[Series] Open Software, Open Content, Open Translation Part III

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of open source software and open content, let’s take a closer look at what brought all of the participants together in Croatia: translation.

I normally flinch at the word ‘movement’, but I’ll make an exception here: the open source software and open content movements are incredibly international. Ubuntu, the most popular distribution of the Linux operating system was packaged and released in Africa. It is used by millions of individuals and groups across the world. Microsoft Windows is available in 24 different languages – Ubuntu in over 200. If you are a Xhosa wanting a computer that works in your native language, there is only one option – you must go open source.

Likewise, the free culture/open content movement is (not surprisingly) strongest outside of the US. Some of the most outstanding open content comes from Brazil and right here in Eastern Europe. Creators of both open software and open content want to see their work spread widely. Once you make a great Internet browser or a great short film you want it to be made available to the entire world. And that means translating it into as many languages as possible. Lo Qué tú quiras oír is one of my favorite short films in any language. Unfortunately, it is only available in Spanish so I’m not able to share it with my friends who don’t speak Spanish. However, because the director Guillermo Zapata released the film under an attribution, share-alike, non-commercial Creative Commons license, I can download the movie from Internet Archive, add English subtitles to it, and upload it to my own site so long as I give Guillermo credit, don’t make any money off of it, and publish it under the same license. (And, yes, I do plan on doing this as soon as I find a few hours.)

Content, be it video, audio, text, or photography, reveals both the universality of what it is to be human as well as the distinct differences between each culture, country, neighborhood, and family. We can all relate to the suffering of the protagonist of Lo Qué tú quiras oír. We’ve all been heartbroken. We’ve all tortured ourselves to try to find the secrets of moving on. Unfortunately though, the barrier of language often obstructs the obviousness of just how much we have in common and instead exacerbates our subtle differences.

While the American publishing industry continues to increasingly ignore works of translation, and while foreign films are still more of an acting-out of identity (leather boots, vintage jeans, beret) than an appreciation of good film, new tools and new media now present us with what could be the golden age of multilingual content and communication.

Until this meeting, there was little documentation and knowledge-sharing between the various translation groups in the open content/ open software movement. Who translates WordPress to make it available in so many languages? And how do they do it? Why are so many volunteers compelled to translate Global Voices’ content for free? What is their workflow? Could we all make our individual translations better by working together?

In the next and final post, I’ll take a look at what tools already exist to assist in the translation of both software and content. I’ll also examine some of the most common obstacles that prevent a smooth workflow for translators. And finally, I’ll look ahead to a few new tools and projects that aim to make life easier for translators.

1 Comment

  1. I should be paying more attention to my bloglist … Just to comment on open source … I’ve used Kubuntu (the KDE variant of Ubuntu — desktop environment change only) for over 2 years now. When I first started it, it was confusing, updating was a mess, peripheral support was sketchy at best, and doing simple things from burning a cd to watching a DVD was problematic. Now … Linux in general and Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu/Edubuntu have come a long way. I spend 95% of my time on my laptop on the Kubuntu side while the WinXP partition is generally only brought on line when I have stuff from work that requires certain things still not quite available elsewhere. As more and more software and access to platforms becomes internet based, Linux and other open source software platforms and programs will have a true fighting chance against monopolistic proprietary software such as Windows and Office. People simply want things to work … which is why the translations into multiple languages has helped Ubuntu and it’s variants take off much much faster elsewhere in the world other than the U.S. When it comes right down to it, most people use their pcs for internet access, multimedia, and office productivity. Of those three things, the only thing still lagging some what on the Linux side is Office. But it’s fast closing the gap.

    Open source provides choice. The ability to customize.

    And just as a point of note, regardless of their percentage of market share, Apple is as closely sunk into the proprietary mode as Microsoft ever was. They simply tied the software and hardware together. Which … btw … is what eventually was the biggest contributor to Microsoft taking over the desktop world.

    But I digress ….

    Reply

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