Show Notes

In this episode, Samah and Michelle welcome Ruth Kalinka for a conversation around how language can support community – whether we learn additional languages for communication or rely on technology for the assist. Communication, however we achieve it, creates connection.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:09] Speaker C: Hello, Samah.


[00:00:11] Speaker B: Hello, Michelle.


[00:00:13] Speaker C: How are you?


[00:00:15] Speaker B: I’m good, I’m good. I had a lovely long weekend. I’m relaxed and how are you?


[00:00:20] Speaker C: I am doing well. I literally did nothing over the weekend. I had all these things I should have been working on, which made my Monday very hectic. But actually, it was really good not to work over the weekend. And so it was. It was good. I watched movies, I took naps, and I fed my soul like I needed to do.


[00:00:40] Speaker B: Awesome. That’s amazing. And I know someone was annoying you by sending some TikTok videos, so I don’t know.


That was me.


[00:00:52] Speaker C: That was the highlight of my weekend, was the TikTok videos from you.


Well, today, we have our first guest on the podcast since you joined the project and co-hosting with me. So I’m excited that we have an opportunity to, like, switch up the format a little bit, but. And welcome Ruth Kalinka to the show today. Hey Ruth, how are you? Hey.


[00:01:19] Speaker A: I’m great. It’s good to be with you guys. I haven’t seen some face-to-face on video in many months, and last week, but it was a nice, relaxed conversation.


[00:01:30] Speaker C: Absolutely. Well, one of the reasons we thought it would be great to have you on the show is that you have done a lot of work over the last year. Plus, I probably don’t really know how long you can fill us in on the details of becoming multilingual.


And we wanted to talk about how language can divide and how language can bring people together. And, yes, we have so many tools available to us.


You know, 20 years ago, when I visited Puerto Rico, I had a paper book that I would flip through and look up words and then try really hard to pronounce to other people to say, can I have a napkin? You know, at a restaurant or something? And today, we have these wonderful devices. Like, we have our phones, have everything I could possibly want to be able to translate to people. And that’s really helpful, right? That helped me in airports that helped me when I really need a word that I don’t know, that I really want to have a conversation with somebody, but actually being able to converse with people really kind of pulls things together. And not only have you done that, but you actually presented out of WordCamp in a language that was not your first language. And samah, you are multilingual as well. And I am learning on Duolingo, as we say, apron, die.


But that’s like I say it so fast; it sounds like I know what I’m doing because I practice that one phrase over and over again. I’ve had many conversations with Uber drivers in Spanish, but that’s beside the point. Let’s talk about how language can really work to pull us together. And, Ruth, we really want to hear the impetus behind your language journey and also what you’ve learned from it. So I’m going to see Samah. Do you have any questions before we begin, or should we just let Ruth kind of tell her story?


[00:03:22] Speaker B: Go ahead for me. I have a lot of questions for Ruth, but I will share them later, so please go ahead.


[00:03:30] Speaker A: Well, if you want to ask origins, and I’ll try to be succinct.


I’ve always been curious about languages and cultures, and I heard your recent podcast. My family is Polish-American, and I’m the third generation. Everybody was from Poland, including my great-grandparents’ generation, I think, minus one. And so I heard Polish growing up, but it was a language that was not passed along because part of the assimilation and being able to make a better future for the kids was kind of getting them to be more native English speakers in American culture.


So my grandparents spoke it around me when I was a kid, but I didn’t understand it unless it was Polish, McDonald’s, Polish, cherry pie. And I knew what they were talking about in Polish.


They were talking about taking me for a cherry pie at McDonald’s.


And I have Asian relatives as well, from Vietnam and Korea. And so cultural learning was part of my exposure as a child and something that I learned to count in different languages, but it wasn’t really something I was taught. I wasn’t growing up in a second language, but I embraced it whenever I got the opportunity. So, when I was eight, I got to have my first little Spanish class once a week after school for six weeks. And I loved it so much. I did the same program a year later.


And at that time, it predates a lot of the technology that we have now, a lot of the self-learning tools that we have. So I didn’t have an understanding, even though I was an avid library goer, that I could teach myself a language at that point. So it wasn’t until I was 14 in high school that I was taking Spanish classes officially. And I found that very natural. When I went to college visits, I sat in an Italian class and understood everything that was happening after three years of Spanish. And then, in my journey in professional and schooling, I was pushed hard in STEM areas, basically, and that was kind of before the push for STEM. So, I felt an obligation to go into engineering, perhaps more than a desire to go into engineering. So, in my schooling, I was very upset that I didn’t have room in my curriculum for a language. And so these are kinds of things. As I look back, I’m like, there’s a pattern here of being really interested in communication. And so when I switched majors halfway through school, I took Chinese for fun because I was curious. I thought, what language might I not study outside of school? I had a list of about eight mostly Asian languages, and I did have Polish on the list, but I chose Chinese over my heritage.


