Monday, November 1, 2010

Aozora Bunko Translation Project Update

Here's Molly Des Jardin's follow up to the previous post: 
Hi Beholdmyswarthyface,

Thanks for such a detailed reply! I totally understand your position (honestly I am probably too overwhelmed with school and part-time work to be thinking about doing this, but I am excited about planning and trying to generate interest). And honestly, I can't make any promises about interest at U of M among my colleagues, although I am going to try my best to pressure them. :)

One thing I am intellectually interested in with this project, from the standpoint of literature, is the idea of collaborative writing and translation. (And here I'm heavily influenced by the late 19th-century coterie/amateur writing landscape that I'm dwelling in for my dissertation.) I really like the collaborative attitude in the encyclopedia you are putting together and I wonder if this might be the best way to approach translation - putting all of our heads together to contribute both our own translations and also editing of others'. I wonder what the best way is to do this infrastructure-wise. Google docs is convenient in that it spans institutional boundaries - of course MediaWiki would be even better IMO, but the only easy way I can get an instance of it going is within a U of M limited site, and that's really counterproductive to the spirit of inter-institutional, interdisciplinary translation and writing.

It's great to hear that you've got so many people already. I stumbled on this project quite randomly and I suspect it's not that well known in the field. Maybe a good first step on my end is to try to broaden awareness of the project and have some meetings with interested students (and maybe faculty? a stretch but it would be really nice), here at my own university. I think the trend is probably going to be "I'm interested! oh... but I have no time." But if we can recruit people who are already doing research in Meiji literature and who are translating at least portions of material from that period, it might be more possible to push them in the direction of simply making that available, even if incomplete.

I also wonder if a more distributed approach to the project could get it to move along more smoothly - multiple leaders (or even no leaders) for different periods or topics, ongoing suggestions of titles, and ongoing if incomplete submissions of translation.

Anyway, I am mostly brainstorming out loud here, but I'll see what kind of interest I can generate on this end and see where that takes me. I still think that planning for a good infrastructure for collaborative work is perhaps most important at this stage, as is deciding on a format for text markup. I'm attending a workshop on TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) in a few weeks and am expecting to get more insight into digital text best practices from that. There's a lot of stuff already done and being done with English and European language materials, but I haven't been able to find anything equivalent for Asian language materials or translations.



Anonymous said...

In terms of technical questions Google Docs would need a little tweaking. I'm imagining a file that would import the line-by-line text into a spreadsheet, so that people can examine the original as they check translations.

Here are some extremely large Japanese documents translated in people's free time:

Carl said...

Google has a tool specifically for sentence-by-sentence translation:

It shows the source text on the left and you put your translation into the right, sentence-by-sentence. It works OK once you get used to it, but it kind of flattens the text. I think Google offers it so as to get more grist for its auto-translation mill, so you are helping to program Skynet when you use it.