What technical writers want you to know

The article is based on interesting things I noticed on my daily job, working as a technical writer in an engineering department. Read the full story What Technical Writers Want You to Know.

Your technical writing team is on a never-ending mission to gather, organize, and present information for diverse readers. This is a challenge if, like me, you’re working on a team that creates documentation for enterprise developers. The team extends its expertise far beyond the common misconception that technical writers sit all day in a room and write. We gather information, keep track of the projects, we learn about new technologies, take notes, file bugs, and participate in many Sprint Reviews. We code our own publishing tools and develop prototypes, talk to dozens of developers, product owners, product managers, and end-users. When we write, it’s usually a smaller chunk of our time.

  1. Don’t correct grammar or punctuation.
  2. Pay attention to technical accuracy.
  3. If you write your own drafts, keep them short and informative.
  4. Don’t forget that your tech writers might also be subject matter experts.
  5. Keep in mind that documentation is part of the product.
  6. Appreciate the fact that you don’t have to write end-user documentation.

Impressive, free (and dated) JLU’s language learning resourcess

The Joint Language University (JLU) provides free downloadable language courses. I have stumbled upon them while searching for the Portuguese learning resources, and I was pleased to discover more languages.

The JLU Free Language Courses

An graphic elements in a dated JLU language course
A picture in a dated JLU language course

If you point your browser to the JLU’s address you will open a page with the following language courses: Albanian, Belarusan, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Egyptian Arabic, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hungarian, Indonesian, Iraqi Arabic, Korean, Maranao, MSA, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Syrian Arabic, Tausug, Thai, and Vietnamese.

The courses vary in quality and extent. For example, the Portuguese course contains several books and audio resources, while the Serbian is much smaller and lacks audio. The Russian resources are extensive. The Arabic courses are impressive, with EgyptianIraqiSyrian and MSA. But, there is a catch.

Free courses, but dated language courses

Portuguese course sample page
A Portuguese course from 1960s, created on a mechanical typewriter

The good thing about the JLU free resources is that they are, well, free. Not so good about them is that they are very dated and, form the point of view of a general learner or speaker, overly military (due to its origin and purpose).

Some of the materials are from 1960s. For example, the Portuguese course was created in 1968 (the PDF is scanned mechanically typewritten content, and the MP3 is converted from tapes). The Portuguese language underwent several orthographic reforms in the meantime, which the JLU course renders more of a research material than a learning material.

I assume that “dated” is a relative term for some languages, but it is up to a learner (or mentor) to give the final judgement. However, a half of a century is a lot in terms of a current and relevant learning material. The methods in language teaching have also been updated since 60s.

The JLU language courses listed in this text are not modern, but they can be useful to linguists and language enthusiasts (even though some courses are incomplete). You can have a look at their other public materials here, but be ready for not so friendly web interface.

How to pronounce “th”

For THIN /θɪn/

  1. Put the tip of your tongue slightly out between your upper teeth.
  2. Put your hand on your larynx (in a sec we’ll see why).
  3. Practice just passing the air current and saying “ssssss”. Since this sound is voiceless, you should not feel vibrations on your hand.
  4. Now, while still “biting” your tongue say /t/. You’ll hear a mixture of /s/ and /t/. Repeat, but make sure there are no vibrations.
  5. Congratulations, that was /θ/.

For THE /ðə/

All as above, EXCEPT:

  • Practice first with /z/.
  • Pronounce /d/ and, very important:
  • You should feel the vibrations, because this sound has a lot of energy.
  • That was /ð/!

This is my reply to a question on English Language & Usage on Stackexchange. I hope it might help other people.