While writing the Drupal 7 multilingual features posts and planning for the upcoming items in the series, I always wanted to figure out a framework for thinking of these items and to match core features and modules with contributed module functionality. Drupal 7 clearly is a multilingual system with additional contributed modules only. Also, there are so many modules involved that a summary of which Drupal objects they work with and what functionality they serve would be clearly beneficial to summarize in an overview.
With the basics of node and site settings translation behind us, we are getting to the more complex parts, at least in terms of the user interfaces involved. While with node translation you get a tab on each node to translate it (regardless of setting up translation sets or using translatable fields), and with settings translation, you get quick jump links, the subsystems that work with textgroups will require a better understanding of how the Drupal systems relate.
Three ways to think about language support
When people want to have language support for their site, they typically think of one of three things:
Being able to mark an object as in one language. With node translation this was achieved by language enabling nodes.
Being able to mark an object as in one language and relate it to others as being a translation set. For nodes, this is supported by Drupal core's content translation module.
Finally, being able to translate pieces of the object that need translation and leave the rest alone. Load the right language variant of the object dynamically as needed. In the case of nodes, this is achieved with the contributed entity_translation module (formerly translation.module).
The first case is great when you don't need to translate the object, the second is great when you need to use translations in different contexts (for nodes, you can maintain a separate comment set, put in different menus, etc). The last is great when you want to maintain the object the same way regardless of language. This might be great for an e-commerce site. Read part 4 of my blog post series for exact details for nodes.
Applying this to blocks, the i18n module provides functionality (1) and (3), but not (2) at this point. Translation set support is being implemented for various objects (menus, paths, etc. are already covered by i18n), but not blocks yet. (1) is very simple to use, but (3) will be a real pain if you don't read this blog post...
While Drupal improves its multilingual features with every version and there were numerous improvements with Drupal 6 and 7 especially, there are still lots of things for which contributed modules are needed, and multilingual support is not consistent (neither in some cases usable) with these modules. There is sizable customization and glue-code building required.
Karsten Frohwein thought to take these problems and organize a group of contributors to take a deep look at them, conceptualize on better solutions and do actual implementation in a concentrated environment. Thankfully, as with great ideas, he got lots of support from companies and individuals interested, so the Internationalization SprintCamp is a go between the 11th and 15th of May 2011 in Berlin. Key contributors are being confirmed one by one, so this event is promising to be a great and high energy one for improving multilingual features and fixing bugs. There is place for up to 20 people, so we are looking for developers who can join and help. Contact Karsten through the Impressum page or leave a comment here with your contact information (such as drupal.org username or user URL).
Ps. we will hang around in the #drupal-i18n IRC channel throughout the sprint, and distribute information and guidance for anybody who'd like to join and help virtually. See http://drupal.org/irc for more information on Drupal's IRC channels.
Google is at it again! The legendary Google Summer of Code (GSoc) is organized again for 2011, and it should be lots of fun for students, mentors and organizations alike. GSoc is a summer-long activity for students where they can work on interesting and real problems with open source projects and earn money in the process to pay for college or whatever they wish.