And then, as I finished school and I was interested in traveling the world, I started teaching myself Italian, and that was my first self-taught language. And then from there, I’ve expanded into other areas as I traveled. I love food and wine, but I think language is so integral to culture, which I think we’re going to get into, that it makes sense to keep adding languages and working on the places, you know, the languages and cultures where I’m visiting and where I have interests. And then that also creates a space for being able to use those languages and enjoy the process of growing in those languages.


[00:06:55] Speaker C: It’s really admirable to add language, like, at whatever part of your journey you are. I grew up hearing as though it was true that it’s so much easier for children to acquire additional language than for adults. And, as I am working through Duolingo and learning to speak a foreign language, that’s got some kernels of truth in it. But I also think the kernels of truth come from the fact that we have so much more responsibility, things on our plate, and things in our brains as adults and as children. It’s just like, yeah, you’re little sponges because you don’t have to pay the bills; you don’t have to. There are not all of these responsibilities. It’s like, I want a glass of water before I go to bed. That’s the biggest thing on your plate, right? Or how come I can’t play at JD’s house today? So I think that there are reasons why we say it’s easier, because if I, as I’m taking the time to learn, I’m not multilingual yet. I mean, yeah, I can talk to a taxi driver or something, but I can’t have full-blown conversations, and it’s almost like an embarrassment. Children don’t care if they make mistakes, either, right? And as adults, we’re mortified that we might say something wrong or our pronunciation won’t be good. I went on a date with a guy a few years ago as I was starting to learn Spanish, and he’s telling me some of the things you learned. And instead of, like, encouraging me, he corrected every single thing I said. So I just stopped speaking. Okay, I’m just going to speak English then because you’ve made it impossible for me to want to communicate with you. So sometimes, I think it’s that as adults, we put these restrictions on ourselves as opposed to kids. Like, hey, it’s okay to fail. We’re taught that we can fail. That’s how we learn. Yeah, that’s how we learn as adults, too. Other adults don’t let us by with that. So what have you found? Like, remove that restriction, or do you just have to overcome it to be able to have language acquisition? We’re not and are, you know, under ten years old.


And so to have language acquisition as an adult, you know, what. What kind of barriers have you overcome or have you at least recognized?


[00:09:12] Speaker A: That is very true. Everything that you were just saying, it’s, we have psychological obstacles that we’ve added as adults, and we have this notion, I think. I don’t know if this is in every culture, but I think in the way languages are taught in school in the US, at least from my experience of that, we’re reading and writing and testing very quickly in a second language. And I think we carry that into our adult studies as well, where we think we need to be performing that. But when I was fixing my French accent, and I had been kind of stumbling through the language for probably like a dozen years where I hadn’t properly gone back to the phonetics, but if I work on sound first, it really helps the language, or if I go back and fix the sound. So I agree, it’s a mythology. You can learn a language at any age. You just have to listen and take the time. But my niece was learning English for the first time. She was three. And I was watching this process of this child absorbing language, figuring it out, stumbling through it, and getting the adults to figure out what she was saying. And then, over time after refining it, she started to write letters at an early age and things like that. But it wasn’t a matter of reading and writing to get the sounds. It was; she was working on the sounds and becoming functional enough. I’ve gone through that experience and I was losing Spanish for a long time because I was not studying it. I mean, I think that as an adult, I have also learned a lot more about my learning style. So retention for me is not sitting around reading a grammar book and memorizing vocabulary lists. That was how I learned it in school, and that’s how I thought I needed to continue my languages. And so I lost a lot of the Chinese and the Spanish because I wasn’t comfortable socially using them. I would not be sitting with my textbooks. I didn’t really have a way to access what I was learning and keep it fresh until I started doing more socially and braving that extreme discomfort and making it something that I was using and getting over the idea that, oh, will I offend somebody who, because they speak English, that I’m trying to speak their language? And, like, we have all this stuff in our heads. And the reality is, if you speak a second if you speak English as a second language, any language as a second language, if you’ve done it, you realize your brain hurts by the end of the day. It is exhausting. It is incredibly overwhelming, and it is actually a gift when somebody speaks your language with you because your brain gets a little bit arrested. And so people are very patient with that crossover. I may be learning it, but they tried to work for 8 hours in the US in English, and they’re having time with their friends, and now it’s like they can just relax and speak the language. So, I practice a lot locally in Chinatown; there are shops where they don’t speak English, and they’ll be silent. And then, if I ask a question in Chinese, I get all this Chinese back. Like, they’re so excited. They want to have a conversation, and I’m in over my head, but I’m so like, it just crosses that barrier if you try and if you have enoughness. And then, in my professional life, I really stepped it up. I spoke Spanish when I went to WordCamp Europe in person before we went virtual, and I am in the photo with the Spanish-speaking community in Berlin in 2019.


