Our Story and Founding Principles

Guy with horn

Riffing © 2013, Reuben Radding

What’s our story?

Guerrilla Translation comes from a love of sharing.

Somewhere along the line, many of us stopped seeking only monetary incentive for our art, music, writing and other forms of creativity. Instead, as part of our own development, we began freely sharing our work online, and building relationships in the process. Guerrilla Translation was created to share ideas between communities and to allow translation, which has become heavily corporatised, to share the values inherent in collaborative art and creativity.

Guerrilla Translation is about sharing ideas internationally and fulfilling a more generous idea of what globalization could be. Rather than accepting  the term “globalization”  to mean the wholesale character-stripping and homogenization of cultures, we are re envisioning the term by creating a platform for opening dialogues, in effect “globalizing” communication and sharing.

The pain in Spain

Guerrilla Translation, although international in scope, was founded in Spain in the midst of a significant era. The time and location of its emergence has had a decisive influence on the goals of the project. The dire situation in Spain, ironically, gives us the freedom to see our circumstances as a laboratory to experiment with new ideas. A lot of very valuable and interesting concepts are coming out of the English-speaking world, where the same systemic crises, so apparent in our backyard, perhaps have yet to manifest themselves as vehemently or pervasively in the general public consciousness.

Yet the crises lurk, and are being identified and re-defined with a breadth of perspective that we find very hard to reproduce in Spain. Solutions are drawn, ideologies are shared, and observations compared, but usually among the choir and only occasionally beyond. We wonder if the majority of these ideas will be lost in the wind in the English-speaking world, while they could be more immediately useful here, on the ground. What keeps these ideas from being more widely considered, discussed or implemented is that they haven’t been translated and made available.

There’s a reverse process too, because here in Spain, there are really good ideas that seem to have enjoyed more back-and-forth sharing with English-speaking countries (eg. 15M – Occupy), but these incidences of sharing were dependent on happenstance. The crisis is a killer, but also a muse. We aim to make the muses be understood, regardless of language.

A different translation agency

La Espalda

Image by Iván Molina

How does all this compare with the typical raison d’être of a translation agency?  We’re quite different, actually, as we straddle the lines between agency, non-profit and co-op.

A traditional translation agency exists primarily to make a profit, where the language adaptation of source material carries a specific sort of value – financial – regardless of whether sharing the translated material will have any social value. Obviously, it is not a given that this material will be freely shared for anyone to access.

Guerrilla Translation aims to create value by virtue of connection.

Why “Guerrilla”? Because  “Guerrilla” and “P2P” imply partnership and participation. The end result of our work is not a product to be pushed, paid for and forgotten. If a translator is working in our collective, it’s a given that they’re on board with the subjects we approach, as part of the audience. This enthusiasm naturally leads to promoting the work, and to suggesting other projects. As the term “Guerrilla” also implies, our tactics as translators include adaptability, mobility, diversity, integrity, and working for a beneficial cause. Being a P2P service, and using the technology available today, we enjoy both the lack of urgent, money-driven deadlines and the tools to complete work quickly and accurately.

Guerrilla Translation seeks out its partnerships (rather than “clients”) based on qualitative and socially relevant criteria, and encourages being approached in the same way — in other words, if you have something of value you’d like to share and would like us to consider, please get in touch.

We intend to offer a full range of “collaborations“ (commonly known as “translation services”), including:

  • Written translation
  • Simultaneous interpretation
  • A / V adaptation
  • Subtitling and dubbing
  • Website translation and localization

Our source material includes:

  • Articles and Essays
  • Full-text Books
  • Interviews
  • Video and Film
  • Spoken Word

And we aim to bypass the middleman from start to finish.  We are committed to transmitting material and cultivating channels of communication between author and audience, including curation of content. All work is done in-house, and the results are shared freely and universally.

Material is chosen and translated according to a set of founding principles, listed below.

Criteria for choosing material

Guerrilla Translation does not necessarily agree with all posted content. but selects material which promotes interesting ideas, for critical thinkers without linguistic barriers. Here are the guidelines we have identified for our choice of material.

1. Constructive ideas

Constructive, not merely critical. There’s an addictive quality to bad news, and to identifying the problem over and over. We value material that thoughtfully exposes situations that need attention and greater awareness, but we wholeheartedly reject and denounce the “wake up sheeple” approach. We feel it’s insulting, divisive, and simply counterproductive. Let’s not pat ourselves on the back for being so attuned to the problem. Let’s share good ideas and inspiring visions, and change the world for the better.

2. Diverse perspectives

We aim to be not just translators but content curators, representing a breadth of ideas and viewpoints. Some of the ideas we present may contradict each other, by design. We feel there can be more value in contradictions than in absolutes, and that the interplay between opposing views can result in greater stability, synergy and success.

3. Practical solutions

The cynicism that’s long been in vogue offers a dead-end viewpoint, and, paradoxically, an easy way out. If there’s no hope, why bother? We feel differently, and want to share some inspiration. If you’ve got that sinking feeling, it’s probably time to start swimming. The more we do, the more we become the powers that be. Let’s get on with what we want to do – create the world we want to live in.

