Ask your Guerrilla Translator! A GT FAQ

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Here are some answers to the questions we get asked most often. Is there anything else missing? Go to our contact page and ask away!


1) Can I be a Guerrilla Translator?

We’re a group of translators, proofreaders and copyeditors with a variety of backgrounds, some with a great deal of experience and/or credentials, and some more self-taught, but all dedicated to a level of professionalism that matches the passion we bring to the selection of material to share. We work hard but we love what we do. If you’re interested in adding your talents to our pool, our number one requirement is experience. Second (but not by much) is that you have the interest and dedication to contribute to our effort in a wholistic, across-the-board way. This means that you’d be willing to suggest works to be translated and also to help to have those translations re-published and shared in venues suited to the material. Although we have plenty of material back-burnered for eventual translation, we don’t want to be assigning work, we’d rather have people on board who are more fully involved beyond the translation process. If you want to have a go, write us a message telling us something about yourself, including what you’ve translated or copyedited, why you’re interested in joining us, and what in particular you’d like to translate. We’ll send you a survey and, if we see we’d be a good fit, a text to evaluate your translation and editing skills. If you translate with us, your work will be assigned value in our Open Value System (currently in development). If you’re not an experienced translator, jump to this answerBack to top

2) Will you voluntarily translate my article, text, book?

The short answer is, probably not. We aren’t, strictly speaking, a volunteer group of translators working for a very specific cause, nor are we available on demand. These groups exist, they’re often comprised of amateur volunteers, and some do their work on a request basis. What we’ve been cultivating is a group of professionals that seek out works to translate and share voluntarily, based on our own criteria. This helps us maintain a cohesive collection of curated content, and an identity apart from other types of groups. However, we have cultivated relationships with specific authors, who occasionally approach us with material we have an established interest in and affinity for. That’s a bit different, because in those cases, we often notice the material as it’s published, and contact the authors directly to discuss whether it’s available for us to translate. At the same time, in an effort to maintain a diversity of material, we want to build a large enough variety that there isn’t a great deal of repetition of authors, so that we maintain our criteria and credibility. The best thing to do if you’re interested in suggesting something for us to consider is to first read our Founding Principles, and see if you believe your text fits in with our stated criteria. After that, if you want to contact us, send us your submission in a message with the header AUTHOR SUGGESTION, and we’ll have a look.  Alternatively, if you want to employ us for translation/localization work, please visit this page. Back to top

3) Can I suggest something to be translated?

Absolutely, although we’ll remind you that it’s important to us that you first read our Founding Principles to get a feel for the kind of material we select, and that you evaluate your own suggestion by that criteria before pitching it to us. We wrote that document specifically to describe our mission to anyone who shows an interest.  Keep this in mind: it’ll definitely take you a lot less time to read our Founding Principles than it will for us to translate anything. Let’s start out with a common understanding and mutual respect, and take it from there. Back to top

4) Are you unique?

Yes and no, check our sister collectives: The Interpreters Cooperative of Madison & Level Translation, Freelab.org, Traducciones Procomún and Translator Brigades. We all have our own thing going but we’re all in touch, supporting each other. Back to top

5) Are you anticapitalists, anarchists, degrowthists, communists, activists, revolutionaries, or what?

We’re diverse people with diverse influences and interests, translating together under a set of Founding Principles (remember those?) Guerrilla Translation hopes to resist easy categorization, typecasting and ideological reductionism.  We aim to embrace diversity, multiculturalism and even contradiction. The one constant is change – we’re eager for material, and people, with a focus on change for the better, and with a broad enough scope to include many points of view, opening many possibilities. However, we’re pretty tired of pictures of burning garbage bins. Back to top

6) Do you use translation software?

No. We see the logic and the need for translation software. If you’re bored senseless translating a text, working on tight deadlines, and/or you’re not really loving what you’re translating, of course you’d want or need to use CAT tools. What we’re doing is different. We only select material that inspires us, and when translating texts that the original author has poured his or her soul into, does the author or the reader deserve to have that work run through a machine? We believe that our method, two brains (translator, editor) familiar with the material and actually eager and invested in seeing it translated, beats any software program any day. Think of it as similar to the slow-food movement. The human brain is, perhaps, the most complex structure in the universe, and we haven’t found a better tool than that as far as translation is concerned.

We feel strongly that the trend of over-dependence on translation software has been the result of the perceived need (in all businesses) to get work done faster, not better. Translators working on our project should agree that this is still a craft best done by a human being, and that the only way to achieve an excellent final result is to stay involved in the process and do the work personally. Back to top

7) Do you translate other language combinations?

The first Guerrilla Translation phyle was founded in Madrid, Spain. Right now we are the only working phyle, but we hope to see other phyles soon.

If you’re interested in setting up a Guerrilla Translation phyle, here are the requirements:

  • Maintain the graphic appearance as well as content structure used in our webpage. In the future, we can work together to develop these further.
  • Adhesion to the Founding Principles
  • Regional adoption of our Sustainability Plan.
  • Development and promotion of the gift-economy side of the project (Guerrilla Translation) not only the remunerated side (Commons Media Collective).

Mystified by the word “phyle”? Read this. We are also in contact with other international collectives with some very similar goals. Back to top

8) Who chooses the material?

Guerrilla Translators and Editors, while open to suggestions, choose their own material. Content curation is an essential part of the Guerrilla Translation philosophy. We’re critical readers and communicators ourselves, and are passionate about the texts, videos and art projects we choose for translation. Back to top

9) What’s the difference between Guerrilla Translation and the Commons Media Collective?

Guerrilla Translation and the Commons Media Collective are independent but interdependent. In short, Guerrilla Translation features translator curated gifted content, while CMC functions as a translation and communication services agency for paid projects. All benefits go to the same team, so we can sustain ourselves and free up time to work for the Commons. Back to top

10) I like to translate – I mean, I think I’d be pretty good at it, I haven’t done much yet but I’d like to get some experience – can I help with your volunteer crowd-sourced translation projects?

Short answer: no, because we don’t crowdsource work, nor do we work as volunteers. While we understand and respect the principles and intentions of those who do crowdsourced translations, particularly those involved in activism, we strongly feel that crowdsourced translations fail to meet an adequate standard, and miss the opportunity to really engage readers in the target language. Why? Because poor translations are boring at best, and comical at worst. Translation is a craft that requires a level of skill and consistency to achieve a valid representation of the original work. The weakest link in the crowd will inevitably drag the final effort down, too, unless there’s a native speaker or truly bilingual person on board who nobly volunteers many, many hours of extra time to go back and fix all the errors. Of course, there may be exceptions to this but for us, it’s irrelevant – we don’t work this way on principle. We want to preserve the craft and support the craftsperson by creating a working environment that’s supportive and sustainable, as well as producing a final result that’s exciting and inspiring to read. Back to top

11) I’d like to republish one of your pieces on our website, what do I need to do?

Well, thanks for the compliment! First of all, please get in touch with us, we’d like to say thank you and know more about what you do. Of course, we’d also appreciate the opportunity of being certain that we’re on the same page in terms of our values and views. If you offer any remuneration for republishing, please also let us know. We offer the authors of the original piece any income from republishing – they can choose to gift it back to us for our pro-bono work or not, but we do want to tell them if there’s an amount offered for republished work. Finally, we request that you link back to our page, and retain all of the credits for the text (authorship, translation and editing), the accompanying images, if you choose to use them, and of course please mention our choice of license (PPL).
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