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The team at Transparent Language is made up of all kinds of kinds. As you might expect from a language technology company, nearly everyone speaks or has studied another language, from Romanian and Russian to Python and SQL. Get to know the talented team who works so hard to provide language learning opportunities to government personnel, libraries, universities and K-12 schools, and of course curious individuals.
Today you’ll get to know Janet, our technical writer!
Beyond my native English, I started with two years of Latin in junior high, of which the only remains in my brain are the first two sentences of my “Ecce Romani” Latin textbook. Those have inexplicably embedded themselves permanently in my long-term memory – if I ever have to tell a Roman time-traveler about a picture of a girl who lives in Italy, I’m all set.
I switched to studying Spanish after that, much more seriously. My parents and I had actually lived in Spain for nine months when I was two years old. I remember very little of that early trip, but it may have given me an ear for the language. More important motivation came from the fact that my parents, who had both learned Spanish in college, used it as a kind of “secret” code to discuss things they didn’t want us kids to overhear. I learned the words for “onion” and “bedtime” pretty quickly! Eager to pick up more, I studied Spanish formally for seven years, three in high school and four in college, including a Junior Year Abroad in Spain that was an amazing experience.
Since then, I’ve tried to keep up with my Spanish (including a trip to Argentina a while back), and I’ve also made a significant long-term effort on Japanese, motivated mostly by an anime addiction. I’ve used a combination of Transparent Language programs, books, and online resources for that. I also used Transparent Language programs to memorize a bunch of basic Icelandic words before a vacation there a few years back – while I can’t claim to actually speak the language, even the little I learned added a lot to my trip.
I started here 3 weeks out of college, so this is in a way my first real job. Before that, my main work experience was as a camp counselor during summers at a Girl Scout camp.
I was a double-major in Creative Writing and Spanish at Hamilton College in New York, so when I landed a job writing for a company that makes Spanish (and other language) programs, and only about five miles from house – can you say “dream job”?? And I still love it, all these years later.
22 years this June! Which officially makes it half my life, I think…
As the technical writer, my main responsibility is to write the help files that pop up when you click the little ? button in the corner of most Transparent Language program screens, along with various handbooks, guides, and other forms of documentation. I also coordinate our program localizations and do a lot of proofreading.
It varies, but there are two major patterns that tend to prevail:
If we’re in the development phase of a product, I’ll spend a lot of time testing new features, then writing the instructions for them. As the one who has to describe these features to users, I have to know them well myself.
If we’re in a localization phase, I might be coordinating with translators or making sure that all the translations end up exactly where they belong in the program interface. Of course, since my work touches almost all of our products, it’s often the case that one project is in one phase while another is in the other, so a day’s work can involve a lot of different tasks.
Microsoft Word! It’s open constantly on my computer. Even now, when Notepad++ has taken over a lot of my HTML file editing, there are just so many things that it’s easier and faster to do in Word, especially when you know all the shortcuts and quirks.
Maps of Spain and Middle Earth, calendars, pictures, and a varying degree of clutter that rises and falls with how busy I am.
Ooh, it’s hard to choose just one… but I think I’ll go with a really early experience. I was 17 years old, and had the opportunity to go on a People to People student trip to what was then the Soviet Union. At one point, in the city of Pskov, I found myself sitting on a park bench talking to a young Russian soldier. My Russian was limited to about five memorized tourist phrases, and his English was even worse – but we had both, at the time, taken two years of Spanish. We used that common ground to cover every subject in a basic textbook – we described our families, pets, and favorite foods, discussed the weather, commented on our hobbies, and so on. Nothing deep, but just establishing communication in such an unlikely situation was a thrill. I’ve never forgotten that.
No word is useless if you want to learn it. Build your vocabulary not just with the basics, but also with fun phrases that fit your interests and personality. You never know when you’ll need them, and it’ll keep you excited to learn!
I do fencing! It’s a great way to exercise body and mind.