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Language engineering news: Bugs fixed in Universal Language Selector, and a new IPA keyboard layout

Imagine a world in which every single human being can easily select the language of the website that they are reading.

One of the bugs that were fixed: not all elements of the user interface of the Universal Language Selector’s were using web fonts.

That’s what the Wikimedia Foundation’s Language Engineering team has been working on through the Universal Language Selector (ULS): a reusable user interface component for comfortable selection of the most appropriate language out of a long list of available options. It integrates new features from Project Milkshake, a set of portable JavaScript tools for internationalizing any web application with web fonts, keyboard layouts and a robust mechanism for loading translations.

The Universal Language Selector is already used on translatewiki.net and on the new Wikidata project, two massively multilingual communities of software translators and data curators, who are testing this feature in an actual production environment, and reporting many bugs. After coming back from the Bangalore Developer Camp, the team set out to fix the last major bugs in the ULS, and most notably:

Now, all buttons use web fonts and are readable.

Currently, the Universal Language Selector supports 68 keyboard layouts and 44 web fonts, and the number is growing. New fonts and keyboards are added according to the needs of the readers and the editors’ communities around the world.

In other news:

  • We held Language Engineering office hours on November 21.
  • Web fonts support was deployed to the Persian Wikipedia, but unfortunately reverted after the users found several issues with font rendering. The team hopes to fix the problems and deploy web fonts again, for the benefit of all the users who do not have good fonts installed on their computers and devices.
  • Niklas Laxström created the first test release of the MediaWiki Language Extension Bundle, an easy-to-install package of stable versions of several MediaWiki extensions that improve its multilingual support. It keeps your MediaWiki site’s interface translations up-to-date and includes “language skills” boxes, rich locale data, easy translation of content pages and site interface, and the aforementioned UniversalLanguageSelector, which helps users select the language.
  • A screenshot of MediaWiki with jquery.ime and the word ‘milkshake’ written in IPA.

    I created a keyboard mapping for easy typing in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), based on the SIL IPA layout. The IPA is very commonly used as a pronunciation guide in Wikipedia and Wiktionary, and the deployment of the Universal Language Selector will make typing in IPA easier. Other IPA layouts may be easily added, for example X-SAMPA. You are very welcome to try this layout in translatewiki.net: click any text field, and select the English language and the SIL IPA layout in the keyboard layout pop-up.

The team’s next sprint marks the beginning of a new release, during which we’ll start implementing a major overhaul of the user interface of translatewiki.net.

Amir E. Aharoni, Software Engineer (Internationalization)

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