Mission statement and goals

What is TransCollaborate, and what is collaborative translation?

TransCollaborate Incorporated is a not-for-profit that promotes collaborative translation as a practice that creates, connects and exchanges.

  • Collaborative translation creates new texts in creative and innovative ways, but it also creates a sense of ownership over stories and languages. 
  • Collaborative translation connects peoples and cultures, building links between individuals, between institutions, and even between nations.
  • Collaborative translation facilitates the exchange of cultural knowledge, language skills and personal stories, to bring the world closer together.

What are the outcomes of collaborative translation?

Activities facilitated by TransCollaborate achieve outcomes that are central to our overall mission. 

  • First and foremost, our goal is to produce translations. How we do this will be explained in more detail below.
  • Our collaborations also support the language development of our participants, especially those living in countries where they are not native in the local language.
  • An extension of this outcome is how our collaborations also facilitate cultural exchange, as many of our collaborators may be new to the languages/literatures/cultures that are being translated. 
  • Beyond this, our collaborations are social occasions, and help to create social networks, especially among those who may otherwise experience marginalisation in society.
  • In addition to the beneficial outcomes for collaborators, our activities help to raise awareness and understanding of translation, and the important role of translators in global society.
  • Many of TransCollaborate’s projects are funded by research bodies, and as a result, our activities are an opportunity to research the positive impact that collaborative translation can have in people’s lives.

How does it work?

Our collaborative translations follow a method that we have developed and refined over time. This method has proven successful in achieving the outcomes that support our mission. An effective collaboration that follows our method can translate a text at a rate of 200 words an hour. However, while we recommend that the method is followed, we also acknowledge that other collaborative translation methods might also support our mission goals.

The premise of our collaborative translation method is the matching of “source collaborators” with “target collaborators”. 

  • A source collaborator is someone who is native in the original language of the text being translated (the “source” language), but who also can communicate in the language of the translation (the “target” target language). For example, if a text is being translated from Spanish to Chinese, a source collaborator would be a native Spanish speaker, who can also communicate in Chinese at (at least) a basic conversational level. 
  • A target collaborator is someone who is native in the language of the translation, but who has little to no familiarity with the original language of the text. Following the above example, a target collaborator would be a native Chinese speaker with little to no experience of the Spanish language.
  • Working together, the source and target collaborators use their common language (in this example, Chinese) to translate the text. The source collaborator reads the original text and interprets the meaning of the text for the target collaborator in the target language. The target collaborator records the text in the target language in a way that is both meaningful and stylistically appropriate. 

There are a number of “best practices” that should be considered when using this method:

  • One-on-one collaborations (i.e., one source collaborator and one target collaborator) generally work well, particularly when dealing with longer or more complex texts. 
  • Many-on-one collaborations (i.e, multiple source collaborators and one target collaborator), also work well, and might be suitable for language learning contexts. 
  • Collaborations should be limited to one target collaborator only, and the target collaborator should be considered as the “lead translator”. The target collaborator bears final responsibility for all translation choices.
  • Collaborative translations work best in real time in the collaborative environment. Source collaborators should not attempt to pre-translate texts ahead of time. For this reason, it is often better to withhold the text until the session.