Contributor Spotlight: "What is a human being without freedom?"

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By Andrea Brás

Localization Lab knows that the work we do would be impossible without the help of incredible contributors who make up the community. If you have used Psiphon in Arabic, browsed the Tor Support Portal in Indonesian, downloaded Signal in Khmer, or accessed OONI probe in Greek, it is all thanks to community members who are dedicated to making Internet freedom technology accessible in different languages.

The Contributor Spotlight is a way to highlight some of the community members who are unlocking access to digital security technology. For this post, we want to show our gratitude to the contributor AO. We spoke with AO about his work as French language coordinator, the importance of quality localization, and what drives him to localize Internet freedom technology.

How did you first hear about and get involved with the Localization Lab?

After three decades of working for various employers, a couple years ago I was ready to give to the community through volunteer work. I was using various open source software on Ubuntu and I thought the translations could be better. The proliferation of mobile apps came with, what I considered to be, the spread of bad translations. I knew nothing about crowd-sourced localization at the time, but soon discovered a global volunteer force translating apps, websites, operating systems and the like. I started with Ubuntu and with some open source applications I was using on a regular basis. I liked the challenge, and I liked seeing the result of my translations going into production.

One of the apps I wanted to work on was translated on Transifex, and I discovered a host of other projects I could dedicate myself to. I was interested in digital security, so I quickly came across projects hosted by the Localization Lab on Transifex. I fully dedicated myself to the task, first translating, then reviewing and coordinating language teams. I guess the amount of work I was putting into the Localization Lab’s managed projects drew the executive director’s attention. She contacted me and asked if I was interested in attending the Internet Freedom Festival in 2015. I accepted the invitation and the rest is history. I have been coordinating the French language translations of all Localization Lab’s projects ever since.

What has motivated you to take such an active role in the Localization Lab community?

I have a lot of experience in management and information technology. So for me, quality is paramount and I see localization as any other part of software or content delivery -- it has to be good quality before it goes to the users. Crowd-sourced translations can come with issues related to quality. I knew it would be a long never-ending task, but I decided to tackle it. Furthermore, with its clear translation guidelines and reviewing process structure, devoting my time to the Localization Lab was and still is a sound manner to approach the problem. I know that the quality translations offered by the Localization Lab reach millions of users and set a standard as far as crowd-sourced localization goes. Not many open source projects have the means to hire professional translators -- the Localization Lab is the next best thing.

What are some of the challenges you face when localizing tools into French?

French is one of the languages where technical terminology exists natively. As with many other languages, the use of English terminology spreads in French when there is really no reason for it. For me, one of the challenges is to make sure proper terminology is being used. I work with certified terminologists on a regular basis and many people like me who strive to offer quality French terminology no matter what their field of expertise may be. So yes, it's about offering products that French speakers will understand but it's also about education in a way. I can see French terms used by the Localization Lab being used more and more in translations that have nothing to do with us and I think we contribute to that.

What drives you to localize Internet freedom tools?

The Internet reaches almost everywhere and is one of the major achievements of the human race. It has changed the way we communicate and interact with others. What is a human being without freedom? Internet Freedom tools and digital security apps help to give back freedom in oppressed countries, but more generally they help everyone to protect their freedom of speech, and the privacy of their data. The vast majority of people do not read or understand English. The Localization Lab language teams give people access to these tools in their native languages and help spread freedom on the Internet and in the digital age.