And then we went online, and that was when we launched the first in Spain, they launched the first virtual global Spanish language WordCamp. They’ve had regional WordCamps in Spanish, but this was the first time that it was set up for a global audience and to really connect the whole of Latin America and Spain and everywhere in the world. And so I was like, well, let me try attending my first-word camp in Spanish. And then, I set the bar at a different level. So, if I go to a conference in English, I have a certain level of connection, performance, and understanding. In Spanish, it was, okay, what vocabulary can I pick up? How much of this presentation can I understand?


And then the social part of going into the Zoom rooms and zooming in your own language is hard. There are different microphones, accents, and everything else.


It’s a lot to process, and then you’re in another language with people from all over the world. That was, I had to get out of my own head.


I would have moments where I would just run into that. I’m stuck on that thing that was just said, and I’m frustrated. I’m not as far in this language. And all that stuff comes up when you work through that and just keep going, okay, now back to the present.


It’s kind of a Buddhist concept. It’s a meditative concept. When you come back to this moment here and let go of what just happened, you try to just keep tuning in. Tuning in is a focused practice, and it helps a lot. And then I’m reaching out, letting people know that I’m doing this as a second language, and maybe I need a little bit of help here and there, but I’m going to try to keep up in this language.


[00:14:04] Speaker B: That’s awesome.


I remember that period when there were a lot of online WordCamps, and that’s how I met you. We started to be online friends, and I was really happy to be able to attend many WordCamps around the world, Denver or Philadelphia because it was my only chance to meet you while I was sitting from my own comfort home. And to talk, of course, and to know you. I want to ask you, what is your advice for people for learning a new language? Because you said something, it is absolutely right; take it easy and practice. And Michelle, I said earlier, people sometimes correct you. Maybe they have good intentions, but sometimes, when you get a lot of corrections, you back off. When you speak a second, third, fourth, or fifth language, and when you speak with a native, I feel sometimes they have this advance on you. Because they can reply to you faster or have a better vocabulary than you, how you give advice. I know you speak English, Spanish, Chinese, French and Italian. I’m a little bit jealous. And I know that you spoke in WordCamp last year, and that’s WordPress diversity; you spoke in Spanish, so that’s really impressive. And how that also opened doors for you when you speak another language to connect with more people and connect to different communities because now you said you’re from the state connecting to the world and the WordPress Spanish community. I know I asked a lot of questions. I’m sorry I was quiet, and now I asked four questions.


[00:15:48] Speaker C: I’m sorry.




[00:15:52] Speaker A: So, advice on how to work, on learning, crossing over, and connecting. Yes, I have added, and I’ve studied ten. I am not fluent in the five I’m conversational in, but I have some level of conversation. I had a conversation in basic Greek last summer at WordCamp Europe. I’ve lost a bit of that, but I think it’s fun to make it audio first.


A lot of people will push back on that point and give excuses. You know, I have focus issues, too. If you don’t catch it, rewind it. But an audio course that actually repeats things and gives you opportunities to keep pulling those thoughts together—there are a number of methods like that.


And so when you’re having this conversation drills, it automates the language. And so I had because I have a strong foundation from school in a romance language with Spanish. Fundamentally, that makes it a little bit more accessible to do Italian and French. But French is a completely different pronunciation. And my take on this is that we already have pictures of sounds mapped. And so when we go with the reading and writing approach, we already have an idea of what that picture of that sound should be. But we need to detach from that because we don’t have the sound. So I was stuttering in my head, even when reading French. Like, I couldn’t read a sentence in French without questioning that process of how. How is this pronounced? And now I read fluidly in French, where it’s like I’m pronouncing it correctly while reading through something. I can read Airbnb reviews in French and whatever. But I was not at that point. I did a lot of audio training with the conversation drilling types of language programs as well as French culture radio, which is like this amazing station out of Paris that’s even better than NPR in the US, and it’s arts and culture and news, and you hear people having natural conversation. So there’d be words that were unlocked for me because I understood, after a few weeks of listening, I was like, ah, I know adverbs, and I know adjectives because of the other languages. And so some things start to unlock when you get the sound of a language. What you need when you’re traveling or when you’re interacting with somebody in person is primarily sound. So the thing we get frozen up on, you have to be able to converse much more quickly than you read or you write. You can take your time with those things in a way that takes the pressure off. Then suddenly you’re in this situation where you have to be able to get yourself to a comfortable place because, okay, so in Spanish, if I’m navigating. I’ve just missed a bus, and I’m trying, like, I need to probably have that in English because my brain just shut down in Spanish.


