GLEN GORDON: On FSCast 199, my talk at the National Coding Symposium, a recent virtual event put on to encourage students to think about careers involving programming. Then a visit with Rocio Casati, who’s spent over 20 years as the person that makes our products work really well when using them in Spanish. All upcoming on our podcast for May of 2021.
Hello, everybody. Glen Gordon, welcoming you to another edition of the podcast. And this is the month that our May product updates release. So if you have not installed them yet, there’s no time like the present. Whether you’re using JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion, there’s probably something that’ll get your attention in these updates. If you’re a ZoomText or Fusion user, we have the Quick Access Bar, which is a place where you can set up the commands you use most for really easy access. If you’re using Fusion or JAWS, we have an email navigation feature. If you ever get messages in Outlook that have long threads of response after response after response, this feature allows you with a single key, the letter N, to jump forward, and Shift+N to jump backwards through the messages in that thread.
And lastly, if you’re using JAWS with a braille display, and you use Nemeth code for math, you may find it very useful to know that we now have a math editor. Works with Nemeth initially. It allows you to enter formulas in braille and then immediately import them into a word equation. So it’s a quick way of getting some complex equations entered without having to worry about entering special symbols with a QWERTY keyboard and needing to pick them from a list.
So all of the above in our May product updates. For more complete details of what’s new, I think the easiest thing to do is go to your favorite search engine and search for “What’s New In” and enter your product name, 2021. And regardless of which product it is, it’ll take you right to that What’s New page.
You may have always thought that the FS in FSCast stands for Freedom Scientific. It actually stands for Fun with Synthesizers, at least in my demented mind. And with that in mind, something that has nothing socially redeeming at all, but it’s kind of fun, I’ve always been fascinated with the Vocalizer Expressive Voices because they’re based on real humans. And when those voices were created, the humans sat in the studio for many days running, reading all sorts of content.
And inevitably there’s got to be outtakes. And I think some of those outtakes have slipped into the voices because there are certain phrases, when followed by an exclamation mark, don’t get spoken using the normal pronunciation rules, but sound like they’re actual recordings. And some of them are there because they’re common phrases like “Thank you” and other things that they want to get the emphasis just right. But I contend that there’s stuff in there that was put in just as a joke and may have been something that a person didn’t intend to say. This all started because Matt Ater discovered that Ava and Allison both say something special when you have the word “Wow” followed by an exclamation mark.
JAWS VOICE ALLISON: Wow!
GLEN: If you’re wanting to play along at home, you need to enter a word or phrase, followed by an exclamation mark, on a line of text by itself. I’m demonstrating with Allison. The other thing is remember to set your punctuation to “Some” or “Most.” If it’s set to “All,” where the exclamation mark is actually announced, this won’t work.
JAWS VOICE: Wow!
GLEN: So that makes perfect sense. But let me go down and play you a few other words followed by exclamation marks. Tell me if you think they put these things in because they thought some synthesizer user or IVR, Interactive Voice Response system, would actually care.
JAWS VOICE: Yuck! Ouch! Mm, yummy! Stop it! Agh! Ooh!
GLEN: And then there are the various bodily sounds. For Allison they’re things like Cough! Sneeze! And for Ava they’re Coughing! and Sneezing!
JAWS VOICE: Cough! Sneeze! Laugh!
GLEN: That’s Laugh! for Allison.
JAWS VOICE: Cry!
GLEN: And then my favorite, that came to me from my friend Gyöngyi, which got me going on this whole topic.
JAWS VOICE: Snore!
GLEN: That’s Snore! for Allison. Ava is Snoring! And finally, they each sing a different song in response to Singing!, exclamation mark.
JAWS VOICE: Close your eyes and goodnight, Lily and Coco go to sleep. Close your eyes and goodnight, little children go to sleep.
GLEN: So there you have it. Some choice examples of the special ways that our synthesizers say things. We’re going to be talking about coding here in a minute. The way I found all of these was to go find the voices, use a program that will extract the strings from the otherwise binary voice files, find interesting words, add an exclamation mark at the end, and see what happened. Just as a little bit of a tidbit, Allison does have some salty language, and it’s up to you to do that spelunking to try to figure out what it is.
