As the peaks and valleys of the stock market have reminded the United States media of late, we live in a global economy. To those of us who spend many of our waking hours on the Internet, that's nothing new - some of our best friends live on other continents.
But every now and then, something happens to bring this globalism to the fore and gives us the chance to cast the spotlight on several groups of volunteers whose work makes a tremendous difference. Many English-speaking readers of TidBITS may not realize this, but each issue of TidBITS is translated into a number of languages by dedicated sets of Macintosh users spread around the world. Currently, teams are working actively on Chinese, Dutch, French, German, and Japanese translations of TidBITS. In the past, volunteers have also set up Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese translations, and we've also been approached by folks interested in translating TidBITS into Russian, Swedish, Danish, Thai, and other languages. Sometimes these efforts haven't made it past the planning stages or held to the weekly pace, but all speak volumes about the generous, global nature of the Macintosh community.
From our perspective, these translations mostly just happen. We set up Web and email infrastructure for them and handle the email bounces, but since we don't read any of these languages well (if at all), and can't display the character sets of several, we don't think much about each translated issue. We do correspond frequently with some of the translators, and especially the people who coordinate the translation teams.
It was a message from Sander Lam, one of the coordinators of the Dutch team that set the gears moving. Sander wrote:
It's worth mentioning that TidBITS-448 will be our 100th (capital 1, capital 0, capital 0) TidBITS Translation In A Row. We are very proud of this achievement. There were some issues before this streak started, but TidBITS-448 will be our 100th reliably produced translation. I want to stress "reliable", because as you've mentioned recently in TidBITS Talk, "volunteers + reliable" is not a self-evident combination. Everyone is motivated, but people do go on holidays, make long days at their paid jobs, take care of their families, or have other occupations that conflict with translating on a regular basis. Yet all of us meet all of our self-imposed deadlines, and this little factory just keeps on producing!
Congratulations are due to the Dutch team for this achievement! Since we publish 48 issues each year, 100 issues is roughly two years of consistency, and from a loose group of volunteers spread around the world (including the Netherlands, Belgium, and even Greece), the accomplishment is doubly impressive.
But what about the other translations? A quick check of the German team's Web page showed that they've done 129 issues (although they've taken a few months off of late), Gregoire Seither and Emmanuel M. Decarie of the French team noted that they would hit 115 issues this week (and offered special thanks to Chantal Samuel David and Michel Contant for being on the team since the beginning), and Hisashi Nishimura chimed in to note that the Japanese team has translated a whopping 163 issues, each of which goes out to over 9,000 people on the Japanese TidBITS list.
(And the TidBITS staff do so like to throw in the occasional odd phrase or word - like "whopping" - just to keep the translators' task a bit more interesting. Other expressions that have provoked discussion on our internal translator list include "in a tizzy" and "the cat's pajamas," and some of the subheads in the Macworld Expo overview in TidBITS-412 caused no end of consternation, given that they were puns on commercials, band names, and other verbal artifacts of pop culture.)
Whatever the raw number of translated issues, all of the translation teams have done a fabulous job at spreading TidBITS around the world. We lack the words to thank them sufficiently and would ask only that we all give them a round of electronic applause!
If you or anyone you know might like reading TidBITS in one of these languages, visit our translation page for information on finding the various translations on the Web and subscribing via email.