Most code, tech events, and resources are in English. Non-anglophone tech practitioners struggle to be a part because of the language barrier. This article advocates helping these persons in tech. It tells things we can do to minimize the barrier these persons experience. It also shouts out to existing persons and platforms that have already taken language inclusion steps. A more language-inclusive tech world promotes diversity on a global scale.
How Non-Anglophone Techies Struggle Because of Language
The English language had a head start when the internet was created – the internet was found in an English-speaking country. As a result, more than 50% of online content is in English. Conversely, more than 75% of the world’s population does not speak English.
The greater global population does not understand English. They are non-anglophones. Non-anglophone techies need to learn English while progressing in their careers. As such, they lose out on the learning speed that anglophones have. They lose out because most learning content is available in a language that they don’t understand.
The majority of the popular libraries and frameworks that we use in programming are written in English. The keywords of programming languages themselves are English words. A greater number of people, who don’t understand English, have to face learning English to further understand the hook and crannies of most parts of programming.
Large Open-Source projects are managed in English. Issues and code comments are in the same language. Potential non-anglophone contributors don’t get involved because of this language barrier. Besides, code comments are in a place that translators can’t reach.
The same is the case with Stackoverflow. Questions and answers are in English. As such, a non-anglophone asker might not express their question. They end up getting ignored or treated with contempt because of poor expression.
On a global scale, popular tech events are organized in English. In real-time, the speakers can only speak one language: English. This makes non-anglophones to just miss out on these tech events.
The list can keep going on. At this point in our tech world, one of the reasons why diversity suffers is because of human language differences. We need to assist language inclusion to make more persons active in our tech communities. We need to keep lowering the English language barrier for non-anglophone techies to enjoy the benefits the anglophones do. And this starts with patience.
How to Be Patient With Those With Language Differences
Patience here points to the virtue of waiting for others.
When someone sees content in a language they don’t understand, they first copy and paste it into a translator. Then use the translated content. At times, a translator could already be integrated into the software in use. So, the user sees the translation into their language without needing to copy and paste. This translation step introduces some friction in comprehension. First is the extra time for translation. The second is in the semantics across changing languages.
Translators are not perfect. Both human and online translators have some flaws. Some flaws are not from the translators but from the translation process. With human languages, it is difficult to express some ideas/words/phrases literally and exactly across each language. Besides, some words are absent in some languages.
Consequently, there is usually a chance of misinterpreting the translated text. The person using the translator doesn’t know if the translation’s result is appropriate. We can see this in some Stackoverflow questions. The asker could compose their question in a translator and paste the English equivalent into Stackoverflow. But because of the obvious translation mishaps, an anglophone person will struggle to understand the question.
You will especially identify such translated questions if the variable names in code snippets are not in English. Or if the username of the asker doesn’t resemble English.
In such cases, please remember that these persons face language difficulties. This remembrance will induce patience to try and understand what problem the asker faced. Calling such language difficulties to mind helps assist language inclusion. It makes you patient with non-anglophones.
How to Assist Translators
Humans created and trained digital translators. They rely on humans for improvement. Some digital translators have ways to give feedback on a translation (ratings or corrections). Please submit such feedback to improve the translator.
Also, when you use a translator, please use good grammar and punctuation. This helps the translation to be more accurate. The other party will be less likely to have struggles understanding the translated text.
Translators cannot reach text content found within images. If the reader is desperate to understand the text, they will be forced to type it out or use some image-to-text technology. Both of which make their struggle tougher. As such, avoid using images for text in articles, social media posts, or slides.
How People and Organizations Solve the Language Problem
If you are multilingual, then you are already a translator. Thank you for understanding more than one language. Concerning language barriers, please help techies where you can. Many content creators already do so. They make audio, text, and video content in their native languages (having understood the concept in English).
In our modern world, we have more regular usage of digital translators than human equivalents. Besides, digital translators are faster. Also, they are cheaper or free compared to human translators. These translators are created by companies, foundations, and individuals. These creators put in great effort to make tech communities more diverse. Thank you.
Furthermore, many platforms have high levels of internationalization. These platforms effectively plan and maintain language differences in their products.
Still, in line with inclusion, freeCodeCamp, a free platform for learning web development, makes it easy to translate content to as many languages as possible.
Sweetcode, a DevOps blog, has started a diversity initiative. The aim is to welcome more tech persons irrespective of culture and to further inclusion. That’s why you are reading this article about helping language inclusion in tech. Beginning Code Resources for Women and Common Issues Women Face in Technology are other articles on inclusion. Please read them.
The world is becoming more digital. More persons from various cultures are getting into the online space. Language should not be a barrier to these people.
Please assist them by being patient when interacting with them – they use translators. You can also improve existing translators or create more. These will promote diversity and inclusion in our tech communities with regard to language.