GO::DH Translation Toolkit

Developed by a working group of Global Outlook::Digital Humanities, the Translation Toolkit (http://go-dh.github.io/translation-toolkit/) is our response to the need to give voice to the multiple languages in which the field is practiced. The Toolkit puts into question the concern, long held in the increasingly international field of Digital Humanities, that multilingualism is an issue affecting only a handful of practitioners and not, as we believe and propose, the entirety of the community. We see translation, in Boaventura de Sousa Santos words, as “dialogical and political work….[with] an emotional dimension as well, because it presupposes both a non-conformist attitude vis-à-vis the limits of one's knowledge and practice and the readiness to be surprised and learn with the other's knowledge and practice” (Santos 2005). Succinctly, the Translation Toolkit is the gathering of strategies to facilitate translation and multilingual practices that countless Digital Humanities practitioners shared with the editors.

The objectives of the Toolkit are manifold. It aims to become a repository of practices fostering multilingualism in the field at large. It also seeks to advance the practice of community translation, one that does not depend on interest groups or subcommittees but draws from collective willingness, expertise, and knowledges. Through the work of translation, we aim to “create intelligibility, coherence, and articulation in a world that sees itself enriched by multiplicity and diversity” (Santos 2005) and where there cannot be a single, all-encompassing view of our field. Never a substitute for professional translation, community translation is a low-cost, widely applicable strategy capable of building trust among colleagues as we discover new zones of contact for cooperation, communication, and collaboration. A basic objective of the Toolkit is to respond to the needs of the community and thus seeks to remain as adaptable as possible. Ultimately, taking community translation as its ethical stance, we hope the Toolkit will help solidify a truly global Digital Humanities.

This project, as all GO::DH projects, “acts to foster collaboration and cooperation across regions and economies…and it advocates for a global perspective on work in this sector” (Global Outlook::Digital Humanities “About”). The global perspective we seek to encourage through the Translation Toolkit is the recognition of difference—not the way in which we are similar as digital humanists, but the task of working through our distinct and specific practices. Translation, then, becomes a praxis in itself, whose result, we hope, is a larger, more diverse global community. As can be seen from the strategies listed up to now in the Toolkit, none of them aims to produce a polished translated product, but to make translation an unfolding process of community formation.

The history of the project or, more precisely, the project’s area of interest, can be traced back to the protocol of the Standing Committee on Multi-Lingualism and Multi-Culturalism (MLMC). Approved in its revised form in 2008 by the Steering Committee of ADHO, MLMC was tasked with valuing and reflecting on the community’s diversity and taking into account cultural academic differences where necessary, but most clearly in the reviewing of proposals for the international conference (ADHO 2008). As Scott Weingart (2014a, 2014b) and Martin Grandjean (2014) have independently shown, even when encouraged and treated sensitively, linguistic and other instances of diversity have never been fully implemented in the ADHO conference. In contrast, the backdrop of MLMC’s stasis is the rapid and constant emergence of DH groups and organizations around the world. Based either on geographic or linguistic proximity, the work and dynamism of AHDig, AAHD, RedHD, Humanistica, and SADH among others have, more acutely than ever, showcased the dominance of the English language in the field. More importantly, however, this landscape has revealed that the task of bringing all of us together cannot reside on governing bodies or be the labor of the “newcomers” alone, but one that should sit at the center of new policy developments and our professional practice.

The history of the Toolkit proper can be seen in parallel with the history of Global Outlook::Digital Humanities and the translation focused initiatives it has always embraced, namely the Translation Commons and its own multilingual website. Nevertheless, it was during the INKE meeting in Havana at the end of 2012 attended by several GO::DH members that pressing communication challenges specific to this conference demanded creative, though informal, ways of addressing it. Whispering, our term for community translation in the Toolkit, constituted, at this time, a literal whispering of the presentations given at the conference from English into Spanish and vice versa. Alex Gil brought the idea of whispering early in the Summer of 2014 when the issue of multilingualism in conferences was being discussed on the GO::DH list serv. Many budding ideas were contributed to the conversation in just a couple of weeks—an adaptation of the mentoring program stickers, volunteer translators, badges, setting up the volunteer translation program during registration, etc.—to become the DH Whisperers during DH2014 in Lausanne. A report of the activities during the conference was written by Élika Ortega shortly after (Ortega 2014). Since then, there have been informal reports of Whispering being put into practice at a few conferences or symposia.

