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Do not touch l10n files (was Re: DDTP issue)

A word of context: a message was sent to debian-l10n-french about the
French translation of the Apache description in the DDTP, and I am now
redirecting it to debian-devel in order to put this dispute under a
larger audience.  Please respect the Reply-To: debian-devel.

There is nothing personal from me against the mentioned persons; they
are only taken as examples, the main point is that developers should
avoid editing l10n files.

In this thread we were told to change the French translation because
Apache maintainers did not like its layout.  I will come back to this
issue below, but here is a better example of the problem I want to

On Sun, May 11, 2003 at 03:16:57AM +0200, Tollef Fog Heen wrote:
> *  (Denis Barbier)
> | Some developers feel qualified to change translations without even
> | notifying translators (as Tollef is Cc'ed, I will mention his removal
> | of 0xa0 characters from French debconf templates, see changelog
> | entry for cvs 1.11.2-1), and I am tired of having to check if they
> | broke them.  AFAICT this is Debian specific, e.g. upstream authors
> | do not make changes in their PO files, except when fixing trivial
> | bugs.
> .. which the addition of the 0xa0 characters were.  They were never
> supposed to be there in the first place, neither in the English
> template, nor in the French translation.

I sent a templates.fr file for cvs in #136340, which has been included
in 1.11.1p1debian-4.  I do not know if this file was included verbatim,
but 1.11.1p1debian-8 did not contain any 0xa0 characters (in ISO-8859-1
encoding) which were replaced by normal spaces.  Now Tollef is telling
me that those characters should never have been put into templates.fr,
and removing them was right.

Unfortunately 0xa0 is the no-break space which is very common in
French typography.  One could argue that Tollef was not aware of this
fact, but the question is: why does he believe that he can change this
localized file when he obviously does not master this language?

The localization of debconf files was designed via debconf-utils so
that there was a clear separation between original and translations:
translators could not corrupt original file, and developers did not
have to edit translations.  For unknown reasons they believe that they
have to, and without even notifying translators.

So I would like to ask developers not to edit l10n files (templates,
PO files, etc) themselves; if you believe that something goes wrong,
notify the translator or his translation team (or any other trusted
person).  If you disagree, think twice before applying your changes,
you are certainly wrong.

Some developers remove fuzzy entries from their PO files.  This is
silly, those outdated strings are not displayed to end users, and
translators lose some possibly valuable informations.
Others perform word substitutions in English and translated strings.
This is bad because this change may have an impact on the rest of the
In short, do not modify PO files unless gettext reports some warnings.
Only apply your changes to English text, and translators will take
care of propagating these changes.

It is time to go back to the Apache description.  Maintainers are
unhappy with the French translation provided by the DDTP.

On Thu, May 08, 2003 at 05:48:59PM +0200, Michael Bramer wrote:
> On Thu, May 08, 2003 at 03:31:23PM +0200, Fabio M. Di Nitto wrote:
> > 	we, as apache maintainers, have a small "objection" regarding the
> > way in which the french guy translated our description. He did change the
> > format of the description in something that is not the way it is supposed
> > to be. We would really much like to see it changed properly.
> ok, the ddtp db has this english/french apache description:
> | # Package(s): apache
> | # Package priority: task
> | # Package prioritize: 50
> | Description: Versatile, high-performance HTTP server
> |  The most popular server in the world, Apache features a modular
> |  design and supports dynamic selection of extension modules at runtime.
> |  Some of its strong points are its range of possible customization,
> |  dynamic adjustment of the number of server processes, and a whole   
> |  range of available modules including many authentication mechanisms,
> |  server-parsed HTML, server-side includes, access control, CERN httpd
> |  metafiles emulation, proxy caching, etc.  Apache also supports multiple
> |  virtual homing.
> |  .
> |  Separate Debian packages are available for PHP, mod_perl, Java
> |  Servlet support, Apache-SSL, and other common extensions.  More
> |  information is available at http://www.apache.org/.

[Fake French translation in ASCII]

> | Description-fr: Serveur HTTP polyvalent haute performance
> |  Serveur le plus populaire du monde, Apache est caracterise par sa conception
> |  modulaire et autorise la selection dynamique des modules d'extension lors de
> |  l'execution.
> |  Quelques-uns de ses points forts sont l'etendue des personnalisations
> |  possibles, l'ajustement dynamique du nombre de processus du serveur, un
> |  eventail complet de modules disponibles, incluant :
> |    - plusieurs mecanismes d'authentification ;
> |    - des analyseurs de serveurs de HTML ;
> |    - des inclusions cote serveur ;
> |    - un controle d'acces ;
> |    - une emulation de metafichiers httpd CERN ;
> |    - un cache proxy, etc.
> |  Apache supporte aussi les sites internes virtuels multiples.
> |  .
> |  Des paquets Debian separes sont disponibles pour le PHP, mod_perl, le
> |  support Servlet Java, Apache-SSL et d'autres extensions habituelles. Plus
> |  d'informations sont disponibles sur http://www.apache.org/.

Apache maintainers do not like this translation because the French
translator changed the layout they chose for their description.
There is a comma separated list of items in English, and an itemized
list in French.
The point is that from a typographical point of view (in French) the
preferred format for a long list of items is an itemized list; a comma
separated list is considered as bad looking, this is certainly why
the translator chose this format.  I do not know English rules about
this issue, and thus cannot tell if original description is right
or not.
Now Apache maintainers are telling us that they chose another layout
and we are bound to it.  This is stupid, our constraints are different,
so I do not see why we could not adopt another format if it is more
adequate for our own language.  Of course if there are good reasons
to promote a given layout, you can give them[1], but telling that
``this is done that way in English so you must adopt this format
too'' is insane.

In conclusion, please do not try to impose your views on how
translations should look like in your package.  You have to make
sure that translations are up to date and correct, but when you
edit translated files yourself, you are most of the times making
translator's life harder without any gain for our end users.

[1] Being able to put comments in control file or debconf templates
    would help

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