I am a Global Mentor for WordPress Translations

Tor Bjorn Fjellner banner

Tor-Björn Fjellner

Today we are going to conduct the interview of Tor-Björn Fjellner from the Greater Barcelona Metropolitan Area. He is a Consultant, Change Project Manager in IT & Telecom.

He mentioned that he settled for wordpress when he was looking to expand the posts in multiple languages. Also, he has been a core organizer team for WordCamp Stockholm in 2017.


I grew up in Sweden when computers was still something rare that received its data and instructions via perforated cards.

The computer era took off with me as a bystander when I was a teenager. I was also interested in radio communication, electronics, languages (especially Russian), singing, and spending time in nature.

My university degree was a personally hand-picked combination of Russian language, Statistics, Commercial Law and Computer Science.

I traveled to various places in the Soviet Union roughly once a year, studied half a year in Moscow 1987 and then worked there 1989-1990, right during the “Perestroika”.

My professional career took off with Ericsson – I worked as a Project Manager and was in charge of rolling out networks for mobile communication in various parts of Russia and other parts of former USSR.

Q. How did you get to know about WordPress? Share if there is an interesting story.

Ans: Through my career, I’ve worked in a lot of different countries. After I had worked three years in Moscow 2001-2004, I moved to the Arabian Peninsula and started working in Muscat.

I then started blogging (on LiveJournal) about my life in Muscat, mostly for all my Russian friends, so I was doing that in Russian. Later, in 2010, when I wanted to expand my posts into a tri-lingual blog, I settled for WordPress, which was then starting to become “the standard platform”.

I also helped several friends getting started with their own blogs/websites, everything on WordPress. Already then, I expanded/improved the translation of some themes and plugins for my own needs, but also shared the translations with the relevant developers for more people to use.

Around 2015-2016 I started contributing more actively to WordPress, contributing to the Swedish translation, answering most of the support questions in the Swedish support forum, etc.

Q. What’s the most interesting project you have done to date in WordPress? What were your responsibilities?

Ans: It’s very hard to select just ONE thing. I like the possibility for everyone to find their own preferred mix of ways to contribute.

In my case it’s translations to Swedish, mentoring WordPress translations in general, providing general support on the Swedish forum, giving specialized support around internationalization (i18n) and translation/localization (L10n) on the global forums and also helping a bit with moderation on the global forums.

I’m quite proud, though, how three translation editors in a bit more than a month cleared a huge backlog of pending strings (something like 50 k strings!) that in some cases had been dwelling in the system for several years.

As a global mentor for WordPress translations, I have over the years helped hundreds of people to find their way to contributing translations and peer user support with WordPress, so now I have a big network of “virtual friends” all over the world!

Q. Have you ever been to any WordPress meetups or WordCamps? Share your thoughts on WordPress Community.

Ans: I was on the core organizer team for WordCamp Stockholm in 2017. Since I live far from Stockholm, my contributions were more on the online side of things.

I was the one who wrote most of the text in the conference program and other publications leading up to the event. On the organizational part, I spent most of my energy with organizing the contributor day. On the day of the conference itself, I chaired one of our two parallel tracks, so I spent most of the day on stage.

Tor-Björn Fjellner events

It was a fun experience. I so much wanted to go to WordCamp Europe, but now it has been put off twice due to the pandemic – let’s hope it actually happens this year. There are so many people I’d like to meet in person after working virtually side-by-side for years with WordPress.

Q. How does your workstation look like? Can you send us a picture?

Ans: It’s just an ordinary laptop (but, obviously, with extra RAM and the hard drive replaced with and SSD drive), so not much to show 🙂

Q. What interesting feature do you think you would like to see in WordPress and is currently missing?

Ans: It’s long overdue to make WordPress support multilingual sites directly in core. I believe that if a big part of all strategic decisions weren’t made in the US, we would have had this already.

For us people living in Europe and India it’s just something we need almost all the time since everyone here usually is at least bilingual. They either live in a place where several languages are spoken.

Many European countries have several official languages. And even if you live in a place that uses ONLY one language, chances are big that you still want to add an English, French or German version of your site, too.

Q. Out of the current plugins and themes which one do you like the most and why?

Ans: Most of the WordPress projects where I’ve been helping have been helping were hobbyist projects, therefore I’ve almost only used free things.

For several years, I used the Graphene theme a lot, but lately, I’ve mostly been using the standard themes of WordPress (you know, Twenty something…), often slightly modified via a child theme or some small custom plugin.

Q. Any awesome technology you want to share other than WordPress?

Ans: I like technology in general, but mainly as a way of addressing various needs. Over the years, I’ve been quite pragmatic, and used whatever suitable technology happened to be available.

So I’ve been programming in various macro languages of office programs, VBA, Javascript, hacks in .htaccess or CSS… I’m open to different solutions.

Q. Do you like/love what you currently do in WordPress?

Ans: Although I spend a lot of time on WordPress (and yes, I love it), I hardly earn any money there. My “work” side of things has been more about project management in Telecoms and IT, and translation work (English, Russian and Swedish).

I’m actively looking for some interesting WordPress-related work, though. My dream would be a work related with WordPress and where perhaps half of my working time would be earmarked for contributions to WordPress!

Q. Where do you find yourself after 5 years

Ans: Still happily contributing to WordPress, probably I’m going to have some small WordPress-related business of my own. And also getting myself established as a fiction writer.

Q. Share something about your life other than work

Ans: I like writing, singing, traveling, driving, hiking… not necessarily in this order 🙂
It’s amazing how life has changed over the years.

When I grew up, the phone was connected to a jack in the hallway, but now more and more people don’t even have a fixed phone anymore.

Or in 1987, when I traveled in Poland, I sent and received so many telegrams, since even ordinary phones were rare there. But nowadays most countries have discontinued their telegram networks altogether. (Instead, we’re using apps that allow us to make video calls wherever we happen to be…)

Q. To whom you give credit for your success?

Ans: My cousin Bengt-Arne introduced me to electronics when I was a kid. Another cousin, Nicke, showed me Amateur Radio. And now, since more than 30 years, my wife Irina supports me in everything I do.

Tor-Bjorn family

Q. Can you give us some reference for whom we should conduct an interview next and why?

Ans: I’d suggest Ali Darwich, she has had an interesting career and somehow manages to stay positive.

Q. How do you reward yourself?

Ans: Some nice food. A walk in the sun. And listening to good music.

Q. Any suggestion for WordPress beginners?

Ans: Got an idea? Try it. Just make sure to save a backup first, of both your files and (most important) – your database. And don’t be afraid to ask.

Everyone was a beginner at some point and got help from someone else – and they’ll be happy to “give back” by helping you. If you can, try to help other users. That’s a great way to learn more yourself, having fun and getting new friends.

About Sonnal S Sinha

Sonnal S SinhaSonnal S Sinha is a passionate writer as well as WordPress and WooCommerce rockstar who loves to share insights on various topics through his engaging blog posts. He run successful website design and digital marketing company. With 15+ years of experience in WordPress themes development, he strives to inform and inspire readers with his thought-provoking content. He helps thousands small and medium businesses and startups create a unique online presence. Follow Sonnal S Sinha for your regular dose of knowledge and inspiration.