Translations from the debian-installer package

David Planella david.planella at
Tue Oct 28 18:58:51 GMT 2008

Hi Colin,

First of all, many thanks for the long and detailed information, which
has been very helpful in understanding how the translation cycle works
in the debian-installer package.

2008/10/25 Colin Watson <cjwatson at>:
> At least some of the translations you care about are, I believe, of
> strings already translated in Debian. (Please read down to the end of
> this comment, though.)

Yes, you are right. My mistake was to think that the Ubuntu
debian-installer worked like other packages, in the sense that what was
in Rosetta took preference over what came from upstream. I also
mistakenly thought that the package was rather a fork and the strings
were not imported from Debian somehow.

As a Debian, Ubuntu and GNOME translator I know what it is to keep sync
of translations with upstream. The bulk of the work of our translation
team at Ubuntu does not consist of translation but rather of keeping
track of what should be merged from or to upstream and basically
manually solving issues than in my oppinion Rosetta should take care of
in most cases (but that is another issue that has already been discussed
at length before). The most notable exception where we deal nearly
exclusively with translations per se is the ubuntu-docs.

What I want to say with all this is that I am aware of the issues with
keeping in sync and also that I now understand I should have simply
asked before, so that there should have been time to do something about
it where appropriate (e.g. strings that really needed corrections). But
there are lots of other packages to translate and to manage, and I there
is just not enough time for keeping track of everything.

You are mentioning that you have always advised translators who asked
you to translate the d-i strings in Debian, but I believe it might have
been more useful to clearly state this somewhere in the Wiki or in the
template description at Launchpad, as Jeroen suggested. I for one did
not know that, and I have been translating Ubuntu since Dapper IIRC. I
knew it for other packages (the package descriptions, for example), but
not for the d-i.

What it boils down to is something that I feel has been always missing
in the Ubuntu translation process, and is a team or an individual who
acts as a coordinator between the translators and the developers. The
translation process of Ubuntu is special in comparison to e.g. Debian or
GNOME in the sense that what happens to the translations after they have
been sent is mostly completely unknown to the translators, and when
there are problems they can do nothing else than poke the developers to
solve the issues. But there are too many different disconnected pieces
and there is no central place where questions exclusively related to
translations can be directed to.

Usually this list has been used to this purpose, but obviously not all
developers follow it. And even when using the bug tracker, you do not
often know if the translation problem is due to the package, to Rosetta
importation problems, to the langpack not having been updated, etc. At
the moment, this is rather chaotic. Just a few examples in this release:
new strings being added to the templates a day before the translation
deadlines, without announcing them anywhere; important packages without
translation templates being released also a few days before the
translation deadlines, with the subsequent impossibility to have them
localised before release; Rosetta's ever stalled import queue, etc.

I know that Canonical is looking for someone to fill this position, but
until then, I believe we (both translators and developers) should try to
at least better document the translation process of those packages that
constitute exceptions (e.g. debian-installer, WUBI, language-packs, to
name a few).

Another proposal would be to create an additional translation list with
the purpose of keeping track of new template uploads, so that
translators know there is something new to translate before it is too
late, or whenever a string freeze is broken. I would initially restrict
this to those packages where Ubuntu or its variants are upstream,
otherwise this might quickly become unmanageable. I am again taking
Debian (debian-i18n) and GNOME (gnome-i18n) as a reference, where this
seems to work quite well. Again, I know there is a blueprint specifying
RSS template updates in Launchpad, but we cannot wait indefinitely until
it is implemented.  Every single release we have exactly the same

Anyway, I think that goes about a bit beyond the debian-installer topic,
but I think it is not completely off-topic when inserting it in the
translations' big picture.

What follows below are just a few comments to points in your original

> debian-installer's translations need to be updated by hand, since
> they're used before language packs are installed. Updating them
> wholesale from Launchpad puts me in the position of having to decide
> which of Debian's translations or Launchpad's translations are better
> each time I merge updated packages from Debian (i.e. at the start of
> every release cycle, and often more frequently than that). I'm afraid
> I simply can't afford to take on this workload for more than 50
> languages.  I also can't just throw away one side of the merge because
> (a) the translation changes done in Debian often constitute important
> bug fixes in the installer (analogous to c-format bugs, except that
> Launchpad can't check the substitution format here), so I can't throw
> away the Debian changes; (b) there's obviously no point in me updating
> translations wholesale from Launchpad if I'm going to throw away the
> Launchpad changes on merge. I cannot and will not be put in the
> position where I end up having to act as a proxy for translation
> changes in Launchpad where the Launchpad translation team did not take
> care of forwarding their translations upstream. Thus, I settled a long
> time ago on the position that I would incorporate Launchpad
> translations for Ubuntu-specific strings, but only use Debian
> translations for strings that exist there.

