Why a Translation Toolkit?

The expansion and consolidation of the field of Digital Humanities (DH) has brought with it a previously unseen internationalization of inquiry interests, (academic) cultural specificities and practices, and, crucially, languages. This level of diversity has resulted in a sense of awareness of the truly global impact that the digital turn has had in the last few decades and has fostered exciting international collaborative ties. It has also awaken a sense of community in formation constantly being reshaped and in movement. Known and largely valued by its collaborative culture and commitment to openness, DH as a community now faces the task and challenge of bridging this growing diversity–an undertaking that promises great scholarly developments as well.

Within the major DH organizations, fundamental efforts were initiated a number of years before 2008 when the protocol for the Standing Committee on Multilingualism and Multiculturalism (MLMC) was approved by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO). Currently, the MLMC is focused on “developing and promoting policies in ADHO and its constituent organizations that will help them to become more linguistically and culturally inclusive in general terms, and especially in the areas where linguistic and cultural matters play a role.”

Nevertheless, the complexity and sensitivity of the issue of multilingualism touches on the large scale problems of economic inequality, colonial history, and political issues that have shaped the world we live in and, by extension, the landscape in which we work. At Global Outlook Digital Humanities (GO::DH) we continue “to address the barriers that hinder communication and collaboration among researchers and students.” From this basic objective, GO::DH has embarked in several effort to promote formal and informal strategies aiding communication among colleagues in as many languages as possible.

All of the GO::DH working groups have followed the same dynamic, to open the work to the community–those who know better and care the most about a particular issue. Recently, the immediate background to this Toolkit, the DH Whisperers that took place in Lausanne Switzerland during the DH2014 conference constituted an informal approach to enabling the community to help where they could in matters of translation. Through this project we were able to grasp two aspects of multilingualism that distinguish the DH community. First, an enormous linguistic diversity that can’t be overlooked anymore, and crucially, the enormous pool of volunteers eager to actively participate in the translation efforts.

What is The Translation Toolkit?

The Translation Toolkit is first and foremost our attempt at drawing attention to the need to acknowledge the linguistic diversity that already exists in the field of DH.

Similarly, it is the imperfect result of the lessons learned during our previous ad hoc practices at the INKE Meeting in Havana in 2013 and in DH2014 in Laussane. We are constant language learners.

It is also a catalogue of ready available tools and suggested best practices (where best is synonymous to it has worked for someone) to approach the sometimes daunting task of translating and preparing multilingual resources whether at conferences, in editorial and authorial journal work, and website and resource developments. The selection follows the principle that there is no right or single approach to translation and multilingualism, and embraces the principle that each one might work at a particular time and circumstance.

Finally, the Toolkit is an invitation to anyone who has ever put into practice any given translation or multilingual approach to share it with everyone here.

Ultimately, the Translation Toolkit proposes that the labor of translation in DH cannot be delegated to a group, and especially not the linguistic minorities. Instead, it embraces and seeks to put into practice that translation should be a labor shared by the whole community.