It was in the aftermath of the success of the DH Whisperers in 2014 that even more discussions and many digital humanists prompted new ideas. One of those ideas was to collect and propose best practices and strategies in a single widely applicable, portable, toolkit that could be implemented at the ADHO conferences. Although, the international DH conferences are still our model, the Toolkit now aims to be as broadly applicable as possible to more events and, certainly, to more fields and academic communities. In that sense, our audience is the global Digital Humanities at large, as well as practitioners in other academic fields.

The Translation Toolkit puts into practice another GO::DH principle, minimal computing. We built the site as a static site that reduces bandwidth and data transfer requirements using the Jekyll static site generator, UTF-8, and Markdown, customized it with a multiple languages plug-in, and hosted it on GitHub pages on a CC-By license—all with an eye towards internationalization. All the code is available for viewing, copying, reusing, and adapting on the GitHub repository https://github.com/go-dh/translation-toolkit. Thus far, the project exists only in Spanish-English bilingual version, but it welcomes community translations into as many languages as possible of the content already included, as well as submissions of strategies and practices. All of the submissions will be published under the same license. As a static site, the Translation Toolkit is easily sustainable and preservable. No costs are expected to arise for this project that will endanger its sustainability. As part of GO::DH’s project pages, we anticipate that, as the SIG and the working group members rotate, the Toolkit will keep on being developed. A workflow is being devised to ensure that all of GO::DH projects remain under the supervision of its executive committee. Nonetheless, we hope that, as the principles and strategies contained in the Translation Toolkit take root among a large portion of the community, the project might be gradually phased out.

In its current alpha version, the bilingual Toolkit only includes suggested best practices and strategies for ad hoc translation during conferences and symposia. Future iterations of the project will include strategies and practices for the translation and creation of multilingual websites, as well as possible workflows for publication in multiple languages.


[ADHO 2008] AHDO. “Revised Protocol for the Standing Committee on Multi-lingualism & Multi-culturalism”. N.p. Web. 20 May, 2015. (http://adho.org/administration/multi-lingualism-multi-culturalism/revised-protocol-standing-committee-multi).

[Global Outlook:Digital Humanities n.d] Global Outlook::Digital Humanities. “About.” Global Outlook::Digital Humanities. N.p., n.d. (http://www.globaloutlookdh.org/about)

[Grandjean 2014] Grandjean, Martin. “Le Rêve Du Multilinguisme Dans La Science : L’exemple (malheureux) Du Colloque #DH2014.” Martin Grandjean. N.p., 27 Jun. 2014. (http://www.martingrandjean.ch/multilinguisme-dans-la-science-dh2014/).

[Ortega 2014] Ortega, Élika. “Whispering/Translating during DH2014: Five Things We Learned | Readers of Fiction.” elikaortega.net. 21 July 2014. (https://elikaortega.net/2014/07/21/dhwhisperer/)

[Santos 2005] Santos, Boaventura De Sousa. “The Future of the World Social Forum: The Work of Translation.” Development 48.2. 2005: 15–22.

