Words Can Heal—and Save Batteries

Words Can Heal—and Save Batteries

Today is International Mother Language Day

Take a moment to thank your native language(s) for everything you love about them. For all the kind words, elegant expressions, funny little idiosyncrasies, and all the memories you have internalized in those languages. Go on, give them a hug!

Our mother languages are the languages of our hearts and souls. But they are also the languages of our daily lives. Most people on the planet speak at least one foreign language, which is a great thing because it helps us connect to people from other cultures. But although English has become the world’s most widely spoken language, it is our native languages that inhabit our most intimate spaces. It’s how we talk to our kids, read in bed at night, chat to the cashier in the supermarket, fill in tax forms, and listen to the news. 

Our native language makes us feel at home. We don’t have to think to understand it. We just understand.

Clear, concise instructions. But if English is not your native language, it’s not so easy to figure out what exactly you have to do with the battery cable in this Steam Deck repair guide.

Whether you are reading the news or following a repair guide, it’s infinitely easier to do that in your native language. Especially when it comes to technical stuff where every detail matters. You wouldn’t want to read this year’s changes to tax regulations in a foreign language, right? Well, the same goes for repair guides. There’s just far too much potential to misunderstand something. 

This is why we encourage linguistic diversity on our platform. Currently, you can write your guide in one of 12 different languages. And if you want to share your experience by writing a repair story, feel free to submit it in any language spoken in the world! It’s a lot easier to talk about the things that are important to you in the language closest to your heart. So go ahead and give it a try!

Every word counts

Most of our guides are, still, only available in English. This is why translation is such an integral part of our mission, and why we encourage anyone who speaks another language fluently to help us translate. Every translated guide means that someone will now be able to fix something that would otherwise end up in the bin. Translating guides is just as important as writing them.

When I have time, I just take out my smartphone and get started.

VauWeh, our all-time translation hero.

We all lead busy lives. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate what little free time they have to helping other people; especially, people they have never even met. Thankfully, community members around the globe work every day on making repair information available in Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Chinese, Italian, Dutch, and Korean. And every time I see all those fresh translations on our website, I start feeling all warm and fuzzy. 

I wanted to know more. What motivated them to start translating? And what keeps them going? 

Spreading the word of repair

VauWeh, an iFixit moderator and one of our longest-standing German community members, says he started translating out of sheer necessity—because back when he first got started, most of the guides he needed for fixing things in his Repair Café were only available in English. It has become a habit; there’s hardly a day when he’s not translating. “Translation is brain work,” he says. “It’s so practical. When I have time, I just take out my smartphone and get started. Others might solve Sudokus in that time.”

For many people who don’t have much practical repair experience themselves, translating repair information is the best way to contribute to the repair movement. Suzanne, one of our most active volunteer translators for French, explains, “Since I’m not really an expert in anything, but I can speak English (and French, obviously), I started to translate repair guides to share the knowledge to Francophones around the world.”

iFixit currently supports translation into 8 languages, helping to make repair information available to nearly 2 billion people. Sources: worlddata.info, ethnologue.com.

According to Suzanne’s profile, there are over 300 million French-speaking people in the world who can benefit from her translations. Just imagine how many phones, laptops, and game consoles will be saved because of her efforts alone! 

Even if you only count the native speakers of the languages for which we support volunteer translations, together they make up 1.9 billion people! That’s nearly a quarter of the world’s population. And with every translation, you help them to get the information they need to fix their stuff. With every translation, you are making a palpable difference—to the planet, and to many people around the world.

Never stop learning

But it’s not only others that will benefit from your translation. You’d be surprised how much it can teach you! Mariana, our Spanish translator, grew up in a repair-minded family. Her father is an engineer and he was always tinkering with something or fixing it. But still, being more interested in linguistics and literature, she never really took to repair—until she started translating for iFixit! Since then, she has fixed a fair share of her own electronics, from laptop to dishwasher. And they are still going strong.

What I like best about translating is that you never stop learning.

Claire, French translator and iFixit Community Manager.

I myself experienced a similar transition in my attitude towards repair. When I started working for iFixit, I had never pried open a phone, disconnected a ribbon cable, or spelled the words “isopropyl-alcohol”. At this point, I have learned so much about electronics that I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to swap my phone’s screen myself.

500 terms in 8 languages: Our technical glossary.

If you don’t have much experience fixing electronics yourself, translation is a great way to learn more about technology and to lose your fear of fixing your devices yourself.

On the other hand, quite a few people have told me that they translate to improve their language skills. Which is an excellent idea, because translation involves so much more than just looking up words in a dictionary! So if you want to work on your translation skills yourself and help the repair movement at the same time, head here and start translating! And in case you are worried about getting words like “ribbon cable” right—we recently made our technical dictionary publicly available to help you with the specialized technical terms you may encounter.

How many devices will your translation save?

Translating repair guides is not only a great way to enable more repairs in your language community. It is also interesting, it’s fun, and it keeps your brain cells alive. It may even teach you enough about tech to save you from personal injury one day, as Claire, our French translator, experienced first-hand.

If your trackpad looks like this, you may want to consult this wiki.

She was struggling with a stuck trackpad when she suddenly remembered a wiki that she proofread a few weeks earlier on what to do with a swollen battery—her machine had all the symptoms! After recovering from her initial shock, she opened up the laptop and safely removed the battery before it could cause any serious damage.

Imagine all the people out there whose trackpads are slightly bowed and who are trying to find out what that means and what they should do about it. Imagine all those laptops that are breaking, being damaged, or thrown away because someone couldn’t find a repair guide they could understand. And now imagine what difference your translation could make!

What are you waiting for? Help us translate repair guides and wikis. Help us fix the world.