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Coding skills for refugees, learned directly on their smartphones!

Over the last four months, several refugees from Syria and from Afghanistan have joined our development team. Because of the challenges that are faced by refugees all over the world, we are now planning to intensively support right to left languages such as Arabic, Pashto, Persian, and Urdu (and, coincidentally of course also Hebrew) in a natural, intuitive, and sustainable way. We have found time and again that being able to use our Pocket Code app in one's own language makes it much more accessible. This will be a non-trivial challenge if we want to do it in a good way, since there are many issues that go beyond mere support of different layouts and keyboards. E.g., we must ensure that also those developers in the Catrobat team who do not speak these languages are nevertheless able to maintain the code in the future, we must provide translated sample programs and tutorial materials with localized screenshots, make sure that the icons which should be reversed, e.g., the undo button, are correctly mirrored, that Pocket Code's formula editor can correctly handle mixed direction formulas and reversed parameter order of functions, that ordering of non-alphabetic lists is done correctly, that characters in different languages are always fully visible on screens of various sizes (and also for all future changes in the translations), that languages that are not supported natively by Android can nonetheless be selected in the settings, and much more. This is a long term endeavour, and we will work together with developers and translators who are native speakers of right to left languages in order to develop these adapted versions of our apps and web services. We are hoping that we can release Pocket Code with the most important functionality supporting right to left language within less than one year from now --- as you may know we have better to be conservative with our time estimates based on past experience and since we want to do it right, but having said that, so far we are at our 23rd published release.

Fortunately, a right-to-left language version of Pocket Paint, our image editor, is almost ready and will be made publicly available (hopefully!) over this summer. Note that our apps and websites already now support some right to left languages in a basic way. Thus it is possible to use our apps and websites in Arabic to some extent and with lots of limitations. Unfortunately we are not yet able to support those languages that are not supported natively by Android, such as Persian and Urdu, even though we already have volunteer translators for them, but note that the new version of Pocket Paint will soon support them through a user setting. Still, there is still a long way to make this really great for the young refugees we want to support.

We believe that Pocket Code, since it relies purely on smartphones (and we have successfully developed apps with Pocket Code even on 3.0" screens!), is uniquely able to help less privileged users from all over the world who do not have access to a PC or laptop to express themselves creatively with code and learn programming in order to become active participants in our joint future and understand the world in a better way.

If you want to join us and participate in our project, please do not hesitate to contact us via contact@catrobat.org--- for some ideas how you could help, e.g., by becoming a volunteer translator or providing educational materials about coding with Pocket Code for schools, please have a look at http://catrob.at/contributing --- Thank you very much.

Main site: http://www.catrobat.org/
Google Play: http://catrob.at/pc
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