4. Kill Violence to Death

Guerrilla Translation promotes active social and ecological change, and denounces the systemic violence that underlies the current growth-based system. By the same token, it rejects strategies and modes of operation defined by what they are against whilst seeking to ape the same dominance-based strategies we’re so eager to leave behind. We will publish material that discusses violence as an element of the present situation, but we’re not indulging in the fetishism that promotes or condones violence in any form, direct or systemic, and want to get away from that perspective with an eye toward cooperation.

5. Illuminating, not “Illuminati”

Guerrilla Translation does not subscribe to conspiracy theories, while acknowledging that one man’s conspiracy theory is another man’s truth. Regardless, we aren’t interested in naming and blaming powerful shadowy cabals, nor in artificially simplified archetypes. We want to point toward solutions.

6. Current events but not tomorrow’s old news, today

Stories about events that appear in a daily-news platform are less interesting to us than those with a longer arc, and a vision toward change. We want to share thoughtful analysis and critique of events, and ongoing narratives in the same vein. This helps avoid the negative perspective and myopia, and gives us a chance to develop ideas in the long term.

Dance Partners

Dance Partners © 2013, Reuben Radding

As translators we know that language can be very subjective, and we don’t expect all of our authors and collaborators to fully subscribe to these tenets, just to understand and, at least, sympathise with what we’re trying to express. It’s ok to feel somewhat different, if we like what you have to say, we’ll translate you.

There´s an outstanding scope of projects and solutions to allow us to go beyond any flawed paradigm we find ourselves confronting today. These solutions may seem like isolated spores in a forest of hopelessness, as long as we fail to see a way to spread these ideas and help them bear fruit. We feel it´s time to turn our backs on the exclusive repetition of the apocalyptic doom-memes that, ironically, find a comfortable home  the alt-media. Really, doesn’t it seem that all this doom-speak just reinforces the “shock doctrine” imposed by the “powers that be” (to quote that language of the doom-sayers)?  Guerrilla Translation presupposes a certain amount of slander by being labeled “optimistic”, though we would argue we’re realistic, levelled and, ultimately, just as ignorant of the way the story ends as everyone else.

Sharing and gift economy principles

We believe in sharing, and in the principles of the gift economy. Every translation of material we select ourselves is done voluntarily. All previously published material that we choose to translate will be shared on our blog, and we will consult the author/creator to talk about what other sites may want to republish the translation.

If, as a reader or content contributor, you appreciate our work and are able to support us materially in some way, we’ll gratefully accept the gift. If you are working on a project which includes a budget for translation, we would be happy to prepare a proposal.

Guerrilla Translation does not aim to make a profit according to traditional business models, but the long-term goal is to support both the work and the people that do it.  Ultimately, we want to combine meaningful work with meaningful exchange. In order to build a more stable organization, we have to help the individuals working with us to sustain themselves, and not need to do what they love on an exclusively voluntary basis. For this reason Guerrilla Translation aims to be a collective where translators can extract value (if not always necessarily monetary profit) from their work, instead of relying on a purely voluntary workforce.

With this model, we aim to offer our contributors, translators, authors and other members support, in complement or alternative to traditional agency work.  We want to create a working model for the translators similar to the world we’d like to live in, effectively bringing it about.

Content Curation: Sharing is Caring

15 M

Image by Olmo Calvo

We intend to share a diverse selection of material, ideas and themes. We welcome humor, philosophy, and art, interviews, reportage, and opinion essays, on topics that provide ideas for enabling change including, but by no means limited to, political activism. At the moment, we’re particularly inspired by ideas about the new economy, alternatives to growth, networked dynamics, social and enviromental justice, feminism, permaculture, and the extramundane, and hope to find even more inspiration as our project expands.

We believe in the free distribution of ideas, so our translations are licensed under a Peer Production License.

Finally, a word about corporate media, journalistic ideals and the chasm between. Mainstream news media has successfully completed the transformation from editorial news reporting into wildly popular entertainment (hello, Network), while at the same time devaluing, even discrediting, the journalistic ideals that created the category in the first place. And while it`s now up to citizen journalism to reflect our reality, it´s all too easy for bloggers to fall into the same traps of attracting an audience with sensationalism, censoring and interest-driven narratives.

Translation demands the same levels of professionalism, integrity and quality needed in journalism – or indeed, any writing. Translation programs have been developed at many levels of efficiency and accuracy, to the point that anyone can cut and paste a block of text into a web-based translator and receive – something in return. Too many individuals with DIY spirit might want to take the easily available route and produce something low-quality just because it’s expedient.

We recognize the need, or even the urgency, to make ideas known outside their original language. We feel that P2P translation should produce quality to match the quality we celebrate in the original work. Something along the lines of the Slow Food ethic is what we’re striving for. As stated above, we don’t work with deadlines and we only translate material we are passionate about. It is passion that drives us.

You’re in good hands here.