But other things, other kinds of conversation you can have in that language as you start taking the pressure off of being perfect. And you’re not trying to get an A. This is not pass-fail, and it is not. You’re trying to get the best grade in the class. You’re not trying to get a 4.0. You’re not trying to get into college on it. You’re just trying to cross this wall and have a conversation and connect with another human.


And, yes, Michelle, to your point, I have had some people in my life who have gotten in my head on language and who have been obstacles to me actually reclaiming Spanish. Part of that. There were a couple of people in my head, and it was unfortunate that I had let them live in my head and let their critical perspectives influence me. But it made it really uncomfortable to work on the language. It made me just. I just had some issues with it. But the more I work on it and the more I practice with people, people are so happy that I speak the language. It’s very respectful. We don’t have to as native English speakers in many places. The actual effort of taking time to work on another language, explore another culture, and tune into that is bridge-building in itself because you can get away with English and a translation app. But if you actually take the time to work on a language, you also learn things. There are nuances, like when I listen to music from France, Italy, Spain, or Latin America, you get the flavor of the culture in the words and in the style of things and what they want to talk about culturally. And you don’t always get that from a translation.


[00:20:20] Speaker C: Yeah, that’s true.


I’ve told the story before. I don’t think I’ve ever told it on a podcast. So let me tell you one of the things that even with just a small amount of language acquisition at this point, I was at a WordCamp, and I was getting ready to leave to go to the airport, and I ordered a lift, and I travel with a scooter, I have to. They must understand that they must help me get the scooter in the back of their car, whatever. So this guy pulls up, and when. And it was in New Jersey, I don’t think any of our Lyft drivers over the entire weekend was a native English speaker.


Most of them were Spanish speakers. And then there was one who was.


I don’t remember which language it was, but it was not. It was neither English nor Spanish. So this one fellow pulls up, and he’s got his phone on, and he’s talking rapidly in Spanish to somebody on his Phone, which is fine. I asked him if I could sit in the front seat because it was a van, and it was very difficult for me to get in and out of the backseat of a van. And so he said. He said, no, no, no, no backseat. I said I cannot sit in the backseat. If I can’t, that’s fine, but I’ll have to call another lift. So he makes this big show of moving everything from his. From the front seat to the backseat, sliding the seat back, and he’s, like, basically makes that gesture that’s like, here, princess, have your way kind of thing, right?


So the back is open of his van, and he’s still talking to his person on the other end of the phone. And I hear him say, esa puta, which means that bitch, right? Or this bitch. And I’m like, I know he’s talking about me to the other person, so I didn’t say anything negative to him. But when he got in the car’s front seat, I pulled out every single Spanish word I could remember to have a basic conversation with him all the way to the airport, which is gracias, senor. You know, como estausted? Like, all of these things. And this man went from his natural color to white as a ghost because he realized I heard what he said. I never acknowledged it. I was sweet as pie. But I really wanted him to think about the fact that just because somebody who looks like me gets in your lift does not mean I don’t understand, at least on some level. And come on, we all learn those swear words first.


[00:22:44] Speaker B: I can swear in twelve languages fluently. This is my achievement.


I don’t.


[00:22:52] Speaker C: So you never know. Like, you look at Ruth and you, you would not assume that she has so much language in her head or that I have a basic understanding of Spanish or, you know, any of these kinds of things. So I guess that’s just a cautionary tale to other people. But I felt so victorious, like in my head I was the Wonder Woman pose, like, ha ha ha. Showed you mister kind of thing, you know, I want to know, do you ever dream in languages other than English? And I’m curious for you as well, Samah; since English is not your first language, I want to know which languages you dream of. So. But Ruth first.