I understand it, but is there really nothing translators can do to help
here? This might get some workload off you and would provide the benefit
that translators can judge what constitutes correct strings in their
language. Furthermore, many translators are able to do more than
translations and are familiar with development -in case what you are
describing goes beyond the strict translation/gettext tools work. If
using translator resources here is practical, I would simply mention it
on this list.


> I would like this to be documented somewhere for translators, but I
> don't know where it should be documented. If you do, feel free to
> write it up and I can review it for accuracy.

As I said, I believe documenting this in the template description would
be quite useful. In addition, I have started this page -> with the
relevant information from your original message.

Please feel free to review and correct the information there. It is a
nearly 1:1 copy of what you wrote, with the necessary adjustments to
make it an article. It might also be better suited to another location,
but at least it is a starting point.

Maybe we could even agree on a template (i.e. a similar set of sections:
"How are translations handled", "Recommendations", etc.) for those
special case translation packages and use this page as an example for
the other ones.


> I also gather that you object to "d'Ubuntu" in the translation you
> specifically refer to, and believe that it should read "de l'Ubuntu".
> These strings are part of a category I refer to as "branding", where
> the string in Debian includes the text "Debian" itself, and clearly
> needs to have "Ubuntu" substituted. This turns out to be a vastly more
> complicated subject than you might hope; the text surrounding the
> distribution name often needs to change slightly (e.g. "a Debian
> mirror" vs. "an Ubuntu mirror", or the current change of "de Debian"
> to "d'Ubuntu" for Catalan). At the same time, I generally want to
> stick to the rest of the Debian text for those strings for all the
> reasons described above, so what I do is merge all changes from Debian
> and "rebrand" all the references to Debian according to a set of rules
> which I've gathered over the years and recorded at the end of
> I'm afraid
> I'm not interested in negotiating this workflow because I strongly
> believe that anything else would be worse (it would leave me in an
> untenable position when the strings change on both sides of the
> merge), but I am generally interested in language-specific
> improvements to the rebranding changes we need to make.
> However, can you explain to me, or perhaps more relevantly to the
> Debian Catalan translation team, why the existing Catalan text in
> Debian is wrong? It currently reads "Menú principal de l'instal·lador
> de Debian".  Changing "de Debian" to "de l'Ubuntu" seems like a
> grammatical change that would be hard for me to apply consistently
> across the whole distribution, and is at odds with what I was told by
> one of your compatriots some time ago (Jordi Mallach). Could we please
> get Debian and Ubuntu to be consistent here so that I can simply apply
> this change consistently everywhere? If this is actually a standard
> grammatical transformation needed for proper nouns that begin with a
> vowel or something like that, then of course that's a different matter
> and we can simply adjust DistributionDefaultsAndBranding to explain
> that.

Thanks for the detailed analysis again. Actually, this particular string
is not that critical, and I was only pointing at it to show the
timestamp of the translation (I could not understand why strings that
had been in Rosetta for such a long time had not yet been published).
Some others were more critical due to typos, but I will take care of
this myself submitting them to Debian.

In any case, I do have some more questions about the branding issue. I
will talk to Jordi about this and come back to you directly via e-mail
(i.e. not on this list, as this is just a particular issue in our

> I think it would be best if we continued this conversation by e-mail
> rather than in this bug report. As a whole, this is not a bug I am
> willing to fix, but I am willing to make specific manual adjustments
> for Jaunty (it is far too late for Intrepid; this would have had to
> have been done a week ago, and I am simply physically unable to get
> any changes of this nature through in time now) if we can agree on
> them. To that end, I'm going to copy the text of this comment to the
> e-mail thread on ubuntu-translators.

I understand your position. The only short-term improvement I can
imagine in this process at this point is better information flow (i.e.
that translators know at least how it all works) and translating
directly upstream. Locking the upstream translations would even be
better, but that is again material for another discussion.

In any case, what is obvious at this point is that all this will have to
wait for Jaunty.


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