Code-switching: How I became a translator for linguists and programmers


In 2014, I was recruited to work as a technical writer and UX consultant on an academic research toolkit.  Together with an amazing CS team, we exceeded stakeholder expectations, presented at symposiums, and traveled to Puerto Rico to share our work. The result was the Digital Director-Matcher Toolkit, DDMT for short.


The DDMT team was comprised of five people: project manager, two programmers, a bilingual consultant, and myself. My role was to translate the team’s efforts into attractive, comprehensive, and simple materials for two symposiums and a presentation at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. After meeting the team, I met with the software developers weekly and began learning the ins and outs of the web app. My deliverables included an administrators’ manual, README, Prezi, PowerPoint, and poster.

Shannon Bischoff Ph. D was the idea-man and project manager of this scientific web app toolkit. Dr. Bischoff recruited team members and met with us to review iterations of the app and written materials.

For more information on the code, contact Max Fowler, the lead software programmer on the project. Max graduated from Purdue University Fort Wayne with an M.S. Applied Computer Science degree in 2017. He is now a Continuing Lecturer at IPFW. Max specializes in engineering AI programs. (I really can’t overemphasize how much of an asset he is to any team.)

David Bohan, co-programmer, now works at Aptera as a software engineer.

Braxton Martin, bilingual consultant, currently works as a substitute teacher at Fort Wayne Community Schools


CeIBA, a group of researching linguists to which Bischoff belonged, sought to create the toolkit to study and record code-switching in bilingual speech. Put more simply, the DDMT was created to find out when and what causes a person who can speak Spanish and English to switch from one language to the other in a conversation.

Bischoff and CeIBA acted as the team’s primary stakeholders.

To accomplish this goal, the web application had customizable game play features for a variety of controlled experiments. CeIBA and volunteer test subjects used the DDMT as administrators and players respectively. Given a checkerboard, pieces, audio call functionality, and a text box, players were instructed to interact. Some would be given a script in the text window, written by administrators, others were part of a blind experiment. The toolkit recorded game play and both sides of the audio call for the administrators to review.

Admins had the ability to customize the players’ game play experience to stimulate various cognitive behaviors. The players’ UX had to remove cognitive bias to ensure a controlled environment. For example, numeric player sign-ins were used to ensure that a language bias wasn’t created before beginning the linguistic code-switching experiment. Also, no words appeared on player screens outside of the admin-written chat window.

What makes the DDMT special is that it can be customized for studies in other fields, such as psychology and sociology.


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