GLEN: Time now for this month’s Power Tip, and it’s courtesy of me. No, I don’t get a free JAWS license for this. But I thought it would be relevant to my talk in just a couple of minutes because we’re talking about programming. Most programming languages it’s useful to hear indentation because it gives you an idea of the structure of the code. But for programming in Python, which I think is a great language to start with, it’s a requirement because the indentation is the way that the interpreter knows what the structure of the code is. Fortunately, JAWS will announce this.
I don’t recommend making a change to the default file. But whether you’re using Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code or Notepad++, you can go into Settings Center when you’re in that app, press JAWS KEY+6 on the number row, search for Indent, and JAWS will come back with Announce Indented Spaces. You check that, save the file, and for that application then indentation will be announced. Don’t try this in Notepad. I realized it doesn’t work there for some strange reason. We’ll be fixing that, now that I have noticed it, doing the preparation for this podcast. But in most of the useful places where you’d be wanting to try it, that does work. Great recommendation if you’re doing programming.
GLEN: The first week in May was the first National Coding Symposium, put on by the American Printing House for the Blind and California School for the Blind. This was intended originally to be an in-person, hands-on event where students in high school would get an opportunity to learn a little bit about programming. And even though it turned out to be a virtual event with lots of people speaking about their experiences coding and some of their ideas for how students moving into college can begin to pursue it, I think it got a lot of people excited. And since that was the original intent of the event, even though the venue and the format was different, it was really an overall success.
I had the opportunity to do a presentation for the group, and it didn’t even occur to me at the time that I might want to share it on this podcast. I didn’t record it at my end or anything. But after it was all over I realized that I hadn’t said anything that was cringeworthy, and therefore would not be ashamed to share it with you, and think that there might be a couple of useful tidbits. You’ll also learn a little bit more about me, for those of you who have been asking for some of those details during the last year or so.
I followed a speech by Ted Henter. For those who don’t remember, Ted was the man who founded Henter-Joyce. Without Ted, there would be no JAWS for Windows, and I would not be talking to you now. So he was a great man to talk after. He mentioned that I got to know him when he was working at Maryland Computing Services. I was the thorn in his side, asking questions and really trying to educate myself about screen reader use. One thing led to the next, and I came to work with him right when they were embarking on the Windows Project.
GLEN: Well, hi, everybody. It’s great to be with you at the National Coding Symposium. And it’s great to follow Ted because Ted was one of the people who really influenced me at a time that I had very little knowledge about programming and software development. And I’m here to talk about coding, as are most of the people on this week’s panels. And it’s kind of hard of to talk about this topic without you actually learning to do it. It’s a little bit like, if you’re blind, people have undoubtedly tried to explain colors to you. And if you’ve never seen colors, you have no idea what they’re like. And no matter how many words people use to describe the colors to you, you will not understand it.
Coding is a little bit like that. So I can’t possibly hope to teach you coding in this next little bit. But what I’m hoping to be able to do is share some of my experiences and give you some ideas, if you’re interested in exploring whether or not this is something that you’re interested in as a career or as something to simply help you in another career. You’ll have some resources that’ll help you along the way.
So Ted mentioned that I joined his company. At the time, I was working at UCLA, working on programs in Unix, which for those of you who have heard of Linux, Linux is a big deal now. Unix was the thing that preceded Linux. I was doing that, and at that point Windows was just becoming usable by most people in the world. Windows 3.0 had come out. And it wasn’t accessible to those of us who were blind. And I had this idea that, although I had become a programmer, that suddenly I would be out of a job if I didn’t help make Windows accessible.
Now, keep in mind, at this point I knew nothing about Windows. But I convinced Ted that I would work really hard. He hired me. He gave me a shot. And quite honestly, I don’t know why, it never occurred to me that I would not be successful at it. And that’s not because I thought I was terribly smart, by the way. It’s more because I just was so focused on the goal. Have you ever had a situation where you’re so interested in getting stuff done that that’s what’s at the forefront of your mind, and not really whether or not you can do it? That was the situation with me. And it was really, if anything, stupidity, and not knowing all the stuff I didn’t know, rather than the fact that I was particularly clever, that allowed me to succeed.