[00:23:29] Speaker A: I think Spanish, French and Chinese. I don’t remember; I’ve dreamed of that. Any others, though? It’s an interesting experience because it’s like you can be in a dream world and be fully fluent. But then I come out of the dream, I’m like, well, was that correct? I don’t know. I don’t remember it.


[00:23:50] Speaker C: In my head, it was right.


[00:23:52] Speaker A: But I’m speaking this language in this dream, and I understand people and, you know, there’s an exchange, but I guess I don’t have enough recall of those particular dreams to know if they were correct.


[00:24:08] Speaker B: For me. I always say I dream in English. It’s weird, even if, I’m not a native speaker, but I think it’s, it’s very easy for me. But I have something weird when I read books, like if something political, I read it in English. If something romantic. And how can I say it? Have a lot of description. I read it in Arabic because there are 13 or 14 words to describe love, the level of your love. So, for me, it’s a lot of expression, a lot of phrases, but mostly I think in English. And it’s funny; when I learn Dutch, I always switch my head from English to Dutch. This is how I learned it when I tried the beginning from Arabic to Dutch because Arabic is the same as the French, the feminine, the masculine, and Dutch, but they don’t have it. So it’s. For me, connecting English to Dutch was easier. Of course, I connected some grammar to Arabic, but it’s still hard to navigate. But mainly I think English is easier. Of course, I mispronounced many English words, but that happened when you said there were two languages earlier. You speak the whole day different languages, and at the end of the day, you want to go speak your native one. And sometimes my processes just make mistakes.


[00:25:26] Speaker C: We all make mistakes in our primary language, so it’s okay if you make a mistake in a secondary or tertiary language. I remember taking French in high school.


I cannot speak French, but the first year. So, learning those basic things. I remember having a dream, and I still remember the dream that I was eating cake on a boat, and in my dream, one of my fellow classmates was saying, le gateau est sur la bateau. And I was like, it rhymes.


So, yeah. So, that was my earliest dream in another language.


[00:26:07] Speaker A: But what’s interesting, too.


[00:26:09] Speaker C: I have these years of French, and as I said, I’m not fluent or anything, but I can read it to speak it, but I can’t always read it to comprehend it because it’s been, you know, 40 years or something. But when my daughter was learning Spanish in high school, she would bring me her vocabulary lists and ask me to quiz her. And that’s when I discovered that when I was starting to acquire Spanish, I spoke Spanish but with a French accent because that was my romantic language. And so I had to retrain my brain. And when I’m tired, it’s still like, when I’m doing my Spanish lessons, I still kind of revert back.


But the weirdest thing is my brain tries to bring sign language in to bridge the gap between other languages. My dad’s third wife, who passed away, was Dominican, and when we first met, she didn’t speak English, and I was trying to communicate. And I would default sometimes to sign language as though it was a universal language that everybody knew, which clearly isn’t. And even if you do know sign language, is it ASL? Is it BSL? There are different sign languages around the world. So, yeah. So sometimes language acquisition, it’s like, in my brain, the synapses don’t always meet where they’re supposed to meet. And I have these, like.


Like, brick walls I hit and then have to figure out how to get around. So, hats off to you all who are so good at it.


[00:27:40] Speaker B: So, Ruth, you’ll be in WordCamp Europe. What are you? I know you’re an organizer, but can you tell me what you are going to do in the organizing team for people who are hearing us?


[00:27:52] Speaker A: All right, well, I’m on the communications and PR teams, and I became the bridge with the local team.


I picked up the editing assignments for the information about Torino. And then when I saw them, I thought, well, this is more than just text editing. Let’s add links and maps and things like that. So, the Torino travel guide was something that I came back to my team. I was like, you know, I can do this as text editing, but I really think it would be more helpful if, you know, if we as a team or if I take the trouble to do this, then thousands of other people don’t have to do this work to prepare for their trips. So, I turned it into a project. But I was also saying, okay, we can launch with an MVP. It doesn’t have to be this, but my team stepped up and launched the Torino travel guide. As of last week, we have more posts and maps coming. I’m creating individual Google Maps for the posts, which has never been done according to our Google account. So I got access to our account, and I have eight maps, I think, right now, or something like that in progress. And so it’ll, as we write about different sites in Turin and Torino, that the maps will reflect those places that we’re talking about as well. We have different themes for our posts.


In addition to that, I’m doing a lot of other editing as it comes up. I’m on the PR team. I reviewed our media partner applicants who publish in other languages. And so, I mean, we have an Italian team member who did those, but I did the Spanish and French applications. And then, when we chose media partners, we narrowed down our selection. I’m working with two in Spain, so I’m their point of contact and content. They speak plenty of English, obviously, to be going to WordCamp Europe, but I’ve offered that as an additional, you know, you can search languages on me if you need to.


