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Translating Sympa

Sympa is designed to allow easy internationalization of its user interface (service mail messages and web interface). Most translations for one language are gathered in a single PO file that can be manipulated by standard GNU gettext tools.

Documentation and ressources about software translations :

Sympa previously (until Sympa 4.1.x) used XPG4 messages catalogue format. Web and mail templates were language specific. The new organization both provide a unique file to work on for translators and a standard format supported by many software.

The easiest way to translate Sympa user interface is to use our Pootle server. <box> Sympa Pootle server : </box>

These are the steps to follow to translate Sympa using pootle:

Create an account in pootle

Choose a project to translate

When you log in, you find :

  • on your right, a submenu containing the main navigation links.
  • in the middle of the page, e presentation of Sympa, the languages handled by pootle and the three projects used for the Sympa translation. These three projects are :
  • Sympa user interface: all the web interface and the messages, either sent by mail or displayed in logs;
  • Sympa terminology: a set of frequently used word upon which translators must agree prior to start translating anything else in Sympa;
  • Sympa online help: the contextual help about parameters and the help section displayed by the web interface.

Pootle home page

Choose a language

When you click on a project name, a page is displayed showing all the sub-project, one by language, hosted in pootle. They are displayed in a table whose columns give details about how much work has been done for each language already.

Pootle langs presentation in a project

Go to the editing functions

In this page, by clicking on the language name, you will reach yet another page which is the true entry point to translation. This page contains informations about each file of the project. You can start translating by clicking on the link titled “Show editing functions”.

Project home page for a specified lang

Once in the editing functions, you can see a menu containing several links. Shortly:

  • click on “Quick translate” to start translating at the first untranslated or fuzzy translated string that pootle will find in the catalog.
  • click on “Translate all” to start translating at the first string in the file.
  • you can use the “search” form to go directly to a particular string you want to translate.
  • You can also notice a “commit” link that will be used only when you're done working for this session and want to submit your work to the subversion repository.

Project editing function


Whichever “translate” link you clicked, at the preceding step, you will reach a page similar to the one below:

Project translation

In this page, you can translate a string whose english version is on the left. Once you're done with this string, click on the “submit” button. Pootle will save your changes and then open the next string to translate.

Note on the image the box on the right of the translation area: if the string contains words defined in the “Sympa terminology” project, then they will display, along with their translation. This way, you will maintain the coherence of your translation easily.

The “submit” button below the translation area will not commit your translation to the subversion repository. It will only save the catalog file on the pootle server. If you want your work to be registered in subversion, you must go back to the editing functions, and then click on the “commit” link.

A PO (Portable Object) file is a text file with a header part (containing meta information) and a set of translations. A translation refers to a reference string in English (msgid) and a translated string (msgstr).

Example, header part of fr.po :

msgid ""
msgstr ""
"Project-Id-Version: fr\n"
"POT-Creation-Date: 2002-07-16 17:27+0800\n"
"PO-Revision-Date: 2004-06-23 10:46+0200\n"
"Last-Translator: Olivier Salaun \n"
"Language-Team: Fran�ais\n"
"MIME-Version: 1.0\n"
"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1\n"
"Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit\n"
"X-Generator: KBabel 1.3.1\n"

When translating you should carefully fill (if your translation tools does not do it for you) the following entries of the header :

  • Language-Team : it should contain the language name (in the native language)
  • Content-Type : the charset specified here will be considered the default charset for the language everywhere in Sympa.
  • Content-Transfer-Encoding : also considered by Sympa as the default one for the language

Example, translation :

#. (
#: src/etc/tt2/listmaster_notification.tt2:36
#: src/etc/tt2/listowner_notification.tt2:18
msgid "List %1 automatic bounce management"
msgstr "Gestion des adresses en erreur pour la liste %1"

The lines starting with # are either comments or meta data. They are used by Sympa to provide you with contextual information about the string to translate (parameter names corresponding to %s, %1, %2… entries, list of templates/modules that refer to this string). msgid and msgstr are respectively the string to translate and the translation.

There are 3 types of special entries in PO files :

* Untranslated : the string has not been translated yet

    Example :
#: wwsympa/tt2/subindex.tt2:53
msgid "Add selected addresses"
msgstr ""

* Fuzzy : this tag indicates that the translation might not be correct

 Example :
#: wwsympa/tt2/admin_menu.tt2:82 wwsympa/tt2/admin_menu.tt2:88
#, fuzzy
msgid "Bounces"
msgstr "Unzustellbare Adresse"

* Obsolete : the corresponding string is no more used by Sympa

 Example :
#~ msgid "List is Private : You can not browse subscribers' list.\n"
#~ msgstr "Questa lista e' chiusa: impossibile elencare gli iscritti.\n"

There are a few PO editors that will make your translation job easier :

KBabel is part of the KDE environment. It helps you create and edit your PO files. You can navigate among untranslated/fuzzy strings. KBabel also detect errors in the format.

Let's consider Sympa was previously translated in your language and you wish to update the translations (translating new strings, updating changed translations, fixing errors,…). You should download the latest version of the PO file from the SVN repository. Your favourite PO editor will help you find the untranslated and fuzzy strings. Once you have finished the translation job you should send the new PO file to

The only extra job, compared to PO updates, is to create a new PO file. Download the latest version of the sympa.pot file from our CVS repository. Rename sympa.pot to LL.po (where LL is your language code) and initialize the headers (manually or via your PO editor).

Before you start a translation job, please subscribe to the sympa-translation mailing list and ask if others have already started the job.

You may wish to translate from a familiar language (other than English) to your native language. You can create the initial version of your LL.po file based on a MM.po file but you should tag all translations in the newly created file as fuzzy. You can perform this operation with the UNIX msgattrib command as follows :

% msgattrib --set-fuzzy -o /tmp/oc.po /tmp/fr.po

If you don't know what your official language code is, check this document.

(This method will only work with Sympa release 4.2b.3 or higher) Considering that LL.po in your newly created catalogue :

  • copy LL.po in Sympa sources po/ directory
  • edit the po/Makefile to add LL to the LINGUAS variable
  • edit your sympa.conf to make the new language available : supported_lang fr,en_US,LL
  • compile and install your catalogue : % ./configure ; make ; make install
  • restart your sympa server : % /etc/rc.d/init.d/sympa stop ; /etc/rc.d/init.d/sympa start

This operation is required if you wish to create an uptodate version of your PO file that include both previous translations and new required ones. The list of entries to translate are collected in the sympa.pot template file. sympa.pot can be updated according to code and templates by running the following command in the po/ subdirectory of Sympa sources :

> make pot

You can then update all PO files as follows :

> make update-po

This last operation performs the following msgmerge on each PO file :

> msgmerge -o ll.po ll.po sympa.pot

You will need to merge PO files when merging Sympa branches or to gather the work of different translators who have edited the same PO file off-line.

This last operation performs the following msgmerge on each PO file :

> msgmerge -C ll-A.po ll-B.po sympa.pot > ll.po

Please contact us if have further questions.

  • translating_sympa.1196180723.txt.gz
  • Last modified: 2008/01/07 17:14
  • (external edit)