It’s heartening to know that multilingualism is so valued in this community. I’ve enjoyed being able to kind of get the gist of posts on the new Discourse site that were originally written in German, Spanish, and soon other languages, thanks to the new 🌐 button. More recently, the proposal to install the Translate extension on the wiki has drawn quite a bit of passion both for and against.
Language diversity is important both on principle and in a practical sense. Supporting languages as first-class citizens can be an important tool for growing the project, reaching into untapped sources of new mappers who will improve the map and evangelize it within their communities. But there are strong opinions on how to manage translations, informed by years of pain from both inadequate software and poor translations. One way or another, I hope the buzz around this proposal will translate into a renewed interest in translating the wiki’s guides and tagging guidance, fixing unintended discrepancies across translations, and making it easier to find wiki pages in your language among search results.1 If this extension isn’t the right tool for the job, I hope we can find one that is.
Regardless, I take comfort in knowing that most of the wiki’s translations will be handcrafted by skilled language speakers who understand OSM – with or without this extension.2 Whatever concerns we have about eliminating or preserving semantic differences across translations would pale in comparison to the accidental misunderstanding that would arise from machine translations of the same technical documentation. Machine translations always fill the vacuum when hand translations are lacking.
Voting is open through May 6. The proposal needs 75% support to pass, since it adopted the wiki’s tagging proposal process. Please take the time to carefully read the proposal and its comments before jumping to conclusions.