Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

GV Summit Delhi ‘06 Session Three: Language and Translation

David Sasaki has put together a remarkable session on translation at the Global Voices conference. It begins with a conversation led by John “Feng 37″ Kennedy in Chinese between the half dozen Chinese speakers in the room, then a five-person conversation in Swahili, led by Ndesanjo Macha, then a lively conversation in Hindi involving about a quarter of the room. David observes that, during each conversation, he saw about half a dozen people smiling, engaged in the conversation, and everyone else ignoring the larger conversation. This is obviously a useful metaphor for some of the challenges we're seeing at Global Voices – how do we amplify, contextualize and translate conversations from all the languages represented online?

Portnoy Zheng leads a project to translate articles from Global Voices into Chinese. His reason for launching the project was a sense that it was very hard to get relavent international news in the Taiwanese mainstream media. He began translating with a story from Indonesia on Global Voices, talking about a plane crash caused by overloading a plane with durian which killed a number of Indonesian politicians (Durian is an inherently funny fruit, which may explain why Portnoy felt compelled to provide a pan-Asian translation.) After translating about 100 posts, he met Rebecca in Taiwan and decided to formalize the project. There's now a site – maintained by about 10 translators – which translates a subset of Global Voices articles. There's no clear guidelines to which ones are included – usually posts that talk about China or north Asia, and often articles about controversy in the Middle East, which Portnoy feels don't get covered closely enough in Chinese media.

David points out that Global Voices currently translates only a small subset of the languages of the blogosphere – we translate content from Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, French, Arabic, Persian, Mandarin, Russian and occasionally Serbian and Ukrainian. In other countries, we neccesarily misrepresent the local conversation, showing off only a few people in the country who happen to be bilingual. He points us to a recent blog post titled “Africa, Global Voices y el anglocentrismo cool”, which argues that if you don't speak English, you don't show up on global voices. David's looking for ways to turn critique like this into involvement – what would be involved with getting the author of this post to help translate GV into Spanish and translate Spanish posts on GV?

David starts outlining some of the questions we're facing in dealing with translation on GV:
– How do we encourage blogger translation? How do we get more people doing this?
– Do we need permission from bloggers before we start translating their work?
– Should we translate non-English comments into English to encourage conversation?
– Should we let people translate all our posts, using the Indymedia model which allows people to click a tab, choose a language and offer their own translation?

This last question raises the issue “Why isn't everything put onto the site also put into MediaWiki, letting people translate on the fly?” The simple answer: maybe it should be – we've not spent enough time thinking through how to making the site translatable. One of our community editors points out that we have to make very careful decisions about what we translate – it's an editorial choice as much as the stories we select for the site.

Two suggestions that got widespread applause and enthusiasm:
– finding a way to reward volunteer translators, perhaps with Amazon Rewards dollars or other currency
– making it possible for people to offer their reading of GV posts in translation from a link on the site.

6 comments

  • […] A l’espera de que pugin la continuaci

  • […] Ayer fue el segundo día de reflexion del Global Voices. En un ambiente relajado, abierto y con humor fueron saliendo de todos los temas de preocupación. Debemos traducir los comentarios de los post que citamos? Debemos avisarles de que los estamos posteando y traducir el artículo? Como podemos llegar a mas lenguas? Hay límites éticos que probablemente solo se resuelvan por consenso. No hay otra manera, y no hay reglas. Es criterio y cuidado por el otro. Por no hacer daño, por no meterlo en problemas, para que no le bajen el blog, para que los blogeros puedan usar su nombre y no tener que usar seudónimos. Esto esta lejos de convivimos en Chile, pero en Asia central es un graaan tema. Medio oriente también, como en Egipto. […]

  • Blogrolling: G…

    Let’s keep moving down the alphabet. Let me know what is missing from this list………

  • […] While waiting the upload of the rest of the third session, where I hoope to find the answer to the question I made, I take Ethan’s summary where appears the comment on David’s post David points out that Global Voices currently translates only a small subset of the languages of the blogosphere – we translate content from Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, French, Arabic, Persian, Mandarin, Russian and occasionally Serbian and Ukranian. In other countries, we neccesarily misrepresent the local conversation, showing off only a few people in the country who happen to be bilingual. He points us to a recent blog post titled “Africa, Global Voices y el anglocentrismo cool”, which argues that if you don’t speak English, you don’t show up on global voices. David’s looking for ways to turn critique like this into involvement – what would be involved with getting the author of this post to help translate GV into Spanish and translate Spanish posts on GV? […]

  • Ethan

    I would like to offer the dotSUB tools to Global Voices to allow videos to be subtitled into any language using your volunteer translator network. The videos can be embedded on GV site, or any other site for that matter.

    To see the possible impact of something like this, we just finished subtitling into 67 languages a film about Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank called “Banker to the Poor” in conjunction with Ashoka and his recent Nobel Peace Prize. Many of the languages were remote languages normally outside the mainstream of traditional media – you can see the list of languages at

    http://dotsub.com/yunus/banker

    when the film starts playing hit the pull down menu at the top of the player to see the list of languages. You can also see the film with our current player embedded at the Ashoka site, which is how I think it should look at Global Voices, at

    http://ashoka.org/100translations

    scroll down to “Banker to the Poor” – and once the film is playing, hit the up/down arrow at the bottom of the player to see it in all the languages.

    We would be very happy to start a pilot program with one or two videos and see what happens.

    Happy New year

  • […] everyone could have think of. Lingua is born with the power and diligence of those great people I met in Delhi–Ethan, Rebecca, David, Alice…etc.–They make my dream come true. I love Lingua as […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.