each other. Of course I’ve always been on the “translators’ side”, trying to have visibility to the more important I18N bugs.
I’ve also helped in various X driver related problems and testing, and in any hardware/driver related bug reports that affect some of my machines. Somewhat related to translations I’ve done Ubuntu Finnish Remix releases. Also otherwise I’ve probably been involved in every aspect of Ubuntu Finland even though nowadays I’ve tried to focus on just a few things over there, like the translations.
Do you belong to an Ubuntu LoCo team? If so, which one?
Well I’m the founder of Ubuntu Finland, still active..
How can people who want to help with translating Ubuntu and all the various pieces and parts into your language get started?
Well, in case of Finnish specifically, read the Kääntäminen wiki page on Ubuntu Finland’s wiki thoroughly. Think about what part of for example your Ubuntu experience needs translating or improving the translation, and find out where the best place to do that is – l10n.gnome.org, Launchpad, …? Join our mailing list, IRC channel or web forums depending on your preference to ask questions, or refer to the international instructions.
What’s the desktop experience for Ubuntu users in your language? Is Ubuntu in your language popular among native speakers?
Desktop experience is among the best. Importantly we focus not only in the amount of translations but also the quality of translations and there is work done to ensure that all very visible strings are always translated even when developers change them at the last minute, and that the remaining “special cases” are somehow in ok shape.
Where does your team need help?
Probably on a practical level team members would still need more help in using Launchpad. It’s confusing for every newcomer, and the confusion only increases as eg. GNOME and KDE packages are available for translation in Launchpad while they actually should be only translated upstream until the last few weeks before Ubuntu release.
Translations wise, we (Finnish translators in general) lack manpower in both GNOME and KDE lands, which are on the other hand the basis of what the Ubuntu user sees. Both are actually in a relatively good shape, GNOME especially, but the resources are spread quite thin. The Ubuntu specifics are quite well covered, as is the polishing of Ubuntu releases.
Do you know of any projects or organizations where Ubuntu is used in your language?
Well well, at least these schools which run Ubuntu on LTSP. In general I’ve recently estimated about a quarter million Ubuntu users in Finland (which would make ca. 5% market share), based on popcon statistics and other statistics I’ve had access to. It might be more or less in reality, but it’s hard to say what counts as usage (using at school, but not at home, or dual-booting?).
What do you feel is the most rewarding part of translating Ubuntu?
Seeing it in actual use by other people, sometimes even getting a glimpse of how huge amount of such people there actually are. I also get satisfaction simply in the fact that nothing is irritatingly in English on my own desktop.
Is there anything else about your team or translation efforts that I haven’t asked you about that you would like to talk about?
Well, one thing occurred to me that we had a “contribute to upstream day” recently, and that could be something worth spreading to other teams. The idea is to reserve a few upstream translations for the Ubuntu Translators team, make sure the latest upstream version is in Launchpad, letting the translators team translate in Launchpad and then upload them to upstream project. At the same time any possible previous uncommitted work gets committed to upstream. Just make sure that you review all the “Changed in Launchpad” strings to make sure they are not worse than upstream.
Obviously for example GNOME’s reservation system at l10n.gnome.org works very well with this. Many translator people do not have expertise in version control systems or upstreams in general, but every language team should definitely have a few of those people who can organize this kind of thing, and I encourage every team to have also people with git commit rights to various projects like gnome.org – of course provided you have people who have already made significant translation or other contributions there.
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