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Re: newdriftbok German translation

This Weekend I got a couple of Emails from Donna about the German
Translation breaking (her) English original. Understandably she was
quite furious. I think she and Bart might have fixed the problem for
now, but behind this is an issue of greater magnitude and cause of
constant frustration.

Simply put the PO/POT files should help keeping the translation
synchronous. For longer DocBook documents they tend to become an
obstacle however -- often hindering translation altogether -- for the
following reasons:

- sometimes the structures of the XML files don't *exactly* match. As
Bart pointed out and as I experienced myself this makes running split2po
impossible and fixing it is a major timesink. Apart from that fixing
this problem by keeping documents structurally the same is in some way
like trying to impose the syntax of one language on another. A bit like
if I translated the previous sentence from German literally. Sometimes
different structure of a document would make i18n and l10n easier.

- what Donna experienced is constantly happening to translators,
untranslated paragraphs appear (which is actually fine, since it is part
of the syncing thing and ensures that revisions of the original document
are carried over in the translations), or translated paragraphs
disappear (which is always a bit problematic, even if it would be
correct, since following paragraphs may depend syntactically on previous
paragraphs now missing, even if that is not the case in the untranslated
version it may very well be so in the translation). Worse there seems to
be some POT/PO magic going on that causes some mystery changes, very
much of the type Donna experienced, making her think that German
translators are (which in fact we aren't) adding strange German
information to her English XML file.

- a Skolelinux/Debian-edu peculiarity is what we experienced with the
IKT-bok translation. Either the makefiles or the SGML/XML Docbook were
broken, but we never got a chance to see translation results. (I think
there is still no German HTML version of the IKT-bok online including
all strings that have actually been translated -- please correct me if I
am wrong). Also whilst translating, looking at PO files (or Docbook
files for that matter, although I personally feel more comfortable about
them) to proofread and for context is a bit like flying an aircraft
blindfolded. I want regularly compile/transform to HTML to see what I
have done and to enable me to send drafts to people who ask me for them.

Our current not in all respects good solution is that we took the then
current version (1.73) of the newdriftbok.en.sgml and started
translating to German. This was easy enough as we are familiar with
Docbook, Charsets, and have parsing editors that master both without
crashing all the time (contrary to my experience with KBabel). Also we
have Saxon and FOP in place to regularly produce HTML and PDF previews
using the docbook xslt stylesheets. Bart and I are in contact and we
agreed on keeping the German document structure as exactly same to the
English as possible (living with oddities in the German translation like
empty paras, etc.). So we can do split2po and use po to keep the
document up to date after the initial translation is done. For the time
being this seems still the best solution to me, even though I see the
pitfalls (Bart: "timesink" -- Donna: "[...] to find that someone has
translated at least one paragraph of my working English document into

So what is this lengthy rant?

1) An apology to all who have trouble because of the Germans and their
translation -- that is mainly I think Bart and Donna (in alphabetical
order). Sorry!

2) Explanation of my reasoning, so Germans seem less strange.

3) Call for suggestions how to better translate Docbook files.

Kind regards

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