ROS 2 Documentation in other languages

Dear ROS Community,

Attending one meeting of the Spanish Local User Group some time ago, we discussed why language-specific communities were necessary for our ROS community, and why much effort was focused on creating tutorials in their language. One of the conclusions was that the language was a barrier to entry to ROS for students and, in general, good technicians who were unprepared to read the documentation in English.

In this post I would like to see your opinion if this need is really real, and if so, how we can address it in a viable way.

The ROS 2 documentation is excellent, and the URL itself (http:// /en /rolling/) already has an “en”, indicating that it should be set up to accept “es”, "fr ", “pt”, “ch”, “jp”, etc…

A federal development model has been widely used in ROS, and perhaps we could approach it similarly. Interested Local User Groups could fork the official repository and start translating the documentation manually, with machine translators, or a mix of both. I remember a long time ago that Firefox was able to attract even non-technical people, but who wanted to contribute to an Open Source project.

The issue of documentation already translated but outdated to the documentation in English could be carried out automatically, creating issues in the repo when the translated version is older than the original.

Perhaps some REP could even be pushed (I could push this) that would formalize the process of creating and maintaining this, including the figures (a librarian?) who would be responsible for this maintenance. There is no “Documentation (and Promotion?)” WG, and I don’t know if you consider it necessary.

I would like to hear opinions to know if this need exists, if there are people who want to get involved and if you see other solutions.



There’s definitely a need for this! I keep coming across a lot of documentation in Japanese, and would love to get to read them.

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I think this is a great initiative. I have had thoughts recently about what we can do to improve the documentation, and the OSRF is definitely interested in putting some effort into this along with the community. Let’s talk about this in the new year (we’re pretty busy for the remainder of this year getting the OSRF up and running as a full-fledged foundation).

Just dropping a link to the issue that @fmrico opened for this: Multi-language support · Issue #3249 · ros2/ros2_documentation · GitHub


@fmrico I agree with you. The language is one of barriers to entry to ROS for person who not use English as the main language. So it is good for ROS local community. But translating ROS 2 documents is not easy job. There are various versions of ROS and the documents are often change. It is not easy to translate and manage it in other languages as much as writing the main documents.

I have developed a github action to help maintaining the korean fork of the english version synchronized, making an issue if the original page changes and there is a translated page. This could help. You can use it in your fork.

(just my quick though)
As a community I would expect to gather around a same language to not split it in small groups that do not interact with each other, and IMHO English was de facto common language of technic and science (just an impression) (as a French speaker I always looks for the English versions of docs and datasheet, never care about the French ones in my work, I fear omissions and not-up-to-date stuff).
But I understand it can be a barrier if ROS wants to open to really anyone, whatever the skill of education, programming (but ins’t programming already english-based ? Does that makes sense to have a spanish doc but errors messages in english in rcl ?)

If the doc is to be translated I think we really need strong automations to make sure the various docs match to not have “multiple sources of truth” issues :slight_smile:

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@patoinso This is very relevant, and it was my first reaction too. Now that said, I met several technician in fablabs saying that English was an issue for them. On another point, ROS is often considered a Master course not a bachelor one as it implies a relatively high level of computer science skills. Maybe it is natural because we had to overcome the barrier to be here. Sadly there is not such much reaction in the French local users group.

I find this translation initiative very interesting for three reasons.

The most straight forward is that it lowers the barrier and make things a little bit easier specially for people just getting started. I don’t think all the people would read the documentation in their native tongue many those who feel comfortable will stick to English, but it opens the door to those who struggle with it to have another avenue.

Second it is true than English is used as the common language for all the community. And is the primary language when dealing with technical topics. but there are many settings where people might talk about ROS in their native language and this documentation can also provide a framework for codifying and have agreements on what terms to use.

And the third and most promising in my view is that the process itself of translating the documentation, can be a way to attract new potential contributors. It provides a good first issue and an easy path for more people to get involve.

I think it faces some challenges. on how exactly it would integrate with the rest of the process of documentation and if it would be too time consuming for the maintainer to deal with. But these are only potential challenges that we don’t know if they might be an issue or ont unless we try it.

So I find it is worth trying it out and see if it sustainable to be maintain and be keep updated.

Does anyone know if the current docspage supports Right to Left for Arabic, Farsi, etc.? I can ask around and see if anyone would like to make a working group for this.

A quick look at sphinx’s github website seems to point towards a negative answer:

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Thanks for the info Olivier! Hopefully they add support in the future.