Spotlight on Translation Volunteers

After the spotlight on the Translation committee, it’s now time for our volunteer translators to shine.

Translators need to be highly inventive because many English fannish terms don’t have a handy equivalent in their language (and that’s not even counting the brand-new usages that were invented for the Archive of Our Own). Here are some examples of how OTW translators deal with this challenge:

Spanish: Inventing new words

When it comes to non-existing equivalents, the very adjective fannish is a case in point. Instead of rephrasing sentences, like the German team did, the Spanish team adopted a brand-new word coined in a section of Spanish fandom: fandomero. Neat! Here’s a usage example: Lo que creemos [Spanish].

German: Incorporating feedback

When it came to translating the unique concept of “orphaning”, the German team took the feedback on the English term into account. Some Archive users had expressed their unease with the negative connotation of the word “orphan”, and because of the flexibility of German verbs compared to English ones, we could pick a less negative compound verb. Instead of our initial favourite, the vivid verb “auswildern” (“release into the wilds”) we ultimately agreed on the more positive “freisetzen” (literally: “set free”).

Colourful word art on white background: The word “orphan” sits amid a jumble of German words in different colours and sizes, of which “auswildern” and “freisetzen” are the most prominent

[alt text: Colourful word art on white background: The word “orphan” sits amid a jumble of German words in different colours and sizes, of which “auswildern” and “freisetzen” are the most prominent.]

Finnish: Staying grammatical

Even for established fannish concepts, there’s frequently no existing translation.

While German and Spanish often solve this by borrowing English terms like “vidding” wholesale, Finnish grammar does not allow for this degree of integration. Because of the way Finnish words are inflected, our translators created the fresh composite “fanivideo” for “vidding”. (Here’s an example: Fanivideoprojektit [Finnish].)

These are just a few examples of the kind of linguistic creativity our translators need. If this sort of language nerdery appeals you, drop us a note! We would love to have you on our team. In our experience, it’s low-level, but relatively steady work. You don’t need to be a professional translator, either – a native grasp of the language is enough, and we use a beta system to help smooth things out.

Our Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and Japanese teams are recruiting in particular, but we’re looking for more translators or beta readers for all our teams. We’ll also gladly help you pioneer a language not mentioned!

Simplified Chinese

Spotlight on Translation

Today we’d like to shine the spotlight on the Translation committee. While you have probably seen the fruits of the translator teams’ work on the OTW website (and coming soon, the Archive of Our Own!), the Translation committee is the one pulling the strings in the background. Its three members hele, Tonje and Julia are responsible for organising and aiding the translator teams.

“Language nerdery” is part of the committee’s everyday operations. The committee members help translator teams solve language puzzles (quick, what’s the equivalent of a “3rd District Court of Appeals” in Finnish? Wikipedia to the rescue!) and liaise with other OTW committees, such as asking Legal to clarify US-American concepts or discussing the intricacies of our multilingual website with Webmasters. We’ll expand on the creative aspect of actual translation work in an upcoming spotlight — although all committee members share a fascination with language, actual translating is not part of their job description. Rather, the priority for the committee is keeping the teams up to date and organised.

The committee calls their project management style “creative improvisation”. From the start they’ve had to fit processes and tools to a unique project that’s ever-growing in both scale and scope (eleven languages on our website, and the committee has bigger plans yet). It’s definitely exciting, but it comes with a certain amount of trial and error, which the translator teams have been graciously putting up with.

At the top, circles of collaboration with other committees - Web committee is independent with information and work coming from Translation committee; International Outreach committee is overlapping with Translation, also with an arrow of information and work coming from Translation committee. At the center, a large circle representing the Translation committee, with explanatory text stating 'liaises with language teams'. The circle holds the three committee staff and their multi-volunteer teams. At the bottom of the graphic is the flow of the creation of documentation, represented with an arrow from the Translation committee to screenshots of the OTW's online translation tools.
A simplified graphic of the committee’s modus operandi. Please note: this figure doesn’t accurately represent number or size of teams, committee relationships, etc.

If this work sounds interesting to you — in short, if you are interested in language-related project management — the committee is looking for a few additional members. Please contact either the Volunteers and Recruiting committee, or, for additional information, the Translation committee.