The other thing that allowed me to do reasonably well was a person named Chuck Oppermann. He had worked for Ted before I did. We had a little bit of an overlap. He knew lots about Windows compared to me. He created a framework for JAWS. It didn’t work very well, but it did sort of work. You know, you could start it up, and it might read one or two items on the desktop before it crashed. But it worked just enough that I could study what he had done and begin to make very tiny little changes and fix very small minuscule issues, one at a time. And I cannot tell you how much these small successes mean. If you think about any task that you need to perform, and you think about the whole thing, it often is overwhelming.
This continues to happen to me today, by the way. This is not a thing that you outgrow. But if you pick it into small pieces, even if those first baby steps you take aren’t very impressive, aren’t very important, it’s amazing what it does to your outlook on the world and your outlook about the project. And so I encourage you, not just with coding, but with anything that you try, to make small steps, do tiny little things that you’re pretty sure you can get done, and then think about the problem again. Because as you begin to sort of peel away the layers one at a time, it does get easier and easier to move on.
The other thing that I want to say just generally that has much less to do with coding probably than with real life, is learn to be resourceful. And I mean this not in the technology sense, although the technology sense is really important. You need to know your tools. You need to know your screen reader. You need to know the environment, the tool where you’re writing code. Those things are important. But being resourceful goes beyond that. It goes to the whole topic of solving problems.
If you have a problem, and you simply post email to a mailing list, or you post on Facebook or Twitter, and you ask for help, and it’s obvious that you haven’t thought about the problem for very long, people are going to be less eager to reach out and help you. If you indicate that you’ve done some research, that you’ve read an article, or you’ve read a book, or you looked something up on Google, and you’ve explored, and you tried it on your own, that’s what gets other people interested in your success and helping you succeed and really wanted to go those extra miles to make sure that happens.
It’s true in terms of small problems you may pose on the Internet, but it’s also true when you’re in school. When you go to college, for those of you who do, there will be situations. You will meet professors who seem very resistant to helping you as a blind person. And you’ll get some people who are just ignorant and don’t know exactly what to do to help, although disability services do a good job of trying to educate the faculty of campuses. But there’s nothing like getting to know your professor. I would always go up to my professor the first day of class – this was before computers, but the idea is still the same – and talk about how interested you are in their class, how interested you are in pulling your weight and doing as well as everybody else who are not blind, and not wanting your blindness to be thought of as, you know, making it easier for you.
You say those things to the professor. You know a little bit about what you need and how they might need to modify what they’re doing. If you ask them nicely and explain that if they do these things it’ll make it easier for you, you may find that one or many of those professors become your biggest allies and your biggest supporters, people who are likely to write you letters of endorsement later on. That’s really different than sort of demanding; right? You can always demand at the end. It’s always easy to get meaner. But it’s kind of hard to start out mean and obnoxious and get nicer. And so even though it is all of our rights to be treated with dignity, it does tend to do better asking people for assistance, rather than demanding it.
I mentioned a little earlier that learning your screen reader is important. For those of you who are using a phone or a tablet, if you’re interested even slightly in coding, you’re going to need to start using a PC or a Mac. And I’m just going to start saying “PC and JAWS” because JAWS is the thing I’ve been working on for almost 30 years now. And I’m not going to talk about other tools. Other tools do exist. But for the purpose of my discussion, it’s JAWS.
Let’s talk a little bit about coding. Generally, it’s making a computer do what you want. And that starts from writing a web page to put something interesting on the screen. It’s writing some code to make an item on the web page do something when you click a button. But then think about it. What is it that puts the web page on the screen? It’s a web browser. How was that web browser written? It was written using code. Well, okay. What does the web browser run on? It runs on an operating system. Your iOS or Windows or Android are all operating systems. All of those are written with code. And so from the ground up, everything involves coding and programming.
The list goes on and on. But all of them essentially do the same thing. They take your ideas, they take what you want the computer to do in an English-like language and translate it into the language of the computer’s internals, essentially ones and zeroes. Different people write different programming languages to accomplish different tasks. But fundamentally they’re all the same. They all have the same basic building blocks. You get things done in slightly different ways. But the ideas are the same. There are things called functions which are small portions of the program. There are conditions. There are statements. There are classes. And there are, you know, a handful of other concepts that you need to grasp.