[Weingart 2014a] Weingart, Scott. “Acceptances to Digital Humanities 2015 (part 3).” the scottbot irregular. N.p., 27 June 2015. (http://scottbot.net/submissions-to-digital-humanities-2014-pt-3/)

[Weingard 2014b] ---. “Submissions to Digital Humanities 2015 (pt. 3).” the scottbot irregular. N.p., 7 Nov. 2014. (http://scottbot.net/acceptances-to-digital-humanities-2015-part-3/)



The Translation Toolkit stems from the enthusiasm and drive of the ADHO GO:DH (standing for Global Digital Humanities) Special Interest Group in response to the existing and growing (linguistic) diversity of the Digital Humanities community and to the need for implementable policies with respect to multicultural and multilingual scholarly settings such as the evergrowing ADHO DH conferences. It is by definition of its creators an unfinished product in constant evolution for at least four reasons:

  1. It aims to encompass more languages and new perspectives on the field of Digital Humanities;
  2. Community translation (nota bene: community here stands for whole DH community and not ‘just’ non-dominant linguistic communities) is an informal process which by default can be refined;
  3. Practices of translations are collected in a pragmatic fashion (what worked for others at some point becomes part of the recommended best practices);
  4. Unfinished is the nature of continuous learning, whereby by learning languages, one learns the other and to renew oneself.

Given the premises and context of the project, the actual content - available only in English and Spanish - focusing on recommendations for facilitating multilingual interaction at conferences could be seen as limited and narrow. However, as mentioned above, this is the beginning of a resource that will hopefully grow with the contribution of many (translation of software would be an interesting area to see developed on the site, for example). Seen it from another angle, it is remarkable to see how an ambitious vision around global Digital Humanities can be translated into practical steps, into gentle yet pragmatic and powerful suggestions to raise awareness and change the status quo.

In their statement, the authors mention the importance of the ‘work and dynamism’ of relatively new organisations in expressing linguistic diversity and making it recognised. However, they wish for a more unified effort where peripheries sit at the centre. I believe Europe is also an interesting case, where emergent as well as established organisations of Digital Humanities researchers - e.g. AHDig, AIUCD, DHBenelux, DHd, DHN, HDH - showcase not only the range of linguistic representation in the community but also ad hoc models of interaction in their usually annual gatherings, where multiplicity of scholarly and natural languages is the norm. That said, in its yet modest contribution, the Translation Toolkit aims at a global perspective from which the scale of differences expands, making common understanding more challenging but possibly more interestingly to grasp.


The design of the website is on purpose simple and user friendly. Surely digital methods could be used to enhance further our understating of what translation means in specific contexts (an example is the software being developed for the analysis and visualisation of multiple 16th century contemporary translations or lectures lentes of the Prince by Machiavelli within the project HyperMachiavel) but this is not the scope of the Translation Toolkit, or at least not at this moment in time (but who knows what the community will work on next?).

A methodological review of multilingual Digital Humanities projects (meaning here multilingual resources) could be, for instance, an interesting exercise to extract - in the spirit of the project - solutions that worked in certain contexts. Beyond this pragmatic scope, one could think of a resource where key terms adopted in Digital Humanities scholarship are studied in translation across multiple languages to analyse hues and variants and possibly to offer a richer characterisation of the field.


The philosophy behind the Translation Toolkit is minimal computing. This commitment makes the recommended technical solutions portable and sustainable (e.g. Wiki on a Stick, licensed under the GNU/GPL license, is one of the recommended tools to make available translated annotations of talks at conferences). Besides the reccomendations themselves, the whole static site for the project is hosted on GitHUB pages via a CC-By license making the intention to be a genuinely open and collaborative project more than just a promise. The code for the project is hence adaptable but also fully exportable. It would be interesting to see how the multiple languages plug-in would cope with more than two languages and extended ramified content sections besides the current page on 'conferences' and the general pages of introduction and project team.

The affiliation of the project to the ADHO GO:DH SIG gives some guarantee that the resource will live beyond institutional and personnel changes. In addition, if the website stays faithful to its minimal computing ethos and to the collection of best practice in narrative form, the challenges for sustainability should potentially also stay minimal. That said, in my own limited experience of maintaining or contributing to multilingual websites (e.g. CliP 2006 conference website; TEI guidelines and in particular translation of examples), what is most difficult to sustain is both a consistent pool of volunteers and general variation of content. How to make sure that changes in one translation are reflected in another? Alignment is an issue in Digital Humanities textual projects of different nature, but it is certainly also in translation ventures. With respect to scholarly papers, each translator brings in her own view and undertstanding; how to make sure one translation ‘follows’ the other if the volounteer changes over time? Some of these challenges are again possibly outside the scope of the Translation Toolkit, which has very practical aims in sight: make people understand each other at a basic level and hence interact at more sophisticated levels. The former is what the toolkit intends to facilitate. Without that first level no much else can happen.


