Sunday, April 25, 2021

The English Native Speakers Are Missing Out

I read on interview this week. Already a few years old interview focused on asking Mervi Hyvönen, then about to retire with Kela, the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, about her career. 

Mervi started working with testing in 1973.  The first software she tested was using punch cards as input mechanism for the program and the data. Before retiring, she tested software in the same organization on five different decades.

The really interesting piece in the article was her description of their approach to testing: Kela has been long known to be holding space for great exploratory testing. She describes they were doing exploratory testing before the first messages from across the seas reached Finland and gave it a new name. 

Those of us aware of history of exploratory testing, may remember the term was coined by Cem Kaner in 1984, and mentioned in his Testing Computer Software 1st edition in 1988. He did not invent it, he coined it - he saw others in addition to his organizations doing it, and he gave it a name. It got down to testing history as the way product companies in Silicon Valley tested. It was also the way the pioneering companies in Finland tested. And I am pretty sure Finland is not the only corner of world erased from the history in this case.

When conferences seek great speakers for conferences, non-native English speakers are often secondary. 

When we read research, the shared research language is English. And we know that a lot of scientific work of the past was written in German, and that the Russian scientific community still publishes heavily in their native language. 

When I chose to start speaking and later blogging, I started first with Finnish. Finns learn better when the material is in their own language. But the two languages authorship was taking a toll on my contents, and I later shifted. 

When Agile Manifesto came about, I had already a few years in researching "lightweight software development methods". 

When Exploratory Testing as term started show up in Finland, I had already been doing it. 

The appearance of information in the world is very English language centric, and it creates a significant bias. 

I don't want Mervi, the pioneer of Exploratory Testing in Finland, be forgotten. Her organization grew to hundreds to testers, and those testers took testing as they knew it forward to other organizations. Local companies creating professionals who moved around made testing here what it is today, not reading a few articles in English but applying the in Finnish. 

You all just don't know about it as long as the only language you read is English. As long as the only conversations you have are in English. And even when we don't know something exists, it very well might.