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An old CAT 😺 can learn new tricks

Minna N.
・3 min read

I don't work in IT but I've been a localisation engineer and a translation & localisation project manager for 15 years. Minus 2.5 years on parental leave.

During those 2.5 years, I genuinely started to think if I could be something other than a project manager. A project manager is the one who, in my mind, gives all the interesting tasks to someone else: in my case for example translation, review, testing, image editing, and desktop publishing. Mind you, I did some of those because I could, when I had the time.

I've been making webpages with plain ol' HTML and CSS since about '95. I took IT as an optional subject at junior high and during that time I learned at least one useful skill (touch typing) and one interesting language (HTML). I hope it wasn't just the ignorance of our teacher that is to thank for sparking my fascination with HTML, but I remember being appalled that she would teach us to show text with a big margin on both sides by using <li> tags (when <blockquote> had already been introduced). Back then, I don't think it showed the list bullet if <li> wasn't enclosed in <ol> or <ul> so the teacher got away with it. I knew better because I had been self-studying by reading a manual for Microsoft FrontPage I'd found in a bargain bin.

Making webpages led to me writing a changelog. That led to me starting to babble about all sorts of things when I was supposed to be just writing short "news". That led to me looking into different blogging software and eventually starting a blog using Greymatter (Perl scripts generating static pages, anyone remember?). I can't remember what made me switch after only 6 months but right after GM I started blogging on WordPress – way before it was cool. (Movable Type was what was "cool". I took it for a spin. Yeeeah, not my platform.)

On to programming languages. I ended up starting Language Technology studies (I prefer the name 'computer linguistics') in uni. Why? I liked languages but didn't want to end up a teacher or a researcher. I liked computers but for some reason didn't want to study "just" computers. As part of the compulsory studies I did take the basic studies in computer science and learned some Java and SQL. In my major studies I learned some Perl and Prolog – and by "learn Prolog" I mean managed to get my code working by trial and error. Java was fun-ish but I think it was written in a very basic text editor OR on paper (in exams). I did well on the basic course but nearly flunked the advanced.

Fast-forward 17-18 years. I'm on maternity leave and want to rekindle my beloved hobby of web design (nearly withered away because of work and life in general although that's no excuse) and my smouldering interest in programming. I wish I remembered how, but I found the programming MOOC course at Helsinki University and took it at the beginning of this year. I realized that writing Java could actually be enjoyable and I was able to create something from scratch (a little game with textual UI first and then graphical). From there I've moved to other things and I find myself struggling to keep focus because there are so many interesting courses and technologies around. But, I aim to modernize my knowledge of HTML, CSS and web technologies in general.

Back to localisation. I'm quite comfortable handling all sorts of localisation files (from RESX to PO, resources to properties, XML to JSON...) but I don't know how the localisation part is done code-side. That's one thing I wish to learn someday (and perhaps try to write some sort of learning journal here). I could also tell you about the localisation engineering side. I'm just about to move on to new challenges (albeit to project management again; baby steps...) at the beginning of November but I hopefully won't erase the past 15 years from memory right away.

Happy to be here, and I hope to talk to you later!

(CAT refers to computer-aided translation and we team members tend to call ourselves CATs. But I'm really a dog 🐶 person.)

Discussion (6)

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matrixx profile image
Saija Saarenpää

Great to connect here! I would also love to hear more about the localization from a localization engineer's point of view. I'm the one who just adds the tr() function or equivalent in the code side and can share my views about that. All I know about being on the translation side is how to use the Qt translation system (Linguist) and how to translate stuff in Transifex, where I have done Finnish translations.

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Minna N. Author

Didn't know about a tr() function – I have tons to learn!
(Know about Qt Linguist and Transifex, though. 👍)

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sjarva profile image
Senja Jarva

Yay Minna! So great to see you here too! 🤩 I'd love to know more about the work of a localization engineer! It seems to be one of those areas that are really important in my opinion, but in my network there aren't any people who are cureently doing that. I'm very passionate about everybody's right to learn programmin in their native language, and therefore I've tried to translate some resources and programs, but I've realised that it's a lot more difficult than it seems.

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Minna N. Author

The resources/programs you are talking about, are they open source projects or something? Anything I can help you with?

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yellow1912 profile image
yellow1912

I never heard of the term localisation engineer until this thread. Today I learned something.

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minna_xd profile image
Minna N. Author • Edited

I can write about the work in a future post, I'm sure! Nice of you to "stop by". 😊