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Minority Languages: Cookies, Caches and Cows

Speaking the customer's language.

The Mozilla foundation is working to expand the number of countries in which smartphones with its operating system are available in the local language.

Credit: The Economist

The nonprofit Mozilla foundation is seeking to give more users of its open source Web browser the option of a device that speaks their language.

Smartphones with its operating system (OS) already are available in 24 countries. The foundation plans to add more countries as it reaches more deals with handset manufacturers.

Mozilla has 230 teams of volunteer localizers translating the OS; Firefox uses about 40,000 words when installed on a computer, and the phone OS version uses about 16,000 words. The translators must express technological terms in languages shaped by livestock, farming, and fishing, and choose alternatives for culture-specific words such as "cookie," "file," and "mouse."

Having recently added the languages of Songhai and Fulah, Firefox is now available in 90 languages, which serve almost all of the 40 percent of the global population already online. Firefox OS uses all parts of speech, and older, more colorful words are pressed into service, while Mozilla has created a statistical tool for linguistic analysis.

From The Economist
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