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Found in translation

by Georgia Young Contributions Published on Jul 08, 2015 05:50 PM

In January, I joined the FSF staff as outreach and communications coordinator. In this role, I make sure all of the communications that FSF staffers create -- mostly writing, but also images and video -- are shared with you. Have you read a post on this year? Most likely, I gave it a final edit and then published it. Do you get our monthly Free Software Supporter in your inbox? I compiled it from writings by FSF staff and other affinity organizations and emailed it to you. Do you read microblogs from FSF or Defective By Design on GNU Social or other microblogs? They probably came from me, too.

As the newest member of the staff, starting only eight weeks before LibrePlanet 2015, I had to get up to speed fast. One particularly challenging and interesting aspect of my work is managing translation from English -- the primary language the FSF uses for communication -- to Spanish, French, and at least a dozen other languages. Just about every translation of anything on, including the subtitles for our User Liberation video,1 was created by enthusiastic volunteers from around the globe.

My role at the FSF is the main contact for translations, and for the past five months I have been catching up on translation offers old and new, and in the process, communicating with wonderful free software enthusiasts around the world. The Free Software Supporter is collaboratively translated each month, into French by free software advocates at the French organization April2 and into Spanish by volunteers on the FSF Spanish translators discussion list.3

As I learn about our translation needs and the multilingual volunteers who love to help spread the word about free software, I am working to figure out the most effective ways to coordinate translations. There are challenges: we are a small staff, with each person shouldering many responsibilities for the organization. We also don't have native knowledge of many languages. So we rely on our volunteers to provide material that has been translated by a person with fluency in the language, preferably vetted by another fluent speaker, and formatted according to the project's needs. That way, we can post and publicize translated material quickly, and avoid having to make many corrections later.

Translations are important to the FSF's central mission: to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users. Our members and supporters outside the United States are crucial to this effort, and our relationships with them help us maintain an international perspective -- something that can be challenging when there are so many threats to computer user freedom here in the States.

We need your help! Please watch for translation opportunities, or get in touch if you want to help with a specific project. If you have thoughts on how to make our translation process better, I'm interested in hearing them. You can reach me at And if you are already part of our translation efforts, thank you, truly. You make the FSF stronger and help us make the world a freer place.


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