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Let's start by looking at the state of localization in the two most popular Linux desktops: KDE and Gnome. KDE has been around longer and is the more mature desktop, but Gnome has a very strong and enthusiastic developer base.

Gnome Desktop Localization

At the time of this writing (Feb. '05), the Gnome desktop project had 87 language localization projects listed on The completion status of each project is shown graphically on the site: green bars indicate the percentage of translated messages, red untranslated, and blue indicates “fuzzy”.

Some of the more unusual languages represented on the site are Old English and Interlingua. Old English was used for a period of about 700 years, from the time of the Anglo-Saxon migrations into England around 450 A.D. until some time after the Norman Invasion in 1066. As far as I know, no one today speaks Old English. No matter, this project may find great favor with Medievalists. Currently, the project has only translated about 153 out of a total of more than 27,000 messages present in Gnome version 2.8.

Interlingua is a “planned auxilliary language” created by the International Auxilliary Language Association (IALA) in 1951. The Old English and Interlingua localization projects may be nothing more than interesting artifacts that are bound to turn up in an Open Source “ecosystem”. On the other hand, if the Old English localization project survives, it might give new meaning to the term “Beowulf cluster”1.

1. “Beowulf clusters” are scalable computer clusters based on commodity hardware using Open Source (Linux) software: see “Beowulf” is also the title of the epic poem about a great Scandinavian warrior written in Old English sometime before the 10th century A.D.