CLiP 2006, Literatures, Languages and Cultural Heritage in a digital world, King’s College London (UK), 29 June - 1 July 2006 http://legacy.cch.kcl.ac.uk/clip2006/

HyperMachiavel Project http://hyperprince.ens-lyon.fr

TEI Guidelines Internationalization http://www.tei-c.org/Tools/I18N/



Las conferencias de Humanidades Digitales organizadas por ACH-ALLC/ADHO son el mayor evento en su campo y –conforme a sus principios de colaboración y apertura– han ido experimentando un camino constante hacia la apertura en términos de diversidad cultural. Prueba de ello son la variedad de idiomas que se han ido integrando paulatinamente a la convocatoria para envío de propuestas. Desde 1997 el francés es un idioma aceptado para enviar participaciones; en 1998 se incluyó el alemán como lengua de envío y en el 2004 no sólo se integraron diferentes lenguas sino que el llamado mismo se publicó en diferentes idiomas. No obstante, todavía el año pasado de las 358 contribuciones sólo cinco fueron en otro idioma distinto al inglés (ver http://www.scottbot.net/HIAL/index.html@p=41041.html). La razón parecería obvia: el inglés "lingua franca" de las ciencias. Es justo la falsedad de esta obviedad que vuelve relevante el trabajo que Gimena del Río, Alex Gil, Daniel O’Donnel y Élika Ortega han hecho para "La Caja de Herramientas para la Traducción" / "The translation toolkit". Esta página/proyecto ofrece una nueva perspectiva a la búsqueda de diversidad pues propone una práctica del multilingüismo, en donde esta multiplicidad no implica una torre de Babel sino un espacio de confrontación enriquecedora con lo Otro. Aún más, además de que "La Caja" impulsó la discusión que hoy hace que DH2017 sea una conferencia en la que el sistema de “murmullos” sea práctica oficial (https://dh2017.adho.org/program/cfp/), la recolección de “buenas prácticas” y herramientas para traducir participaciones ha demostrado ser útil para otros encuentros científicos. En El Colegio de México, por ejemplo, se ha seguido la estrategia de traducción de diapositivas como método para disminuir la brecha de comprensión de presentaciones en inglés para el público hispanohablente (cf. http://biblioteca.colmex.mx/seminariohd/assets/player/KeynoteDHTMLPlayer.html). A esto se aúna el hecho de que la propuesta de "La Caja" además de ser una invitación propositiva a repensar las prácticas de quienes formamos parte de estas conferencias (presentadores, presidentes del panel, asistentes y comunidad de las Redes Sociales que sigue el evento) es un llamado a las instituciones involucradas para volverlas concientes de su sesgo de lengua e instarlas a promover un multilingüismo en el que los “costos” de la diversidad no caigan sobre los hombros de los hablantes de otras lenguas que no son el inglés.


La Caja de Herramientas, congruente con su propuesta, está construida como una página bilingüe (inglés/español), de diseño sencillo, y abierta a las colaboraciones a través de GitHub. Las diferentes secciones corresponden al llamado los diferentes sectores de acción: actividades que pueden realizar los presentadores, dinámicas que pueden asumir los presidentes del panel, estrategias para los asistentes y la comunidad de las Redes Sociales que sigue el evento y finalmente para los organizadores.


Por el diseño abierto -alojado en GitHub- este proyecto es absolutamente exportable/transferible a otras plataformas. Sin embargo, sería deseable que alguna institución con duración más asegurada y presencia más establecida pudiera hospedar este proyecto para asegurar su visibilidad y permanencia.