So there is good news on this front, and bad news. The bad news is that your first programming language will be difficult to learn, or at least hardest to learn. The good news is that all subsequent programming languages will be much easier. I mean, I don’t know lots of languages. I probably know half a dozen, and three of them really well. And if you pursue code, you’ll probably fit into a similar category. You need to experience it hands-on to know if you like it. And it comes in useful in a variety of fields.
I read an article recently about a journalist who was trying to track down a crooked judge. And that judge sat on a particular court. And although you could go to a website and find every case that that court had adjudicated, you couldn’t find cases by judge. You know, and there were, let’s say, 50 judges who served in that municipality. And so a what they call Digital Reporter went and wrote a little program to go gather all the cases that that jurisdiction ever prosecuted. And once they were able to download the information about all those cases, then they could find all the cases with this particular judge’s name in them.
And it took a while, but it would have taken much longer, you know, like years with multiple people doing the research, to do that stuff manually. And this is the kind of thing that’s becoming more and more common, where you’re not using coding as your career, but it is helping you in whatever your primary goal is.
Computers really are the least judgmental people you’ve ever met. They do not judge you. They do exactly what you say. It’s not their fault that you don’t know what you mean. They think what you say is what you mean. And the goal, whenever you write code and it doesn’t work the way you expect it to, is for you to figure out either what you wrote that was just wrong, or how could the computer possibly be interpreting what I’m doing differently than I’m thinking about. If you think of it as a puzzle, you will love it. If you think of it as a fight, if you think of it as the computer is out to get you, this is not something that you will enjoy. I guarantee it. But if you do treat it as a puzzle, you may find that this is one of the most alluring things that you’ve ever had in your life. And I encourage you to learn a language. More on that in a second.
A couple of myths that I want to just dispute. One of them is that programming involves lots of math. It absolutely does not, unless you’re coding for something like astronomy or other scientific pursuit where math is key to that science. But just writing programs that put things on the screen or do other things, you know, compute information, gather information, that does not require high-order math. If you’ve made it through algebra, you’re going to be fine. There are a couple of mathematical concepts that programming uses that aren’t taught necessarily in traditional math classes, like Boolean logic. But you don’t need to be a math wiz to do well at programming.
The other one is that coding is visual. And in some ways maybe you can say it’s visual. But I think when most people think about it being visual, they think about programming as putting things on the screen. And how is a blind person or low-vision person going to put something on the screen that looks really good? And that’s a good point. We probably aren’t. And lots of coding does have to do with things that go on the screen. But even with that, more and more these days, companies are using graphic designers and other people who are really interested in interface to develop those things, and develop how things look. And then there’s code that, even though it’s involved with what goes on the screen, is the logic that’s written in the background and doesn’t involve knowing how the screen is laid out.
And the second part is there’s this concept of frontend versus backend. Frontend is what’s displayed on the screen, what a user sees. The backend is all the logic that goes on to make things happen. So think about Twitter. When you see something on Twitter, what you’re actually seeing is information that comes from somewhere. Right? If tweets from millions of people are being aggregated, it’s not your personal smartphone that’s pulling all of those tweets together. It’s something in the background. And that’s what I mean by backend. There’s lots of coding that involves storing the tweets in a database or other place where they can easily be retrieved; retrieving tweets according to the specifications of an individual user. The list kind of goes on and on. But that’s all backend work that does not require seeing something on the screen.
You can write code in an editor like Notepad. I don’t recommend it, but you can. When I started and was working on JAWS, that’s essentially what I was doing. But now there are things called Integrated Development Environments, or IDEs. And they do have an editor, and that’s where you enter the code. But they provide a lot of help. So one of them that is becoming more popular now is called Visual Studio Code. And it’s not necessarily my favorite, but the reason I’m recommending it to you as the first one to learn is because it’s popular enough and accessible enough that lots of people are writing articles about using it. Not so much articles about using it with a screen reader, although there are some limited ones, but about using it generally for various projects. And that’s a good place to start.
I do suggest Python as an introductory language. And that’s because you can write what are called “console applications.” They’re essentially things that will gather information and print something out from top to bottom. So you don’t need to be at all concerned about how things are looking. You’re concerned about making things happen. Python is a great language for accessing content from other websites, and websites that would be easier to gather their data programmatically than it would be to necessarily find them on the web.
