Friday, December 11, 2015

Facebook nods to Zawgyi and Unicode

Burmese needs to be translated into Burmese. Did you get confused? Please read on for the whole story to understand why.

Facebook introduced translation into Burmese in its latest Mobile Facebook app (version 57). You can choose to translate stories into a particular language, and Burmese is one of them. What translation into Burmese does is converting the posts written in Zawgyi into standard Unicode encoding.

Zawgyi is a very popular font encoding used by most Burmese online. It's not an official Unicode standard and breaks the standardization.

However, it caught on early and became very popular before the Burmese Unicode standard was fully developed and supported by vendors. Most Burmese use Zawgyi on Facebook and everywhere online.

It's very inconvenient for people like us who doesn't want to install Zawgyi in our computers and mobile devices. There are plugins for popular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox to either do the conversion to Unicode or tag Zawgyi to be rendered properly using CSS and embedded font. But it's still problematic on our mobile platforms, where plugins are rare.

The introduction by Facebook of this feature to convert Zawgyi to Unicode is great for people like us, especially on our mobile devices where Unicode is supported by default from the OS vendors. We can now enjoy posts written in Zawgyi right on my mobile phones. Before, we had to guess what the post was. I will explain how below.

Here is a screen shot of the process in action.


At the top of the above screenshot, you will see two Burmese sentences. The first one is in Zawgyi, and so it's not being rendered properly on my phone. But I could guess what it was because of the similarities of some code points with the official Unicode standard (at least consonants have the same code points). The second sentence is automatically converted by Facebook into Unicode, and correctly rendered. Even though the original sentence is not rendered correctly, it's passable for guessing what the post was. It just needs some work on my part. However, if the post is long, it strains your brain.

Facebook makes our lives easy by this feature. You can activate it by going to "Account Settings > Language > What language do you want stories to be translated into?" Choose Burmese and save it. You should now have a link to automatically convert Zawgyi into Unicode.

Here is another screenshot doing the same thing.




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