Sadly, […] a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred. […] it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.
It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Killing Agile, not an Agile book, never published on Agile website, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Agile team members.
Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book. […]
It begins with a translation…
As an Agile enthusiast and a linguist, this article has been especially painful to write.
You probably already know that I can’t stand it when people don’t practice what they preach, especially if they brand themselves as Agile professionals*.
And this also applies to any kind of documentation they are involved in, of course.
There’s the official Scrum Guide out of there, for example.
As you may know, it has been translated into different languages, not always with an acceptable quality, though.
To be honest, I can speak only about the (European) Spanish, the Catalan and the Italian version**; anyway, something tells me it may be a more general problem.
To make matters worse, the errors included in these publications have been relentlessly (and quite unsurprisingly) propagating to other pieces of writing.
It turns out people who carry out these kinds of duties are usually volunteers.
The thing is, nobody seems to make sure they have all the skills required to perform the job.
To make it clear: being a native speaker of any language doesn’t automatically make one a translator into that language (let alone a linguist).
So, I wonder why, when it comes to make someone translate their technical books, some authors tend to rely only on subject matter experts and seem to ignore (or underrate) that, even though those people know a lot about the matter in question, they usually lack linguistic skills, which results in pretty poor adaptations of the original material to other languages.
Now, in my opinion, this issue is especially disappointing when talking about publications on Agile and Scrum.
First of all, because technical specialists who lack linguistic skills usually end up delivering pretty poor translations.
What about high-quality products?
Secondly, because the corresponding translations don’t usually pass through a thorough review process, neither before being published nor afterwards.
What about continuous improvement?
Last but not least, because the authors and their (apparently generous***) collaborators seem to have forgot about the skills needed to ship a good translation, hence failed to make sure that all the required profiles are included within the corresponding team.
What about translators, proofreaders and, more in general, cross-functional teams?
To sum up, as I said at the beginning, this article has been especially painful to write.
Actually, every time I see a poorly translated Agile/Scrum publication, I feel I was let down twice: first as a linguist and then as an Agile enthusiast…
(**) Just to give you an example, any of “Definición de Hecho” (in Spanish), “Definició de Fet” (in Catalan) or “Definizione di Fatto” (in Italian) can be considered a misleading and pretty poor translation of Definition of Done.
(***) By the way, I suspect that, in some cases, they might be volunteering with their personal brand (more than the quality of the final product) in mind.
List of references
(Sadly) real working life.
Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. London: Del Rey Books,1995 (first published 1979).
Fake review from The Fake Boston Globe
Seconds before the lab is demolished to make way for a new galactic device…
… a SW tester begins a journey through Scrum framework aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Killing Agile (“A speck is about the most massively useful thing a software hitchhiker can have”) and a lab full of fellow team members…
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