All of the popular sites, with the exception of Facebook, it seems, have APIs for getting at much, if not more, of the data that you can see on the screen. For instance, YouTube has a Python module that allows you to gather information about individual videos or about the most popular videos. You can get and write a small Python script that uses a module, which is code that other people have written, to figure out what the top 10 videos are on YouTube. That’s only 10 lines of code. Maybe fewer. Maybe six or seven, depending upon how you write it. So you can do tiny little baby steps to get yourself going.
You may want to wait and take a class in college. But if you have the opportunity and have a little time over the summer, you might want to explore. You know, read a book. I have some links that I’m putting up there in terms of Python. There is a wiki that talks about Python for absolute programming beginners. You can learn it that way. There are lots of resources online where you can get more information. There is a blind programming list called program‑l. All of these things, by the way, in the resources that I’ve sent to Denise, and she’ll be making available on the National Coding Symposium website. Program-l is a bunch of blind folks, mostly programmers, mostly coders, who are there to help and answer questions.
As I said earlier, ideally, try to do a little research on your own. You’ll be amazed by how much Google will find for you. And even if it doesn’t find you the final answer, learning to be resourceful and trying to figure out just how far you can get before asking a question is going to make those questions more specific and sort of increase the chance dramatically of other people being able to help you and being really interested in helping you.
GLEN: If you’re now kicking yourself, wondering why you didn’t attend this event, all is not lost. Each of the presentations is going to be available on the American Printing House for the Blind’s YouTube channel. All of those should be up by the early part of June. If you’re interested in seeing some of the resources that all of the presenters, myself included, made available, you can go to APH ConnectCenter, all one word, aphconnectcenter.org/coding/resources.
GLEN: If English is your primary language, you probably don’t give a whole lot of thought to what it takes to make our products work with other languages. Turns out that’s not a simple proposition, and we have a whole bunch of folks taking care of this for the many, many languages that our products support. The person who’s been doing this really admirably for Spanish since the late ‘90s is Rocio Casati. The whole process is called “localization,” and I thought it would be a great opportunity to have her on the podcast, learn a little bit about her life, and talk about localization more specifically. So Rocio, welcome to FSCast.
ROCIO CASATI: Thank you.
GLEN: When you were growing up, did you have a general idea of what you wanted to do as a career?
ROCIO: Oh, yeah. Something which I haven’t done, by the way. When I was 13, 14 kind of, I say, “I want to be a conference interpreter,” you know, doing simultaneous interpretation. And whatever I do, I’m going to study, you know, to do that. I’m going to work for the, I don’t know, the U.N. or the European Union or freelance or whatever. But I want to do that. And so my degree is actually mainly oriented to being a secondary school teacher. All my classmates actually are that, many of them. But I said, no, no, no, I’m going to do this.
So after my five years at the university, I found a place where I could study what I wanted. And there were several schools in Europe, one in Switzerland, which was very, very demanding, and you had to have like a C language, you know, that we call in this sector. So my B language is English. My C language would have been German. But my German was not good enough. And so I thought, no, I just want to take one language. And I said, I will go to an English-speaking country so that I can improve my English at the same time as I get this new degree or MA, whatever that is. And England was out of the question because I had a dog, a guide dog, already. And there was a terrible quarantine back then to go into the U.K. And that was impossible because your dog needed to be in quarantine for six months, which is an equivalent to killing your dog, you know.
ROCIO: That’s ridiculous. So I said, well, it has to be the U.S. And so I wrote a normal letter to the American Embassy in Madrid, asking where can I study this in the U.S.? And they sent me back a letter with five places. And I analyzed the five programs, and I say, no, it has to be Monterey, California.
GLEN: When was this, give or take?
ROCIO: ‘93 to ‘95. I had a great roommate. The whole two years I stayed with the same girl. We had fun because she told me, “People stop me and ask me how come you said yes, and you’re living with a blind person? Do you have to do everything for her?” And she said, “What are you talking about? She cooks great, she cleans the house, she goes everywhere by herself. No, no, no. No, no, not whatsoever.” And you know the reason she told me she chose me, amazing. She said, “I came here to study, not to party. And I’m sure that a blind person coming from Spain came for the same reason. So we’re going to be serious. Of course have fun, go out. But we’re here to really do things right and take our MAs and whatever.” And this is why she thought I would be a good roommate. Can you imagine?
