Linguistic Diversity at Smartling

Linguistic Diversity at Smartling

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One of the many things I love about Smartling is the diverse team we’ve built. Having studied linguistics at Penn (one of my favorite professors was Bill Labov), I always enjoy hearing the varied languages spoken within our team. However, because my main studies were in computer engineering, I also appreciate the fact that Smartling does not solely revolve around human languages. As a software company, the core of our business also relies on people fluent in programming languages.

While human and computer languages are obviously distinct, they share many common attributes. In fact, the term “hyperpolyglot,” defined by the author Michael Erard as someone who speaks 10 or more human languages, also refers to programmers who can adeptly use a large number of programming languages.

I polled our team the other day to get a sense of how many languages we use. Here is what I found.

Human languages spoken by Smartlings:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Czech
  • English
  • French
  • Flemish
  • German
  • Gujrati
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Québecois
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Ukranian

Coding languages used by Smartlings:

  • ActiveScript
  • AWK
  • Bash
  • C
  • C++
  • Go
  • HTML
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • JQL
  • Ruby
  • Objective-C
  • Pascal
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
  • RoR
  • SQL
  • Scala
  • XML

It’s interesting to me that the linguistic diversity of individual team members at Smartling straddles both types of language, spoken and coded. We seem to have attracted a mixture of people who enjoy both human languages and computer languages. And, of course, both are needed in order to bring our product visions to reality.

I also realized that many of the people on our team, even those who don’t directly do “language work” on a day-to-day basis, are multilingual. We have a sales engineer who speaks Portuguese, a controller who speaks Spanish, and a salesperson who speaks Russian. They speak other languages due to their personal lives, but these skills certainly contribute to their professional lives too. I also couldn’t help but notice that on our executive team alone, we cover more than half of the human languages listed above.

I’m proud that linguistic diversity is squarely on our radar at Smartling. While there aren’t many studies on this particular topic and how it influences a company, perhaps there should be. After all, language diversity – like diversity in general – lends us a more nuanced and complex vision of the world than we would otherwise have, both in terms of the technology we build, our understanding of the people who use it, and the impact we can achieve.

About Jack Welde

Jack is a technology early-adopter, serial entrepreneur, software patent-holder, product evangelist and combat-decorated Air Force pilot. Before starting Smartling, he served as SVP Product at eMusic and COO/CTO at SheSpeaks and RunTime Technologies. He also co-founded Trio Development, a software company that created the first Personal Information Manager, which was sold to Apple in the mid ’90s. He holds a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also studied linguistics and interned with Professor William Labov, and a MBA from Cameron University in Germany. Jack was named one of Fast Company’s “Who’s Next” in 2011, and was named a 2013 NYC Venture Mentor by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.


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