Multilingual improvements (j’ai la #frt!)

If you are, my beloved reader, paying just as much attention as I expect you to, you will have noticed that we have been improving the French interface of the edition over the past 10 days – with a variable success, some of the fields now appearing in all three languages at a time in all the versions. In preparation for the Frankoromanistentag (aka #frt2012), where I will present technical issues connected to the integration of francophone texts to a German edition, I have worked on all the small details of the interface that you only notice when you really do not understand them: the tags for the 6 different views of the document, the presentation texts for the corpora, the search page, the metadata view. You will certainly have noticed that the English equivalent is still missing, ahem. I spent hours improving the French part and will certainly try to move on with the English one as well soon, although this is far more painstaking, since translating German or French into English takes me considerably more time than translating German into French. But I promise I will have my English translations copyedited (for once, you will be able to read *real* English, not just my English).

We have also been working on the multilingual version of the metadata. To make those as accessible to data mining as humanly possible, we encode them in German, French and English. But is it necessary to translate all fields of the metadata? Everything that contains adresses, norms like dates or the size of the page in cm clearly does not need translation and is self-explainable in all three languages. While asking myself what really does deserve to appear in three languages, I found the translating process so boring and useless that I have quickly been dividing the fields concerned by the translation in two categories: those that need to be translated by a human being on the one hand (typically, full-text zones describing the overall looks and preservation of the manuscript) and on the other hand, those that should be translated by a computer. Countries names for instance. There are also fields that need not be translated at all because the XSLT-Stylesheet does it for me, such as the expression “Transcription by” or “Annotation by”. This lead me to some thinking about the level at which such translations are useful. Obviously, when it comes to reading the texts or searching marked-up elements of our digital edition, the translation through the XSLT-stylesheet suffices. But when it comes to reusing our XML file? I will have to look more precisely into that.

There was some hesitation as to the technical implementation as well. Just like for the first letter from Tieck to Raumer, on which I had done a series of fairly unsucessful multilingual experimentations, it turns out to be quite tricky to have three different variations of the same field that will only show in the one view corresponding to the language. For the notes  for instance, I should not add after one another < note resp=”#anne.baillot” xml:lang=”de”>Bla bla.< /note> and < note resp=”#anne.baillot” xml:lang=”fr”>Bla bla.< /note> and < note resp=”#anne.baillot” xml:lang=”en”>Blah blah.< /note>, but have only one < note> divided into three < seg>, each one of those being garnished with the capital xml:lang-information. It turns out to work the exact same way for most of the metadata fields. Except, said Alex, for title and titleStatement. What the heck! One way or another, I will probably begin using xml:lang while speaking very soon, considering how frantically I have been using while encodig lately.

This is almost what I will talk about in my paper tomorrow. Almost, because what I wrote today is more a further developpement of the ideas of my paper, and of the editorial praxis that I have tried to make fit to the paper’s ideas. The main argument of my paper is that it really does not matter in which language the text is that you want to edit. What matters is the language in which you edit it.

Which is why my paper is in French, the congress is taking place in Germany and I will be tweeting in English!


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