Introducing the Mozilla Italia l10n Guide

#mozsprint 2017 Interview Series

Sara (@kitsunenosaraT) is a longtime volunteer translator and QA for the Italian localization (also know as l10n) team. Sara joined the most recent cohort of Mozilla Open Leaders with her project, the Mozilla Italia l10n Guide. It’s been incredible to watch her passion to work with and support other localization volunteers through this guide.

I interviewed Sara to learn more about the Mozilla Italia l10n Guide and how you can help June 1–2 at #mozsprint.

What is the Mozilla Italia l10n Guide?

I’ll quote our headline: it’s a localization guide made by volunteer localizers for volunteer localizers. In other words, it is a manual about translating and adapting content for local users, collecting translation best practices, efficient workflows and useful resources.

The two main points:

  1. It is being written collaboratively by people of various backgrounds;
  2. It is made for communities of volunteer localizers and focuses on open, free resources of the Web.

Why did you start the Mozilla Italia l10n Guide?

Mozilla Italia has a renowned tradition of providing high quality and comprehensive localization just by the good will of volunteer translators. We always need the talent and passion of new volunteers to keep this project alive, however it’s not easy to get a truly continuative collaboration. We felt the need to:

  1. Understand in detail the needs and aspirations that brought volunteers to us;
  2. Collect all the docs, resources and instructions in a single, comprehensive source to make a volunteer’s life easier.

Then we gradually broadened our scope: why limit ourselves to a single organization? In Italy there are plenty of open source communities, and we volunteers of the Web should band together to raise the localization standards to protect the uniqueness of our language and show the world that open source is a viable alternative. And, of course, there are also foreign localization communities that would find some parts of our guide useful, or, in turn, have something to teach us.

What is it like being a volunteer localizer?

Well, I’ll try describing the various steps…

From the very start, you are introduced into a community and you can feel a real sense of belonging. A senior localizer guides you through the whole experience, providing explanations of how things work and sharing useful tips. At Mozilla Italia we firmly believe in mentorship!

Then you start to tackle the translation project. Through translation and being reviewed by the senior translator, you learn a lot. What you learn may vary from one person to another. For example a volunteer coming from Humanities learns a lot about coding and web tools, while a technologist learns about communication and good writing, a useful skill for any career as well a personal satisfaction for any native speaker.

And then, of course, you keep yourself up to date with emerging technologies and new initiatives on the Web! I think this is the most fascinating trait of translation as a profession: while you produce something (the translation) you are also acquiring new knowledge.

In the end you see the project you actually translated online, there for billions of users to see, and it’s hard to put into words the satisfaction you feel.

So, yeah, being a volunteer localizer is pretty awesome.

What problems have you run into while working on this project?

I think the harder task was driving others to participate.

Our core team (me, Sandro (@gialloporpora) and Elio (@eliogi)) has always been extremely motivated. Yet, a lot of contributors feel wary about using GitHub, others don’t feel confident enough to express their ideas. Then, of course, people are busy with real life, so things don’t go quite as smoothly as expected.

But, I believe, If you are patient, and present, and work hard, eventually people see your commitment and think “Hey, if this person cares about it so much, there may be some value in there, after all!”

What kind of skills do I need to help you?

First of all, an interest in the world of open source. You don’t necessarily have to be a technologist or some kind of engineer, many of our finest translators started as simple satisfied users of Firefox and other Mozilla products!

Then, commitment to follow the translation project assigned to you, to make an effort and comply with Mozilla Italia localization guidelines.

Last but not least, good command of the English language, and very good command of the Italian language.

Alternatively, if you belong to a country different from Italy, you still can, and are very welcome to, join the discussions in English and adapt the guide to your native language.

How can others join your project at #mozsprint 2017?

It’s all in the manual! Please start at our landing page, then introduce yourself by leaving a message in issue #20. You can also take a short survey in issue #7 to help us learn more about your motives and aspirations.

After that, I advise to use the project page for easier browsing through issues. Watch out for these two columns:

  • “Read & Review”: read the various thematic chapters of the guide and leave your feedback in the dedicated issue!
  • “Translate” (Italian only): pick a mini-translation project and start translating, applying what you learned in the guide!

What meme or gif best represents your project?

There were a lot of hilarious memes to choose from, but in the end I opted for this one…

…because we actually take punctuation very seriously!

Have you ever really thought about why HTML, JavaScript etc. are called “languages”? And if you misplace a small, “insignificant” character everything can go haywire?

I personally like to compare computer languages and human ones: sometimes the smallest details can make the difference in getting your message across.


Join us wherever you are June 1–2 at the Mozilla Global Sprint to work on the Mozilla Italia l10n Guide and many other projects! Join a diverse network of scientists, educators, artists, engineers and others in person and online to hack and build projects for a health Internet. Get your tickets now!