And then in addition, because I started working on the local teams’ documents, I started going to the local teams’ meetings three months ago. And the first meeting they offered, they were saying, well, we usually conduct our meetings in Italian. We can do English if you want. And I said, no, do whatever makes sense for you, getting your work done. I’m the guest here. And so I attend weekly meetings in Italian. I give my updates in English, and they’ll translate something every once in a while. But for the most part, I’m sitting in meetings in Italian every week and it’s helped. I’m processing more of it.


A few weeks ago, I decided some words were coming up, and I was like, this is clearly a really important Italian word that I need to know. So I pulled up Google translate, and it was budget and branches and it turned out to be English words with an Italian accent. They were talking about the budget team, and they were talking about their budget and they were talking about brunch.


While looking up some words and being amused that I was looking up English words, I realized that I could run Google Translate during the meeting, but it’s not a perfect solution. It jumps around on the page, some of the translations are terrible, and it maxes out at 5000 characters. But if I have that running during the meeting and I just glance at it, I can catch some things that I understand by the context of the Italian, what we’re talking about without looking at it. But then it helps me get a clue into a few other things where I might get a little bit more lost. So, I’m using that as a crutch. I’m not 100% operating in Italian in these meetings, but I’m also not 100% over my head where when you get lost in another language, sometimes it’s really hard to tune back in and figure out, like, I don’t even know what the context is. I can’t attach my brain to something, and it’s just a sound. So I’ve been working on my Italian a little bit on my own. Not as much as I would like because I’ve been so busy, but that, that weekly checkpoint and then, you know, the hearing conversation about our industry, our professional community, WordPress, things like that in another language, you start picking up a lot more vocabulary too. A lot more that’s relevant to what people will be talking about and I’ll understand even if it’s saying something that’s in English, I’ll get it with that accent a little better.


So those are the three areas I’ve like the three teams I’m attached to, and I’m fundraising to get to Torino. Some things happened that money that was due to me didn’t arrive, and I have been trying to get sponsorship this whole time, but it hasn’t come through yet. So I’m in a situation where I’m really hoping I can get to Torino, but I’m really not sure at this point. So, on the ground in Torino, I aim to be a super useful local guide because I’ve been doing all the work on these documents, learning the city, learning the maps, learning the public transit, working on the language, hoping that will be very helpful. Also, our local team has so much to do. So, more of us were on the ground in the city before the event. Setting up all that stuff will take a lot of work off their hands. So that is my aim. How about you, Samah? When are you arriving?


[00:33:04] Speaker B: I’m going to be there, I think, like two days or one day and a half before WordCamp EU. And, of course, I cannot wait to see both of you as a live version. And yeah, I’m excited about WordCamp because I was shy about applying as an organizer. Honestly, when they accepted my application, I was really happy. Yeah, it was like the best thing ever. I shared the tears from happiness. I will be honest. I’m so honored.


Yeah, I’m honored to work with my amazing team, led by Patricia. Everybody loves her. She’s amazing and encouraging. Bring the best in you and all these amazing big names in the WordPress community—they are so awesome and humble. I love it. So, yeah, that’s great.


[00:33:55] Speaker C: And I’ll be there, but I arrive on Tuesday, so I will be there from Tuesday, and then I fall. I fly out the following Monday. So, it’s not a long trip, but I’m hoping to sponge it all in while I’m there.


[00:34:04] Speaker B: Yeah, yeah.


[00:34:08] Speaker A: Oh, go ahead.


[00:34:09] Speaker B: No, I hope you will manage the fundraising, Ruth, because I think WordCamp Europe without you will not be the same. So I hope you’ll manage.


[00:34:18] Speaker A: Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ve had some nice retweets saying the same thing from the Spanish-speaking community.


[00:34:24] Speaker C: Actually, we started out the podcast by saying, you know, there are all of these tools available to us. Language acquisition, of course, makes it easier to communicate. But if you don’t speak other languages and you’re trying to, you know, survive at a camp with all of these other languages coming at you. And yes, so many people speak English, but some don’t speak English at WordCamps. What do you think are some of the best tools you can have in your phone, in your pocket, on your computer, whatever it is to be able to navigate traveling in a foreign country for those people who are like, oh, it’s in a month. I can’t learn Italian by then; what would you suggest that people do as a way of getting by?


