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While most engineers who contribute to open-source projects do so with code, student Derek Barncard likes to combine his technical knowledge with his fluency in Japanese. With ample experience translating technical documentation in his career before Hack Reactor, Barncard has started providing translations as a way to contribute to the programming community.
“I've been studying Japanese for 20 years,” says Barncard. “Up until Hack Reactor, I was doing Japanese language tech support for eight years. This is my first foray into translating random open-source projects, but I did similar work for my company all the time.”
Barncard translated a popular tutorial called learnGitBranching, which gamifies learning certain skills that are essential for many programmers.
“This site was a great help to us in learning to use Git and Github when ramping up for Hack Reactor, and is probably the most fun you could possibly have learning this material,” Barncard describes in a blog post.
Barncard started learning Japanese in high school, when he would go to a weekend language school with a Japanese American friend, partly just to pass the time.
“I ended up falling in love with the language,” he recalls. This led to decades of study, and a job that sent him to Japan for three months a year.
Translating technical documentation has unique challenges, and requires a precise vocabulary.
“There are very specific words you have to use, because there are accepted conventions,” Barncard explains. “For example your computer’s edit menu is going to have very specific words for cut, copy, paste, undo. There may be multiple words for that in the language, but there are specific ones that follow the convention.”
Even within technical translation, there are nuances in tone that change how one approaches a specific task.
“In this particular project, the hard part was that the audience was people who aren't necessarily used to reading tech manuals. They might be just getting into programming. So it should be fun and conversational.”
Even for those who aren’t fluent in another language, Barncard likes to point out that there are plenty of ways that coders can contribute to open-source projects beyond coding, such as documentation and testing.