A translate@thon is a mass translation event (also called a localization sprint). Get a number of translators in one room and begin translating and you have a translate@thon. The general idea is that translation is simply a numbers game, get a large number of people translating and the task will be completed more quickly.

Have you hosted a translate@thon? Then please add your event to our Translate@thon hall of fame


To get the most our of your Translate@thon it is important that you understand what kind of outcomes you can expect and align your expectations accordingly. You will get different outcomes from small and large events.

  • Large event – 40+ people. Most people will be new a translating and most probably unskilled. You will spend a lot of time explaining things, doing presentations, etc. Some people who are there might just be there for the social and will disturb others reducing their output. Expect low quality.
  • Small event – 5 people. Usually the group is dedicated. The ratio of techies to translators is high so the quality goes up. The atmosphere is one of hard fun work as opposed to the carnival atmosphere at a large event.

So what can you expect?

Use a small event to get work done. Get high quality translations. Use a large event to expose people to localisation, to get media coverage and to promote Free Software. Large events are the places were you fish out the one or two dedicated translators who will carry on. At one large event we met with lecturers on a translation studies degree, localisation is now being worked into their degree.

Without a dedicated session or two devoted to review and quality assurance, expect there to be many problems with quality. Build in review sessions as part of your planning if you want to improve the quality and train people on the detail needed for high quality translation. Below more issues about quality is discussed.

Hosting partner

It might be good to involve a hosting partner. Traditionally we have chosen the language departments of Universities. They have access to good skills, computer labs and their own network of people.

Who should attend

You can take various strategies. Either throw the door wide open in which case you probably need to publicise the event slightly differently so that you can attract various people. Or make it a relatively closed affair with your hosting partner. For your first one it might be nice to make it closed as you can then ensure a quality audience. Remember that you have the chance to attract people who might not know anything about Free Software and who have their own networks that could tap into other potential translators. A mass event has issues about quality which we address below.


Your choice of venue should consider the following:

  • Is it easy to get to
  • Do they have enough computers
  • Do they have Internet access if you need it

Remember to put lots of signage up on the day so that people can actually find the venue.


Work with you partner to arrange the venue, people, etc. Make sure you have actually seen the computer lab and tested how things will work. If needed make contact with the lab assistant, manager, whatever and get their buy-in. They’ll be a wonderful ally if things go wrong and you have brought them on-board.

It is also nice to arrange refreshment, prizes and talks. So plan for those and get sponsors if needed. And perhaps give a slot for people to talk on various aspect of Free Software and translation. Talks and refreshments give a nice break for people to network and get excited.

Ensure that you have a team of helpers that can assist newbies during translation, the number depends on the number of people expected. The ideal people are more computer focused then language focused. You need people who can quickly tell if something is a brand name, explain a computer term, describe what something does or how a term is used in computers. Having language specialists on hand is useful as they can direct the language aspect of the same word choice problems.

Choose a date so that the majority of people are available. Avoid the obvious like school holidays. Public holidays may actually be a good time to host the event unless they are family-oriented holidays or long weekends. If you want to attract students at University make it fall into their program, avoid exam times, holidays, etc.

What should you translate?

Ultimately the choice should align with broader goals for the language team. If this is the initial translation then you might want to translate a glossary, especially if you have access to language experts.

Another thing to consider is that if people have something to show for it afterwards then it is more rewarding. So translating the Mozilla web-browser and actually completing it so that people could take it home or download it shortly after the event.

A few days before

Remind people of the event and check the computers. Nothing is worse than no one coming or the computers not working. Check that you actually have access to the lab and its not closed for some obscure reason.

On the day

Arrange for yourself and helpers to arrive early. Check that the catering is OK. Recheck the computers. Welcome people.

Take it as it goes and adjust your program if it isn’t working.


This is the suggested program that we use.

09:00 Arrive tea, Register (hand out program, translation guidelines)
09:30 Start – intro talk (very basics of translation)
10:00 Translate short session
10:15 More talk covering more advanced topics
11:00 Translate
12:00 Lunch
13:00 Translate
14:00 Talk
14:15 Translate
15:00 Tea
15:30 Translate (hand out evaluation forms)
16:30 Close
16:45 Continue Translating if you want

This gives you 4 hours of translation time with none more than an hour long. Adjust as needed. If you have a mixture of new and experienced translators then it might be nice to arrange the venue so that experienced translators don’t have to listen to any of the talks.

Give people a copy of the program and include the titles of the talks.

Event close

Don’t forget to thank people. It is also good to get participants to fill out an evaluation form (example) as this allows people to give feedback. You can also use it to recruite people to the mailing lists and to help organise your next event.

Post translate@thon followup

Keep the energy going. Some ideas for this are to establish a mailing list. Send out copies of what was translated. Give prizes to those who did the most, had the least errors, made the funniest mistake. Share stories about errors that were funny.


How do you ensure quality of the work? These are people who have just started software translation and thus their work will be suspect, take that for granted. There are a few things you can do to increase quality.

  • Ensure that people are well informed about common mistakes
  • Have a document that gives a guideline to translators. The document should also identify things like variables, how to choose words, etc.
  • Talk to new people before they start, have a quick 15 minute translation session then talk again to reiterate the issues.
  • Never accept translations from a translate-athon until they have been reviewed by an established translator. If needed add them to the PO files but mark all of them fuzzy.
  • Optionally only use professional language people: lecturers, translators
  • Have computer people on hand to answer questions, or make technical and language people work in pairs.
  • Encourage people to ask questions, regularly and often. This is important as some culture see asking questions as an indication of a lack of knowledge, be very concerned if nobody is asking questions.
  • Plan for review, quality assurance and testing as part of the event schedule. The quality checks in Pootle is a great way to get everybody involved in reviewing the translations. The search feature might help to review terminology. Obviously getting the translated program running is good for reviewing things in context.
  • For consistency at large events, it is probably worthwhile to prepare a terminology list before the event and install that in Pootle for terminology suggestions. This will at least eliminate certain types of inconsistencies. Translation memory is another way to help, although that might be harder to setup, depending on the administration skills available.


  • Planning
    • Found partner
    • Determine appropriate day
    • Create mailing list if needed
    • Arrange prizes
  • Lab
    • Lab suitable
    • Meet with lab supervisor
    • Book lab
  • Venue
    • Place for tea
    • Tables and chairs for tea arranged if needed
  • Few days before
    • Check lab booking
    • Reminder to participants
    • Contact assistants, technical and language to confirm
    • Plan and create program
    • Print evaluation and translation guides
  • Day before
    • Visit lab
    • Check on caterers
    • Arrange tea area
    • Arrange registration area
    • Meet with assistants to discuss their role and your expectations
  • On the day
    • Setup for tea or check on caterers
    • Bring all forms (registration, program, guidelines)
    • Force your assistants to mingle especially if they are already project participants
    • Thank people
    • Hand out prizes
  • Followup
    • Add people to mailing list
    • Email thanks