[00:35:10] Speaker A: Well, Google Translate is my default. There are other apps, too, but because I speak so many languages, some of them are, they don’t have as many languages supported. So, like, when I try to run these meetings through, I want to say it’s DeepL that I also tried. They don’t support live translative Italian because I wanted to see if there was a better service. But I have an Android phone. Google is the default, and you can download the language package. So, even when you’re offline, you have access to the language. It’s a little bit limited. You’re not going to get as many resources. And sometimes I think vocabulary that you might get or more context that you might get from using the app is missing or using the Internet is missing. But I would say that’s my primary one. If you are working on the language, which is a little bit not to your point, but if you are working on the language and trying to get your ear into the language to communicate for the day. When I was in Paris, I really found it helpful to do 30 minutes of the day before while I was getting ready at my Airbnb, before I hit the city, to actually just listen to one of my language programs and work through it and have that conversation. So as my brain was waking up, my brain was also getting into French mode. And those days were a lot easier to hit the ground. And then, if I went to a museum and listened to an audio tour in English for a couple of hours or hung out with friends in English, it took me a lot of time to transition back to the language. So I think if you’re going to hit the coffee, you know, the coffee bar in the morning on the way to the word camp or pastry shop or something, you know, just like get a few of those words in your head and, you know, give it a try. And you were asking about getting involved in the community earlier.


Part of it’s just stepping up and making that effort. And if you get it wrong, you get it imperfectly. Like, you were able to say you want a coffee and a pastry, but you didn’t get the whole sentence together. Think about it in English; you might just say, oh, I’d like a coffee. Or they ask you what you want; you say a latte or which is milk. And that’s. That’s my tip for you. Don’t order a latte if you want coffee because that’s milk.


[00:37:09] Speaker C: Good point. Good point.


[00:37:14] Speaker A: You will not get your caffeine hit.


[00:37:16] Speaker C: Con latte, maybe cafe con latte. Is that how you say it? Or, I don’t know, the other thing I would like.


[00:37:25] Speaker A: Oh, I’m sorry. I do. We hope we have a little bit more on food and coffee ordering and things like that in our guide. But certainly if you go to the Internet beforehand and find out what your favorite beverage is and find out what it’s called in Italian. That was the closest version of it. There’s a lot of discussion on Facebook groups that I’ve joined in Italy, I’ve had.


[00:37:44] Speaker C: I also like to point out that the Google Translate app also allows you to use your camera. So, I have taken pictures of things that, or even just hold it up, I’ll translate directly into the language you ask it to translate. So, in Asia, I bought a lovely little souvenir. That was some assembly, actually. All assembly required. I didn’t realize. Picked it up at the airport to get it home. I’m like, I’m going to do this. Oh, look, all of the instructions are in Chinese. How am I going to do this? Then I remembered I could take a picture, and it translated all the directions into English so that I could follow the instructions and actually create this little art piece. And so if you are someplace and you’re like, I don’t know what that says, I don’t know what I’m doing. Just pull out your phone. Your Google Translate app will also translate the written language for you, which I think is brilliant. Is it 100% every time? It’s probably closer than actually spoken language because it’s very static. Right. And so, yeah, it’s a lot easier to get by.


[00:38:44] Speaker A: Totally. I would follow that up with shiny packaging, which also doesn’t translate or capture. But if you take a still picture and try to get it flat, you can get a better translation because many Asian products here in Chinatown have shiny packaging, and the words will jump around and change and things like that. But if I get a still shot of it and can reduce the glare, I get a better translation.


[00:39:10] Speaker C: Yeah, for sure.


Any final thoughts, Samah, while we wrap?


[00:39:15] Speaker B: Up this episode for me?


I am so jealous because you’re speaking Italian, and now I want to learn Italian, Spanish, or maybe French. I’m going to practice my French with you. I want to ask you, what is your future project after WordCamp Europe this year? Are you planning to speak or attend any world camps, especially in Spanish or maybe Italian?


[00:39:43] Speaker A: I have applied to be a speaker at WordCamp US. On a very related topic to this podcast about being a polyglot and in our multicultural and multilingual WordPress community, I would like to attend WordCamp Costa Rica again or WordCamp San Jose. I’m not sure what my plans are there. I have an open invitation to do a world tour of the ones in Spain, where they pretty much have one every month.


[00:40:13] Speaker B: Yeah.


[00:40:14] Speaker C: And they’re very active in Spain.


[00:40:16] Speaker B: Yeah.


[00:40:17] Speaker A: I have been asked to speak in Spanish in a general sense.