GLEN: I think that’s very enlightened. It’s probably true, too; right?
ROCIO: Yes, she was right.
ROCIO: I was the same, I mean, I came here, my parents are spending an awful amount of money because we couldn’t get loans because we were not U.S. citizens. So you have to pay for that. And I say, really, I’m here to show my parents that I’m serious; right? So I cannot really fail. I got up with the BBC and went to bed with The Economist, you know, all the time. Listened to the TV all the time. Listening to English. I used to tell my roommate, “No, no, no, I’m going to relax a bit with The Economist.” They say, “Rocio, that is so dense. That is awful.” I say, “No, no, no.”
But this is how, yeah, all the time, I follow teachers’ advice. They told me to listen to C-SPAN, which is the most boring thing in the world, and I did do it. Gosh. You know. Yeah, I was there to improve my English. And I stayed there for two years, and I did my MA in Translation & Interpretation. And I went back. I got some opportunities to work as a conference interpreter. But, you know, back then life was not so easy for us. People had a dictionary on paper. We didn’t. People were given documentation on paper. We didn’t have that because you didn’t have a scanner that gave you that. So I had really many disadvantages compared to sighted people.
And of course I could still have done that. But considering what I’m like, you know, my personality, that I tend to panic and stuff like that, I said, you know, this is going to be so stressful for me. The job itself I love. I can do it. But, I mean, what’s around the job, and going to a different place every time. And in general I’m a very shy person, you know. I was going to suffer disproportionately, considering what I was going to obtain. And at that point ONCE offered me a job as an application tester. And I said, you know, I have to be wise and take this and see. And this is where I ended, you know, being a software localizer.
GLEN: Did you actually get good at listening to one person talk, and talk in another language at the same time, and continue to be able to hear what they were saying?
ROCIO: Oh, yeah. You get used to that. Now probably, if I did it, it would take a bit of practice again, you know. At first you do shadowing. I mean, you listen to one thing, and you repeat in the same language what you listen to, 20 seconds after what you hear; right? And then you start translating, I mean, interpreting. And you get used to that. But that is very stressful, that’s true. And if there’s something you don’t understand, you have to be calm enough not to get into this domino effect, da da da da. And really that was hard for me. I have that tendency. And that’s something you really have to avoid when you interpret.
GLEN: So during your language translation work, is that when you began to learn technology?
ROCIO: When I was in my fourth year of college, you know, university, I bought a Braille ‘n Speak. That was my first gadget; right? But when I went to California I took a laptop and a braille display with me. But back then was MS-DOS; right?
ROCIO: No Windows, and no speech. So just braille. And I took a small embosser with me, and I used Optacon to look at my dictionaries. So I’m really old; see? But those devices were great back then. So I was really up to date, you know, with technology. But that was it. Then it was when I went back that I took a course on Windows that was held at ONCE. And after that is when I started working for ONCE. And then that is where I learned everything I know now, you know, or most of what I know now.
GLEN: I always call it ONCE. And I know that’s not...
ROCIO: Yeah, ONCE’s fine. Yeah.
GLEN: They operate the lottery for the whole country; right? The lottery has nothing to do with blindness, other than the fact that it funds their work for people who are blind. Is that how it works?
ROCIO: Exactly. Yes. They sell the lottery to whoever wants to buy it.
GLEN: You were a software tester?
ROCIO: This is what I was told; you know? Someone called me, said we need a user to test application, corporate applications. I said, “But I don’t – I know nothing. I just took a course on Windows. I’m a linguist.” You know? “No, no, doesn’t matter, you just have to be a user. You don’t need to know anything about computers. Don’t worry. We’ll teach you what you need.” What do I say, okay, okay. I took that job. And it was like a six-month trial thing. And, well, after those six months I probably did something right. I don’t know what that was. But they hired me.
So I stayed there for 10 years. And when they learned that I could speak English, they started giving me stuff that had to do with English, you know, translation. And when they first started translating, localizing JAWS into Spanish, Dave Baker came to teach us back then. And I was chosen to be part of that course, and I was very happy because I had been there for a year only. And so they gave me help. Then they gave me some scripts to localize. And as I learned to do one thing or the other, they started giving me stuff to do. And I ended up doing almost all the localization except for the installer, you know, back at ONCE, you know, back then. Yeah, that was fun.
