The Firefox web browser has become the first major software available in the Scots language. The project, led by Edinburgh-based localization provider Rubric, seeks to promote the language and is available for users from the 10th of August 2021.
Recognition of the Scots language has grown recently in Scottish schools, parliament, and on social media. However, speakers have had limited options for software in their own language.
Rubric hopes that this new language option will change that by allowing learners and fluent speakers to browse the web in Scots.
A renaissance of the Scots language
The 2011 Scottish census reported that 1.9 million people could speak, read, write or understand Scots. Despite this, there has been less drive to incorporate it into technological products than other minority languages, such as Scots Gaelic.
Ashley Douglas, writer, researcher, and translator for the project explains the importance of Scots language software: “This project shows Scots being used as the fully-fledged, fully functioning, fully legitimate modern language that it is. It’s wonderful that Rubric and Mozilla are committed to doing this, and it was a real pleasure to help Rubric deliver on the goal.”
Fellow translator and Scots writer Thomas Clark notes that the browser will provide validation for native speakers. He says “For younger speakers especially, it’s so important that they see that Scots is out there so they’re not embarrassed about using it. Being able to access the internet through a Scots medium makes so much difference to their confidence, their development, and hopefully to the status of the language.”
What it takes to translate a browser into Scots
As Scots has not been used extensively in the technological sphere before, the team had to coin some new terms.
Douglas explains “Sometimes that was using existing words in new ways. For example, for ‘maximize’ and ‘minimize’ we opted for ‘mak muckle’ and ‘mak tottie’.”
Their guiding principle was to use terms that will be immediately understandable to Scots speakers.
Clark says “The real challenge was finding a medium between an interesting, lively accessible Scots and making sure that it wasn’t too antiquated or whimsical.”
Françoise Henderson, CEO of Rubric, hopes the publicity around the browser will encourage the Scots community to build upon their efforts to promote the Scots language in the technology domain.
She says: “It’s unusual for a commercial company like us to do this kind of thing. Usually, the community translates for Mozilla. For us, it’s very much a seeding exercise, it’s not a commercial exercise. The language has to live and the community has to take over now.”
Founded by Françoise and Ian Henderson in 1994, Rubric works with global businesses to grow their international reach through localization services and global content strategy. Rubric regularly donates resources to important volunteer projects having previously translated Firefox into Xhosa and donated Wikipedia translations of key health information during the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.