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Today on the TechSoup Blog, we discussed Worldwide Lexicon, an ambitious new project seeking to break down language barriers throughout the Internet.
What do you think of the Universal Translator plugin? Do you have any success stories about volunteer translation?
Staff Writer, TechSoup
It's worth revisiting this thread - more and more nonprofits and NGOs are finding a need to make their online material available in at least a language other than English. It's usually because of non-English speakers, or people who are uncomfortable speaking English, among their clients or among their immediate geographic area. It can also be the case where small NGOs have to have their information in the language of their foreign donors.
If you have no other resources, then the online translators linked from this 2009 TechSoup Blog work - to the degree that simple information can be translated in a way that can be understandable by non-English speakers. But to see how well they do - and don't - work, try typing in a sentence into, say, http://www.freetranslation.com and translate it into Spanish, German, French, whatever, and then take the results and use the same tool to translate the phrase BACK into English. Is the sentence still understandable in English?
As for luck with volunteers doing translating - I have had GREAT luck with such, so long as the task is small (a few pages, not an entire book, for instance). I like to recruit at least two people, actually - one to translate and one to read the translation and say if it makes sense or not.
What do others think?
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
Jayne, I love your idea of bringing two recruits on board. It's always a solid idea to double check the work in that way.
Glenn Fajardo of TechSoup Global recently wrote this piece about translation capability for NGOs. It's filled with a wealth of tools, ideas, and reflections regarding this emerging area.
It's worth the full read, but below are a few excerpted highlights (edited for brevity and clarity out-of-context).
Examples of Sharing
Potential Roles for Collaborators
And last but not least: those who can take ownership for enabling people of different role types to actually connect with one another in meaningful ways.
Regarding volunteers, he cites this blog by Ethan Zuckerman, who notes that interested, talented people would be willing to volunteer their time to translation projects with the right opportunities and incentives — an idea that inspired the Global Voices project to translate its work into 20 languages.
Glenn reflects upon the (perhaps somewhat problematic) impulse for NGOs to frame everything in terms of best practices, and invites readers to consider next steps.
Please read the post and feel free to comment back here in the forums.
Michael DeLong | Online Community Manager
I guess it partly depends on what you want translating.
I have a friend who is a translator of technical German.... manuals, specs for electrical and engineering stuff. Increasingly she is being asked to 'look over and polish up' jobs that have been given to a non-specialist translator. Where ever possible she turns these down, they are an attempt to get the work done on the cheap and the time it takes her to bring them up to scratch would have been better spent getting a proper job done in the first place.
The message seems to be that if you have something important or specialised try to get a volunteer who is familiar with that type of stuff.
Techsoup Community Forum Moderator
"they are an attempt to get the work done on the cheap and the time it takes her to bring them up to scratch would have been better spent getting a proper job done in the first place."
I hear that from my friends who work in translation too!
Another thing to consider: while working at the UN, after frequently promoting the idea of online volunteers translating text for NGOs in the developing world, my office got contacted by a professional association of translators who were NOT happy about our promotion of volunteers - free labor that could take away the livelihoods of professionals. They also complained that, while they have strict standards for their members and their work, volunteers do not have such. It was a legitimate concern, and we really watched our language when promoting the idea of promoting volunteers as translators - the reality is that quality is just as important to a nonprofit or NGO as a for-profit business, so having high standards, and recruiting for those standards, is important and appropriate- and it may require an organization to pony up the cash for a professional in order to get the expertise they need, when they need it.
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