GLEN: I have no recollection of this. I’m sure Dave remembers.
ROCIO: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Oh, he does. He does. This was ‘99, probably. Yeah, ‘99. Because then in November ‘99 a colleague of mine from ONCE and me went to Florida, to Orlando, to a meeting, what was that called, AT, AT...
ROCIO: ATIA. Yeah. And that is when I met you, Glen.
GLEN: Yes, I remember that. I didn’t remember it was ATIA, but I remembered it was somewhere around the year 2000.
GLEN: So jump ahead 10, 15 years. We’re doing Spanish localization in-house, and you work for us, which is sort of the full circle discussion. What really goes into making JAWS work in Spanish? Or any other language, for that matter.
ROCIO: I think it’s a very special process; you know? Which I really like because when you talk to freelance translators, they have no context. They don’t use the application they translate. The results may be good. I can’t say they’re not. But is very different. If you use the application, or you know the application because you work in-house, or you have the application installed on your computer, the story is completely different. You know what things are for. And in principle the result of the localization should be better because this means you have to translate help.
But in order to translate help, you have to go into the menu, write the keystroke that is used in Spanish instead of the English keystroke, say the terms you are using in the interface. All that is not always correct in other software that I’ve seen. And so it means localizing the messages in the scripts, changing keystrokes when they are Windows keystroke, and using the ones that Microsoft uses or the application uses for Spanish. Because that changes many times. Changing window names that just uses to check on something.
And this is not just regular translation. It’s not like translating documents. It’s a much more fun process, more complicated. And it’s very, very detailed. If you write the wrong Windows name, a script is not going to work. And users can come to you and say, “Hey, this is not working.” And this has happened to me, and I think it has happened to all localizers. We try that that doesn’t happen very often. But it may happen to us because we make a mistake. So we are responsible for script operation in our languages; right?
GLEN: Do you use braille exclusively? Or do you combine braille and speech?
ROCIO: Braille and speech. My main source of confidence is braille. I always read what I wrote. But speech is there. Sometimes I turn my speech off when it bothers me a bit. But I do have both. Because actually I also need to listen to DOS messages. It’s my job because I do know that most user, many users use speech. So I have to take care of speech, too.
GLEN: What caused you to decide to get a guide dog?
ROCIO: When I was young, I didn’t like dogs that much. I think my mom is afraid of dogs, or used to be. And she gave that to me somehow. Not that I was really afraid of dogs, but I had never really been close to a dog. And it was ignorance more than – so, yeah. Not that I disliked dogs; right? But I had a friend, a childhood friend, who kept telling me, “Rocio, you should get a guide dog. You should get a guide dog.” And back then there was no school in Spain. I said, “No, no, no, I don’t know how this is done. I have no idea.”
And one summer I had been to England actually just to improve my English. I was in college already. I was 21. And this boy kept telling me, “You should get a guide dog.” I said, “I don’t know.” And then I came to Madrid to take a course on probably WordPerfect or something like that. And a girl who was there told me, “Oh, you know what, I’m going to get a guide dog.” I say, “Oh, really. How are you going to do it?” And she told me what to do because we had to go to Michigan actually to get a dog from the U.S. This was September. And in December I was traveling to Michigan, and I got my first dog, Ginger. She was the dog that changed my life, absolutely.
GLEN: How did it change?
ROCIO: When I was that age I was really shy. Really, really shy. Very self-conscious all the time. I tended to exclude myself from things just in case I was going to bother someone; just in case I was going to be different, and people were going to see me different. So my dog opened doors for me because I’m sure, if I hadn’t had a dog, I wouldn’t have traveled to California to study because I was with someone. I was not alone. It was still hard for me, right, because I was still the same person. Only I had a dog, and that helped me a lot. But, yeah, in that regard dogs have changed my life because somehow I could hide in my dog. And from that place, I could start getting out of my shell, you know, because my dog was there to protect me somehow. Not protect me physically, of course also, but mentally; right? I felt I had like a shield with my dog.
GLEN: Did you find that your dog opened doors for you in terms of other people? Like, you know, someone commenting on your dog, and that starts a conversation that turns into something else?
