Understanding critical issues and barriers in FOSS for non-English speakers
With a goal to reach, and listen to diverse and authentic voices, the insights phase of our plan for a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy for Participation has, so far, been an inspired journey of learning. To mark International Mother Language Day, and to celebrate the theme of building sustainable futures we wanted to share our research work for D&I at Mozilla.
It became apparent very early into our research, that we needed to prioritize the opportunity for people to be interviewed in their first-languages, and together with a small and passionate team of multi-lingual interviewers we have been doing just that — so far in French, Spanish, Albanian, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. With a designed process including best practices, and an FAQ — and leveraging a course we developed last year called ‘Interviewing Users for Mozilla’ we’ve been able to mobilize even beyond our core group.
To better tell the story of our work, we interviewed some of our interviewers about their experiences:
Liza Durón, Interviews in Spanish
Liza is a Full Stack Marketer and Ethnographer from Mexico who volunteers here time at Mozilla in many areas, including as Club Captain for Mexico’s Mozilla Club.
On barriers faced by non-English speakers in open communities:
“People slow down their participation because they don’t fully understand English, so they don’t want to make mistakes or to be “ridiculous” if they say something wrong. Which is nonsense because we’re an open community and it is supposed that we are able to explain everyone if they need so. People tend to be frustrated at not being able to communicate themselves widely and that’s when tolerance is diminished, we judge ourselves internally and we decide to turn away from overcoming those barriers and asking for support. “
On how people can bridge the linguistic barriers in Open Source:
Every task they do, document it in their first language and their in English. If we only care about doing it in Spanish, it won’t figure globally and if we only do it in English, it will only be available for more people.
Kristi, Interviews in Albanian
On why first language research is important:
I have witnessed that interviews in first language People are so free to express and the results are even more real and it’s clearer to understand.
On how this method of research can lead to greater D&I in communities like Mozilla:
(by embedding translators in community spaces/events) More people will be included since they will feel more comfortable to be part of the community and won’t have to say : “I can not attend I don’t understand what they say and I can not speak English.”
Bhagyashree Padalkar, Speaks Marathi, Interviews in Hindi
Bhagyashree is a Data Scientist, actively involved with the Fedora Operations and Diversity Team and Outreachy Intern at Mozilla. She is working on both data analysis and first-language interviews with our D&I team.
On biggest barriers non-English speakers face in the open source world in general, and Mozilla in particular:
(Even though I am a confident English Speaker) I feel like I have to think twice before I speak up because any small mistake I make would not only make me more vulnerable to next, but also make the community members feel that I am not capable enough — or in some cases, even cloud their impressions of other Indians.
On the experience of interviewing in first-language:
I can definitely say that this research will help in identifying critical issues and barriers non-native English speakers face while contributing to FOSS. Overall, while conducting first language interviews, I have felt contributors able to connect more easily when speaking in their native language as this reduces their pressure a lot, makes them think a lot less about technical things like finding the right words to express themselves in English and helps the process feel more like a friendly conversation than a grilling round of interview.
The results of first-language interviews are proving an important opportunity to learn more about the experience of our community, but also how to better at include non-English speakers in future. Thank you to all of our interviewers, and community members for taking time to talk with us. And happy Mother Language Day!