1- Brief history
In June 2005 we started a first experiment translating the emails published in the European Social Forum, European Preparation Assembly mailing list. The practical goal was to produce within 24h a translated version of the emails published in the mailing list with the aim of encouraging language diversity in the communications among the different organizations participating in the list. After the success of the first period (see article 361), we launched a second period which should end in December.
2- The means
The participants in the previous period were asked if they wanted to continue with the project in a second period. As more people were needed, a new call for volunteers was made, with special emphasis on translators into Central and East European languages, which had almost no representation in the first period.
The procedure was the same as in the previous period:
Each person picked one day of the week when he/she would connect him/herself to the Webmail server.
Each person on his/her own selected the email he/she wished - published that day, or the day before it - in order to translate it into his/her target language.
Each person was responsible to do the translating and publish it directly in the ESF mailing list (received by more than 700 organizations all around Europe) through our common email address.
Each person was given the information related to all his/her colleagues (emails, languages, day selected and so on) in order to use it freely if needed and to be able to self-regulate the work process or to help each other.
An email was sent to ESF list subscribers at the beginning of the period informing them of the languages they could use in their messages and of the volunteers for the period.
3- The outcomes
114 people put themselves down for the period: 48 professionals, 29 persons with a good experience in translating, 29 occasional translators and 8 first timers.
Possible Source Languages: 15 languages - AR, CA, DE, EL, EN, EO, ES, FR, HU, IT, LA, NL, OC, PT, RU
Possible Target Languages : 15 languages - AR, BG, CA, DE, EL, EN, EO, ES, EU, FR, IT, MK, PL, PT, RU
Translated messages (from mid-September to mid-January): 225 translations were sent of around 500 original emails published, which means that most people didn’t translate one email every week.
A little questionnaire was sent to the Team during the experiment in order to evaluate our own work. Only 19 people sent their answers, so the result is not very representative. It appears from it:
NUMBER OF MESSAGES TRANSLATED
Only almost 50% of the volunteers translated one email every week.
Less than 3% translated only few messages due to several reasons: the system was difficult to handle, there were no messages in their language combinations, work, health problems or having to care for their children.
The rest of the volunteers translated between 5 and 8 messages in the whole period, mostly because of their work.
Most people found the instructions easy to follow, especially after a second explanatory email, however, many didn’t find it easy to select messages they could translate among all the different messages in the webmail (original messages, translations, and forwarded original messages indicating languages that had already been translated).
Many volunteers complained about technical problems that prevented them from logging in or sending their translations. These problems were more often at the end of the period.
The communication, involving a message to explain the way of working, the sending of the information details of the whole team and some other information was considered helpful.
Only one of the volunteers tried to contact a couple of colleagues, but she got no answer. Most people didn’t feel the need to contact other volunteers.
Around 50% of the volunteers read translations made by their colleagues. Most people thought the quality of the translations was good. However, there are people who have translated into a language that is not their mother tongue and, therefore, their translations don’t have the quality we should strive for. Quality is a very important issue and there is no reason why one should translate into a language other than his/her mother tongue, especially if that language is one the languages with the highest number of native translators, such as Spanish, French, English or Portuguese in this period.
There was one problem related with the fact that an original message hadn’t been written in its author’s mother tongue. The author wrote in English and a translation was made into French, a language he could understand. He complained because the translator had understood something completely different than what he had meant. Bearing in mind the fact that his message wasn’t written by a native speaker of English, he could have been more understanding. As many of the ESF list participants write in a foreign language, in case of doubts or lack of sense of the original, contacting the author of the email we’re translating might be a good idea.
In this second period, a new system that allowed for the translation of the same original email into different languages was put into practice. The system involved forwarding the original email to our webmail account adding the language (or languages) that message shouldn’t be translated into to the subject line. Unfortunately, some people didn’t follow the exact instructions and at least a couple of messages were translated twice into the same language. In addition, the number of messages in the webmail was increased due to this system, making it more difficult for people to select emails to translate. This is something that should try to be solved for the next period.
4- What is next?
a) Finalize this report ending this second period.
This document is proposed to everyone involved in this experiment during one week, in order to finalize it and make all the needed changes. Then (the first days of February) it will be published in the Babels website.
b) Starting a new period of work ending in April.
All volunteers participating to the previous work period will be asked if they want to continue with this project or discontinue it during the third period. If needed a new call for volunteers will be issued through the Transtrad general database. This call can target very specific needed languages for example. The volunteers for the third period will draft it if needed according to the assessment of the situation.
Some of us shall volunteer for the next period in order to be facilitator of the team and will be responsible to propose a report in order to end this third period in April.
We propose so far to continue this way of working together to commit him/herself to the Project Team for a precise period of time. People are therefore volunteering only for this precise duration for this precise project. This allows us also to evaluate regularly our work, the issues encountered and the solution found and experimented, and to publish information regularly enabling new people to participate for the next period and so on.