ROCIO: Not really because I’m not that kind of person. Well, if you talk to me, I answer. But, I mean, I’m not – I’m not going to start conversations or, you know, like people know everybody in their neighborhood, and they know all the dogs, and they know all the dog owners in the world. You know, 30 years later, I’m still not that person; right? So I’m not going to change and be completely different. But it’s true that it opens doors, even if it is for you to feel more relaxed, which is what happened to me. Right? So that really helped me.
GLEN: What are your other life passions?
ROCIO: Languages, in a way, because English, I like English, but it’s for my job. But after English I learned German, when I was younger. And not so long ago I learned French, just for pleasure. And I really like both of those languages, you know. And my next language is Polish, but that probably when I retire because that’s a difficult one. So we’ll see. But, I mean, languages are pleasure for me. And I read braille and audio in English, French, and German. For years I haven’t read translations of books written in those languages. And reading in the original language is – to me it’s beautiful. I mean, when I see something it’s beautifully written, of course probably I cannot really appreciate it as fully as in my own language. But I do think, now I have the knowledge of the languages I speak, is enough to understand when something is beautifully written. And that’s a real pleasure to me.
And then my other big passion is music. Well, apart from dogs, but that’s a different story, you know. Yeah. It’s music. I learned to play the piano when I was little. I went to music school officially for many years. I stopped somewhere during college years because it was like too much, and I knew that was not going to be my career. And it was just for pleasure. And I stopped playing the piano for quite a few years. I had never – I didn’t play a single note. And I said, well, I don’t have time for this. Enough. Then it was when I started really enjoying music, when I stopped learning it, I mean, when it stopped being a duty somehow because everything you learn you have to put effort into. So this is when I started listening to other pianists or orchestras.
And I’ve talked to piano teachers, and I say, why did this happen to me, that I started to enjoy music really when I stopped learning? They say, oh, it makes sense, you know, that was not really something mandatory anymore, it was just something to enjoy. And this happened to me. And after that, somehow I felt sorry that I had stopped playing, and I started playing again by myself. And then for quite a few years I was thinking, you know, I should get a teacher because by myself I’ve studied enough that I can do things, but I don’t have so much knowledge. And I know that with a teacher I would make much more progress. And this is what I did a year and a half ago, and it has really worked. And now I can play pieces that I would have thought impossible for me to play two years ago, so.
GLEN: That’s really good. I do know, by the way, that you seem to have a passion for a particular pianist. And I can’t say you followed him around the world, but you have followed him, have you not, in order to go see him perform?
ROCIO: Oh, yeah. In Europe, yes. He is a Polish pianist. He lives in Switzerland. His name is Krystian Zimerman.
[Krystian Zimerman recording as podcast background music]
ROCIO: The first time I heard him, like almost 30 years ago, it was like piano love at first sight. I said, “This is what I want. This is the way I would play if I could.” You know? And there was such a big, huge connection. It was – it’s hard to explain. I don’t know what that is. It’s like every single note he plays is the way I like it. And in some way that I say, when you listen to a pianist, and you have some knowledge, not that you are there judging, but in a way you tend to judge a bit, or you listen, and you say, uh, no. I don’t like the way you played that phrase. No, I didn’t like that. Or that is beautiful. But with this guy, it’s like I sit there, okay, and I say, take me wherever you want to take me today because the way you’re going to play, I know it’s going to work. And that’s a very, very amazing sensation; you know? And this happened to me with this guy.
And that is why, when he’s played in Paris, I’ve been there. It was like an excuse to travel, too, you know, not just for him. But I’ve been to Switzerland to listen to him, to Germany several places, to Paris. And even last year, during the lockdown, he was going to play in Strasbourg the five Beethoven concertos. And I was going to travel there with some friends, and this was canceled. So, bah, we couldn’t do it. But that’s life.
GLEN: It’s been great having you on the podcast. I’ve been meaning to do it ever since I started hosting a little over a year ago. And things happen. But better late than never. Thanks so much for being willing.
ROCIO: Thank you.
GLEN: That’s going to do it for FSCast 199. Turns out Episode 200 is going to be the replay of the May 27th FSOpenLine. That’ll be in this feed around the 10th of June. I’m Glen Gordon. Thanks for listening.