TLhub: A Preview of the Future?

I’ve been hanging out in Indiana at the ALTA conference (about which more soon), so I invited Katrine Øgaard Jensen to guest blog for me about anything that caught her fancy at yesterday’s Found in Translation symposium at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge, and she picked the session about the launch of the worldwide social network for translators TLhub to write about. Here’s what she had to say about it:

When I first started working as a translator, I felt awfully alone. I didn’t know where to turn for advice on linguistic details, and I especially had a difficult time translating technical and esoteric terms. A breaking point for me was sometime last year when I needed to translate some particularly geeky video game lingo from English to Danish. Out of pure desperation I wrote a status update on Facebook, asking if I knew any gamers who were proficient in both languages. To my great surprise, three people contacted me: two acquaintances whom I had not seen or spoken to in a very long time, and one person whom I had never even met before. I became friends with the latter on Facebook in an extremely arbitrary way, and I had no idea he worked as a translator as well. All three of these contacts helped me ensure that the video game translation was flawless to a gamer’s eye, and this collaborative experience became a “game changer” for me as a translator. I suddenly realized the importance of social networks – allowing me to reach out and connect with people whom I would never have thought to contact in the first place.

At the Found in Translation event, I was introduced to a new social networking tool called TLhub, presented by the French writers Camille de Toledo and François Bon in a workshop. On TLhub, translators from all over the world will be able to create an account and upload their work for other translators to review or edit. As a translator, you can either choose to upload your project in a private domain and invite other users to work with you, or you can allow others to publicly follow your project and comment on the different paragraphs in your translation. To visualize this online tool, imagine your computer screen divided into three sections as you work. On the left side you have the original text of the book you’re working on, in the middle you have the document with your own translation to work in, and on the right side you have a social tool, which shows the comments that other users have on the specific paragraph you’re translating.

During the TLhub workshop this tool prompted quite a few ideas from the crowd. One participant suggested using the tool in class, uploading a Spanish-English student translation of a text to show another class in Spain and exchanging edits and comments between the students, beyond national borders. Another idea that I found most interesting, although it won’t be relevant in the immediate future, is that the TLhub eventually will contain a collective memory that could someday be used as an archive for future translators – with the consent of the individual translators, of course. Imagine translating Moby Dick and being able to see how other translators solved the task of that one paragraph that you just couldn’t get to sound right. Imagine even creating a translation of Moby Dick by piecing together the most accomplished sentences from all previous translations. The idea is indeed controversial, and, as François Bon pointed out, it doesn’t correspond with the idea of the translator creating a voice for the literary work. This is also why there are no immediate plans to use TLhub in such a way. But the potential is there, nonetheless.

TLhub will launch worldwide on November 15th. The project has been supported for the past three years by the European Society of Authors, the French Centre National du Livre, the Actialuna Cie and the European associations of translators. If you want to learn more about this the project or how to sign up for an account, you can contact the TLhub team. The price is 20 dollars per year for a private account, but in case you’re a poor writer, there will be a link for you that says “I want to join TLhub but I am broke.”

Until the launch of this site, I will continue using Facebook as my main social network for translation support. I still haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the guy who helped me with my video game translation, but he secured me a gig translating for Disney a few months later. I highly recommend finding unexpected allies online.

Katrine Øgaard Jensen is currently pursuing an MFA in the Writing Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts.

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