Why are you not using an application in your language?

Last week, listened a conversation between two of my friends, Khaleel and Navin.

Khaleel is contributing to Mozilla community by doing localization. i.e translating the strings on the user interface of Mozilla products like firefox in Tamil. Navin is a tech guy, who likes to read Tamil anywhere.

localization க்கான பட முடிவு

image source – http://www.softwaretestingclass.com/what-is-globalization-internationalization-and-localization-in-software-testing/


“Hi Navin, Do you know that the firefox in your mobile and computer can be converted to Tamil?” Khaleel Asked.

“Yes dude. I have heard about it. Tried few times. But, the tamil interface gave me some issues. So reverted back to English UI”. Navin replied.




“Oh. Is it? It is just a habital issue. You are so used to English. I never faced any issues on using Tamil interface. What are the issues you faced?” Khaleel asked.

“New words to learn. All the new words make me to feel very unfriendly.” This is Navin.

“Yes. We have to learn something new. When dont hesitate to learn new words in English, why do we feel tired to learn new words in Tamil? Did you born with all the english words as File, Edit, Options menu? ”

“Agreed. It is just a one time learning to matching the words. Still, Laziness prevents me.”

“Fine. What are the other issues?”

“Seeking for help on any issues, is one big issue. When I am in Tamil interface, if somethings goes wrong, I have to search internet with the proper english words. When I do translate from Tamil to English, it goes wrong and not getting answers. On such times, I have to find menus, for switching languages. It is hidden somewhere deeper. Once I switched to english, I am not coming back to tamil interface to avoid a pressure on emergency”.

“True. For that only, we are trying to bring entire documentation in Tamil itself. Then, you can search in Tamil itself”. Khaleel answered. “To make you to use tamil interface, what we have to do?” Khaleel asked.



Here comes an important answer from a different point of view, from a good user.

“The switching of languages in the interface should be one click or a simple gesture. Why you guys are buried that option in a deep menu?” Navin asked.

While listening this conversation, I searched and found on how to switch languages for Firefox and Libreoffice.

To change the UI of firefox to a new language:

Unlike themes, enabling a language pack in the Add-ons Manager only does the languages it provides available. To change the preferred language for the interface:

  1. In the address bar, type about:config and press Enter.
    • The about:config “This might void your warranty!” warning page may appear. Click I accept the risk! to continue to the about:config page.
  2. In the FilterSearch field, type intl.locale.matchOS.
  3. If the intl.locale.matchOS preference has a value of true, double-click it to toggle its value to false.
  4. Clear the FilterSearch field, and type general.useragent.locale.
  5. Double-click the general.useragent.locale preference, and enter the code of the language you want to use. This page lists most of the language codes used for Mozilla localizations.
  6. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click Quit Close 29 .

When you start Firefox again, you will see the interface in the new specified language.

source : https://support.mozilla.org/t5/Manage-preferences-and-add-ons/Use-the-Firefox-interface-in-other-languages-with-language-packs/ta-p/23542#w_how-to-change-the-language-of-the-user-interface

For libreoffice,   Tools▸Options▸Language settings▸Languages▸Language Of: User interface (applied after restart).

source: https://ask.libreoffice.org/en/question/61894/how-do-i-change-the-default-language-from-french-to-english/

Like this, KDE and Gnome have their own deep menus to change the language. For most of them, we have to restart the application or logout/login or restart the entire system.

“Why there is no one click or one gesture switching of user interface languages? If there is such option, I can use all the application in Tamil itself. Whenever I get any issues, I will hover on UI or do some gesture to know the equivalent English words, search for them, get answers, fix issues, switch back to Tamil interface.” Navin explained.

All he said is true. Being an old times contributor of localizing Gnome, KDE in Tamil, today I am not using them in Tamil. Suffering by the same issue what Navin explained.

Found that Firefox has a useful addon to switch languages easily. Simple Locale Switcher


This seems useful. But why do I have to restart entire firefox with all my 80 tabs, just to know how to mention something on another language?  When KDE or gnome ask me to logout and login, I never think to switch a language.

Thanks Navin and Khaleel for bringing out a wonderful design issues with the application architecture.

When a software supports localization, switching language should be as one click.

This should be implemented on the software, then only new people will start using the localized application without any hesitation.

Till then, we have to keep on worrying why the new people are not using the local language interfaces.

I will report this as a feature request for kde, gnome, firefox and libreoffice. If you are interested in contributing to any open source software, implement this feature to it or report this as feature request in their issue tracking system.

What do you think on this issue? What are the other possible solutions? Share your thoughts in the comments and start discussing about this with your tech communities.




5 thoughts on “Why are you not using an application in your language?

  1. I know someone who is trying to create a blogging platform dedicated to encourage localization(0)… Challenges are in integrating tools that support localization. mainly like; to let user type in local language, there is no open well trained dataset for any local languages and also it costs high to run own server to serve such APIs. one hope is that in some long future we might have large network of decentralized systems that collectively serve large dataset and process learnings.. Oh.. that’s tooo long from here.. We are stuck with one variant of blub paradox.. I don’t use X because no one is using X. I don’t create X because there is no market for X or other options are more dominant than having X. I don’t have supporting ecosystem to build X because nobody gives a damn to make the first step.

    (0) : http://www.offprint.in

  2. In 2015, when I was with IndusOS, an customised – Indigenous Operating System for Android (as Localization Lead), I had shared a similar idea with the team. They have swipe translation (patent applied), a new feature to translate a message / website, with a left to right swipe gesture (from regional to English & English to regional). I suggested them that this swipe translation can be included for all Menu screens; so, if user did not understand any new term, he / she can translate immediately without changing the language. But, it was not included.

    The Government of Tamilnadu’s official website (http://www.tn.gov.in) have an interesting option; for every page, you can switch over from English to Tamil or vice versa in a single click; this model can be followed.

  3. பயர்பாக்சு உலாவியில் தமிழை அமைக்க முயன்றேன். என்னால் அமைக்க முடியவில்லை. பட்டியல்(Menu)–>விருப்பங்கள்(preferences)–>உள்ளடக்கம்( content) என்பதிலும் தமிழை அமைத்தும் தமிழ் இடைமுகம்(Interface) வரவில்லை. நுட்ப அளவில், மொழியைத் தேர்ந்தெடுக்க, இன்னும் எளிமையாக்கம் தேவை. ஒரு தொடக்க நிலை பங்களிப்பாளரின் வேண்டுகோள். தமிழ் வளர்க்க தமிழில் எழுதுக. நான் கற்று , [https://youtu.be/2UH-jMi0D14 இதுபோல] ஆவணப்படுத்த விரும்பினேன். இப்பொழுது இயலவில்லை.

  4. About Firefox, with or without an add-on, you can drop the restart after the switch of the language interface if you only want to know the English name of some menu or other element: after switching (without restart! Note that the “Restart after…” item in the add-on screenshot works as a toggle-able button), you can open a new window and it will be in the new selected language: you can check then whatever you wanted, close this window and change the language back; your current 80-tabs session will not be affected. The restarting offered by the add-on is an optional convenience when you want to apply the change to all the existent windows.

    So, at least for the use case described by Navin, he can get the “one-click to switch” in Firefox. Sort of.

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