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

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Global Voices translation exchange takes off

Ever wonder how to build and maintain open language corpora? Design a translation memory tool to more efficiently translate large amounts of text across multiple languages? Crowdsource translations of everything from a haiku to an involved literary text? Ever thought about how to translate video or audio content on the fly? If you did, you might have been at Open Translation Tools in Amsterdam last week. For a group of Global Voices translators, authors, and staff these are vital questions; we met there to discuss and launch our latest project, investigating how we might design and support an online translation exchange community.

We spent three days working with the OTT09 crowd discussing open translation, together with technologists, translators, and content providers. See Ethan Zuckerman's summary article for details, delve into the OTT09 wiki for notes on the sessions, or read the brand-new FLOSS manual on open translation tools, that was authored during a five-day “book sprint” that took place after the conference. We followed OTT09 with another two days brainstorming – defining the questions and agenda for the translation exchange research.

OTT09 group photo, tired but happy, image courtesy of itzpapalotl

OTT09 group photo, tired but happy, image courtesy of itzpapalotl

Perhaps the most exciting part of launching a new project is the opportunity to work with new colleagues, and to run the research we've found some very talented people with diverse and complementary skills. We're very happy to welcome Marc Herman into the GV community as the program manager for the project. Marc comes to us with a long history as a freelance writer, author, and editor, speaker of Bahasa Indonesian, Spanish, and student of Catalan. His most recent post is as foreign editor for True/Slant. He will be working to include diverse perspectives into how GV might approach the exchange. His area of research will focus on the demand side questions – who might need the services of a translation exchange? How might users find content they want? How might they contribute content for translation? How do identify audiences who need consistent flows of content from other languages?

Marc will be joined in the research by two people already active in the Global Voices community, Bernardo Parrella and Leonard Chien. Bernardo is currently the Lingua Italian editor, as well as an accomplished translator of numerous books from English to Italian, with a focus on technology, new media, and social change. He has considerable experience with online translation tools and technology as well as with translation communities, and will drive research on appropriate technology platforms, possible technology partners, and imagining a helpful and welcoming online environment for participating translators. Leonard is a co-director of Lingua, GV's translation community, which currently translates GV content into over 15 languages. Leonard will work on community aspects of an exchange, as well as putting his love of statistics and analysis to good use.

Marc, Bernardo, and Leonard will co-author a blog to serve as the hub for ideas, discussions, notes, musings, and article drafts. The blog may lead to a more formal research paper, but the process of how ideas for an exchange become elaborated, and broad participation in its creation are crucial to creating a project that has inclusion and community as core values. The Global Voices wiki is the current home for brainstorming on the exchange. That site won't go away, and we will be pulling the best of content on the wiki into the blog.

If you're interested in the exchange and wondering how to engage, the simplest way is to post a comment on the blog. There you'll also find our research agenda, updates, opportunities to contribute, and preliminary findings, as well as occasional photos of our favorite animals, people and objects, such as Marc's dog Paio, who is in the running to become the exchange mascot. (go to project blog to see image!)

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