Translation of the M101P course into Spanish

In order to describe the process of translating M101P: MongoDB for Developers into Spanish, we have to go back in time about 11 months. In early December of last year, we started translating the MongoDB documentation (commonly known as the MongoDB Manual), achieving more than 70,000 translated words in six months and drafting a list of conventions for MongoDB (and other technical) terms in Spanish. The 70,000 translated words roughly accounts for 26% of the manual, which is the highest percent translated into any language. By we, I’m referring to Juan Carlos Farah, Jose Carlos García and myself, exchanging many emails and discussing terms cross-dialect normalisations before committing to a final translation. We also received help from other friends, Francisco Fernández de Pedro, a colleague of Jose Carlos, and A. Perez.


Though we knew that translating the documentation was a great contribution to the MongoDB community, we agreed that by translating the material from one of MongoDB University’s courses, we would encourage more Spanish speakers to see the course through to the end. In fact, given that the course is a common starting point for many MongoDB beginners, we wanted to show the community that MongoDB had good Spanish support. So at MongoDB Days NYC, inspired by the positive atmosphere of the conference, Juan Carlos and I approached Andrew Erlichson with the idea. He thought that it would be a great opportunity to expand MongoDB’s reach and was happy to see the initiative come from the community itself. After some initial debate, we decided to translate M101P, which was going to be offered towards the end of the summer, and so the team got to work.

With permission from MongoDB, we hosted the project on GitHub. GitHub plays a very important role because it provides for good file management, streamlined communication and excellent tools to track progress and diffs. Also, it enables us to receive feedback from the community and everyone is welcome to contribute. Our project has been dubbed “Subte”, which actually is a play on words that Juan Carlos came up with. It can stand for “Subterráneo” (“Subway” in Spanish), a homage to New York, where the project was conceived, and sounds a lot like “Subtitles”, which is what the project is about.

The process

The workflow that we used was established naturally, and by that I mean that no one came up with it beforehand, but it became the best way to do things as we progressed. It basically consists of the following:

  1. Each person created an issue and assigned himself a certain number of lessons to translate.
  2. All translations were done in each of our own forks for the lesson that we assigned.
  3. Upon completion, we would send a pull request for each issue.
  4. Before merging the pull request, we would discuss and suggest potential changes.
  5. If necessary, the person who sent the pull request made the changes.
  6. Repeat 3-5 as necessary.
  7. Merge the pull request.

This workflow was done by milestones, with each milestone equivalent to a week of the course. Finally, before delivering the subtitles of a corresponding milestone to MongoDB University, Juan Carlos made a final review of the subtitles to normalize the language and perform minor editorial tasks.

The main benefits that we obtained by performing the translation in the manner described above, were:

  • Better translation quality, since the workflow designed requires that all of us review all of the subtitles.
  • Greater consistency across subtitles by performing a final revision before each weekly submissions.
  • Smoother coordination and workflow, avoiding doing work twice and duplicate assignments.
  • More neutrality by considering multiple dialects and idioms.

Additionally, the whole process was monitored using a Kanban and specifically Huboard, which was great to manage the issues on GitHub. Though the board is now blank, below is a screenshot from when we were working on the first version.



Recently the first version of the subtitle translation has been released! This was the one used during the last round of M101P: MongoDB for developers (September – October 2013). You can find it on GitHub and we would be very grateful to receive any suggestions, comments or pull requests.

We’ve also been participating as teaching assistants in the course forum, so we hope to see you in future offering of M101P or of the other courses!

The next round of this course starts on November 25th.

Acknowledgments to the contributors

José Carlos is from Spain. He joined the team motivated by self-interest after taking the course for DBAs in its first offering. He’s also a contributor for the Fedora project, so we already know he has a lot of discipline and effort in activities for this kind of ecosystems.

Juan Carlos is from Peru, like me, and he kindly accepted an invitation to translate that I published in the MongoDB User Group Peru. He had experience translating texts while studying at Harvard University, so we trust his judgment and purism; so much so that he reviewed this post as well.