Scratch & Transifex

Scratch Accelerates Localized Content Releases By 100% And Improves Translators’ Collaboration

Scratch has become the world’s largest coding community for children. Around 200 million children every year interact with the platform, creating their own interactive stories, games, and animations on their computers and sharing them with the online community by uploading them to the Scratch website. The team at Scratch view computer programming as a new way for children to express themselves. As children create stories, games, and animations with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for everyone in today’s society. The Scratch Foundation was established to ensure the platform remains free and globally accessible, with 1,000 volunteers reviewing and translating content into more than 100 languages.

Business Needs

The Scratch team were relying on a manually maintained list to manage volunteering translators and communicate with them. This meant that emails were sometimes out of date or entered incorrectly, and there was no way of ensuring that all translators were receiving important messages. Some translators were creating their communication groups through email, Skype, or the scratch website forum, while others worked in isolation. It was clear that the Scratch team needed a solution to improve communication and collaboration throughout the localization process. 

Additionally, the translation pipeline was fragile because the server only handled po files, but some source files were in key-value JSON format. These needed converting before being uploaded to the server and converting back when retrieved for use. Misplaced quotes in a translation could break the process while the translation of supporting resources, such as educator guides, was managed in an ad hoc fashion and not effectively tracked.

The Scratch team ideally required an API that would offer visibility of script translation processes and progress while also offering better context for translations so everyone could understand how a particular string was being used.

“Transifex support is quick to answer when we have questions and listen when we make suggestions. Working with volunteers from the Scratch community, it's been important to have translation tools that are easy to use and leverage the knowledge of the community”.
Chris Garrity
Localization Lead and Senior Software Engineer, Scratch Foundation

Transifex was the ideal solution. The platform provides features to facilitate communication with translators, and an announcements feature to ensure translators know about changes and upcoming deadlines.

When translators identify problems, they can tag a specific string, and the Scratch team can either respond with visual content or simply edit the context directly. Using file formats that include descriptions allows developers to add notes for translators, reducing the number of issues opened by translators. 

The API solution offered by Transifex streamlines the synchronization process for several projects. It integrates with GitHub where necessary, enabling various formats, including PO files and JSON formats, to be easily handled. GitHub integration has eliminated the need to write new synchronization scripts, and Slack integration provides notifications of completed translations and new volunteers joining the team.

To create Scratch 3.0, the platform needed to move from a legacy system to a new React-based system. Transifex’s Translation Memory functionality has played a vital role in ensuring content that has already been translated remains translated in the new system. On top of this, creating a glossary of consistent terminology and visual identification of problems has further simplified and improved Scratch 3.0. 

“It was also difficult for translators to know how a particular string was being used. There was no context provided in key-value JSON files, and the context in the po files was just line numbers in source files that weren’t available to translators.”
Chris Garrity
Localization Lead and Senior Software Engineer, Scratch Foundation

Updated translations are now included in weekly releases, rather than monthly as before. More effective translation checking ensures that less time is spent tracking down and resolving translator errors. As a result, the team has been able to add 20 new languages over the past two years since the launch of Scratch 3.0.

Previously, localization for Scratch focused primarily on the editor and the website. Transifex has made it possible to extend this to include the Scratch app, videos, and more resources for educators, including the Scratch in Practice and Learning Creative Learning websites, tutorial videos, and knowledge base help articles. Scratch 3.0 has seen the number of non-English speaking users increase by 25%, and their usage increase by almost 70%.

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