You asked earlier, and we didn’t really get into it, but I did. I did a live translation of the exercises at the diversity workshop for Latin American speakers, and so that was my first foray into actually presenting in Spanish. I had to think of it on the fly, and the women in the room were so helpful and friendly, and even the catering staff afterward, they were complimenting me on my Spanish.


I was the only native English speaker in the room, and the presentation was in English, so it was helpful. But I haven’t actually applied to speak in Spanish. But I think the topic that I’m presenting that we’re talking about here, I think that crosses cultures and to be able to deliver that in Spanish with the Spanish-speaking community would be amazing.


My Italian is a little bit not there yet, but it’s much easier. So I’ll probably speak Spentallian, a combination of Spanish and Italian when I’m in Italy, like realistically. Still, there’s a lot of crossover between the languages, so I’m hoping that I have access, like, once I turn my brain on in Italian, that I’ll be picking up from other, other languages. And other than that, I’m involved in content strategy and content design communications.


I’d like to do more with community relations. I’ve been trying to find sponsorship in doing a more contributor type of role that is more community-based and more active, and I would love to continue in a cross-cultural role in that. And I’m very interested in polyglot projects. So things like keeping in mind translation of a website as an accessibility concern. You can rely on AI to a degree, and have Google Translate do it, but some languages are better than others in that. And are you really getting, are you really communicating what you as a company or an individual want to be saying when it goes through the automated process, or should you be adding plugins or things that also help to make it easier for somebody coming to your site? In fact, I would like to add to the work I’m doing on the Torino documents. That has been a concern. We’re hitting websites that are; some are translated from Italian, and some are not.


Some of them give the cookie pop-up in Italian, but there might be the pages translated. So, I’m running into all these usability accessibility issues, and I’m trying to reduce friction for our community. Who is, you know, we’re publishing in English, so that is our base language. I am trying to make sure that when you leave our site and go to one of these resources, you’re not thrown off by the language. I mean, we can guess Cookie patterns. Like, okay, that’s the accept button. That’s the reject button. That’s probably the customize button. But it’s extra cognitive load to do that. So, keeping that in mind when you are creating a resource that might have a multilingual audience is the usability, accessibility, and user experience concern.


[00:43:17] Speaker C: That’s a good point. I joined a community on Facebook yesterday centered in Taiwan, and so the entire Facebook group is in Chinese, and that’s fine because post by post, you can hit that translate button. What I couldn’t do was translate any of the questions to enter the group. So I know the person who’s running it, she knows me. So, I knew my answers to those questions would not be that problematic. So I just like, oh, that one looks funny. That looks pretty. Like, I like the way that language looks there. That one looks good. Okay. And, you know, kind of thing. And. I was accepted into the group, but I couldn’t. I would have had to copy and paste into Google Translate and go back to answer the questions otherwise, which I would have done had I not already been invited to the group by the group, you know, whatever. But, yeah, so there are. There are times when that translation, instant translation, doesn’t work, right? So, like, on a Facebook page where the instructions to enter or the questions to enter a group are not in your primary language, there is no opportunity to click a button that says, please translate this for me. And I was like, there’s a usability issue right there. So I feel your pain.


[00:44:29] Speaker A: And I have that same issue with pictures of text. You know, people sometimes don’t have a text. That’s one of the reasons I have some issues with Instagram. And that trend that people are making pictures of text all the time, it’s not translatable. It sometimes moves too quickly.


Like, it makes a lot of extra work for somebody if there’s not a text version that can run through a translation.


[00:44:48] Speaker C: Yep, absolutely.


Well, thank you so much for taking some time today to chat with us. This has been a really awesome conversation to be able to kind of think around how we work within our community, especially as somebody who, for me, doesn’t speak a lot of languages and for you all who are constantly switching things in your head to be able to have conversations with others. So I appreciate you so much. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. Samah, any final thoughts?


[00:45:20] Speaker B: I wish you good luck, and I wish to see you, and I’m pretty sure I will be very positive. I will see you in your WordCamp Europe. Good luck with your application for WordCamp US. And yeah, thank you for joining us today. And it’s gonna be very special because this is the first time we’re having a guest together and it’s you. I’m gonna cherish this memory for a long time, so. Yeah.


[00:45:44] Speaker A: Well, thank you for having me. You did great.


[00:45:48] Speaker C: Well, thank you both. We’ll see everybody on the next episode of Underrepresented intact. See you then. Should I say ciao? Yeah.


Michelle Frechette

Michelle Frechette


Samah Nasr

Samah Nasr