22.5.12

Breaking Language Barriers

Guest Post by WeTranslateTLab

Once a colleague of mine asked me if I was happy. I didn't answer her back then, but thought this over. Am I happy? And what is happiness?

This is the questions most of us have been trying to answer all our lives, but does anyone have a correct answer? I think, it could be yes and no at the same time. No, because nobody knows the correct definition for the happiness so that it suits everyone. For somebody it is love, for others money, for third something else. But yes, because everybody is happy in his or her own way, you just need to want it. It's easy.

I love my family, love my children, love my colleagues and my work, love what I do. Do it sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes superb, sometimes worse than anyone else could ever do. But I love it. I learnt to value every second of my 'measly existence'. I love to write, love when something comes out under my hand (keyboard actually), even if not everyone likes it, I will do it anew again and again, so that everybody could be satisfied.

I love people around me. And that's funny, really, because I don't know many people I work with. Some I don't know at all, some know just a little, some are my good friends, some are just colleagues.

You are sure to ask: how could that be? How is it possible not to know people you work with? Let me explain.

We are doing software localization: take a piece of software and first write the correct words for its interface and then translate it into lots of other languages. Forty four of them, to be exact. And at the same time there are only five of us sitting at the same office, all my other colleagues work somewhere else around the world. Miles and miles away... I never saw them, never ever spoke to them. And at the same time I got to know some of them quite well.

When we started this work, we had two main obstacles to overcome: a way to easily translate the interface of TeamLab software (as we work for it) and means to communicate with all the translators around the world. Both were not that easy as it could be.

The first was solved when the translation system was invented. And, being invented in cooperation with us translators, for the translators and under supervision of the translators, it's come out just as great as we wanted it to be, making me (again!) happy with it. It works as it was meant to work, and can withstand the presence of several dozens of translators at the same time.

The second could be solved using the email communication, but we quickly realized all the drawbacks of such a way. The number of emails grew proportionally together with the number of our translation team members (we are now more than a hundred and a half and that's not that easy to track everything that happens using just email correspondence), and what could be done with all the news and announces we had? Email them to all the translators all the time? That's wasn't the way for us. We needed something else, something more like our own society.

We needed a community.

The community for those who want to translate, for those who want to write, for those who just need to communicate. Yes, we have such people among our translators. They just came to us to communicate, not even to translate or to write. We give this to them as well, because believe that with the course of time they might become our translators. Even if one of them does, it will be great. If not - why not make these people a little bit happier, it is that easy.

And we created such a community - 'Breaking the Language Barriers' portal. Invited all our translators there - and almost all of them who worked with us at the time the community was started (that was on December 27th, 2011) joined it, proving our idea, that it was really important for them as well. We started with about thirty translators, then we grew and soon we will be (I believe that) more than two hundred and will continue to grow. We have translators to all kind of languages: Latin alphabet, Cyrillic, Chinese, Georgian, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic... Lots of languages! Every day we discover new languages for us, see how our portals look like translated into them, love that very much, crave for new languages to be added to our translation system and to the portals, and are glad like children, when a new translator joins us.

That's true, new translators make us glad. And old ones make us happy.

We love to talk to them, love to read their posts in forums and blogs, love when they write something about themselves, about the work they do, love their successes, worry when they have some troubles with the translations. "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." They are no longer just translators. They are OUR translators.

That's how come I don't know most of my colleagues in person. But I know quite a lot about them from what they write, from how they work.

There is a professor from a Brazilian university, who started the translation even when there was no translation system. He works with his students on the translation and likes being praised.

There is a nice lady from mainland China, who translated everything alone, not only portals but also our site, the only one from the translators.

There is a guy from Finland, who translated every single word, every single document, everything at all we could provide him with, tested everything even better than our staff testers, but he himself does not even have a portal of his own and does not need anything from us, just wanted his work to be released into public, that's all. That's just unbelievable!

There is another guy from Vietnam, who managed to translate everything for less than a week (usually it takes not less than a month), working daily and nightly, because he needed it. A low bow to him!

There have been teams formed inside the community - Polish team, Ukrainian team, Finnish team, Dutch team, Portuguese team, other teams as well. They come to our community and communicate not only with us, but also with each other, in their own languages - they wouldn't even ever know each other if our community didn't exist. And that thought makes my head go round. And makes me love my job even more. Makes it meaningful.

We are waiting for new translators, welcome all of them to our community. It is not even the matter of translation. It is a matter of translators. We are translators ourselves, and we love to be among the ones alike. That's why we never regret if translators do not translate anything, but simply communicate with us. That means they just needed this, this is what had meaning for them.

The meaning in everything is what makes my life not futile. What makes me happy.

Yes, I am happy.
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