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! Alternatively, check out the expanded FAQ page in our wiki.

1) Can I be a Guerrilla Translator?

We’re a group of translators, proofreaders and copy editors with a variety of backgrounds. Some of us have a great deal of experience and/or credentials, and others are self-taught, but we’re all dedicated to a level of professionalism matching 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 bringing your talents to our cooperative, our primary requirement is that you are ready to collaborate with us in a thorough and holistic way. You would be willing to follow our onboarding process and basic responsibilities. Although translation and language work are our core endeavors, everyone involved needs to be ready to collaborate beyond translating, taking part in the maintenance and further development of the general cooperative project. If this speaks to you, we invite you to first read this article: To be or not to be a Guerrilla Translator. If that also resonates, please write us a message telling us about yourself, including what types of work you’ve translated or copyedited, why you’re interested in joining us, and what things in particular you’d like to translate. Once we’re in contact and mutually interested in proceeding, we’ll send you our handbook, and a text to use as a test to evaluate your translation and editing skills.

If you translate with us, your work will be assigned value according to our Governance Model.

If you’re not an experienced translator, jump to this answer.

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

The short answer is, probably not. We don’t operate as a volunteer group of translators working for any specific cause, nor are we available on demand. Groups like this do exist. Some are comprised of amateur volunteers; sometimes volunteer groups will have a number of people working on a single translation, and some do take on work upon request.

We are a group of professionals that chooses works to translate and share voluntarily, based on our own selection criteria. This helps us build and maintain our knowledge commons of translations, shared via our blogs as a cohesive collection of curated content. It is also central to forming an identity that is set apart from other types of activist translation groups.

However, we have cultivated relationships with specific authors who occasionally approach us with material that will probably interest us, being in line with previous translations we’ve performed. This is a bit different because in these cases, we will often notice the material as it’s published in the source language, and would likely have contacted the authors directly to discuss whether it’s available for us to translate — it’s a matter of timing who contacts who, in other words. While we do want to maintain a diversity of material and build a large enough variety that there isn’t a great deal of repetition of authors, we count on our own active reading and selection process to source this material.

The best thing to do if you’re interested in suggesting something for us to consider is to first read our content curation guidelines 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, you’re invited to visit this page. Please note that we do have a range of fees depending on the type of organization contracting us. You may be surprised to find that we are very competitive and fair in our pricing structure.

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3) Can I suggest something to be translated?

Absolutely, provided that you first read our content curation guidelines, and evaluate your suggestion by that criteria first. We wrote that document to describe our mission to anyone who shows an interest. A friendly note about reading our guidelines: it will definitely take you a lot less time to read than it will for us to translate anything you may suggest. Let’s start out with some common understanding and mutual respect, and take it from there.

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

We’re a diverse group with many influences and interests, translating works together under a set of Founding Principles. Guerrilla Translation hopes to resist any easy categorization or ideological reductionism. We aim to embrace diversity, multiculturalism, and even contradiction. The one constant is change – we recognize that there is an urgency to reflect the most currently relevant yet big-picture perspective material that treats the systemic problems creating worldwide instability. There is an essence of revolutionary thought in the work we select, yet we strive to vary the topics, keep our eye on positive solutions, and avoid too much disaster porn and burning garbage bins.

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5) Do you use translation software?

No. Lots of translators were trained in or became accustomed to these tools, but we prefer to be hands-on out of respect for the type of work we translate. There are contexts where we can see the logic or the need for translation software. If you’re working on uninspiring material and/or on very tight deadlines, of course you’d want or need to use CAT tools. The trend toward over-dependence on translation software is the result of the perceived need to get work done faster, not better. What we’re doing is different because we select material that inspires us, which usually doesn’t include corporate annual reports or toaster manuals.

When the original author has devoted time and energy to their work, we think the translation deserves the same human devotion. Translators working in our cooperative should agree that this is still a craft best done by human beings, and that the only way to achieve an excellent final result is to stay involved in the process and do the work personally. Our method, using two human brains (a translator and an editor), familiar with the topic and eager to see the work translated, beats any software program any day. The human brain is, perhaps, the most complex structure in the universe, what better tool to perform translation?

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6) Do you translate other language combinations?

The first Guerrilla Translation node was founded in Madrid, Spain, translating to and from Spanish and English. We can also translate from French, Italian, German, Chinese and Gaelic into English, with more source and target languages coming soon. Right now we are a multilingual node, but these may federate into separate groups in the future.

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7) Who chooses the material?

Guerrilla Translators and Editors choose their own material (while remaining open to suggestion). Content curation is an essential part of the Guerrilla Translation philosophy. As critical readers and communicators, we are passionate about the texts, videos and art projects we choose for translation.

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

Once we began to work on projects that also required graphic design and illustration, we recommended some of our colleagues for that work, and helped them form a group similar to Guerrilla Translation, using the same governance model and operating with the same principles. That group is Guerrilla Graphic Collective, dedicated to design, illustration and UX. These two groups work independently in their skilled trades, but there are some interdependencies including communication and project management. All benefits go to the same teams, so we can sustain ourselves and free up time to work for the Commons.  We created Guerrilla Media Collective as Andalusian cooperative to act as the umbrella entity and liaison for projects which span multiple disciplines. Guerrilla Media Collective is a Distributed Cooperative Organization, or DisCO. You can read more about DisCOs here.

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9) 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.

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10) 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 you. We also want to be 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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