By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
Earlier this summer, Director of English Language Learning John Heppler and students Xiaoka Yang, Qinxuan Zhang, Yuanqi Zhou, Rhea Arora, Girija Ganeshan, and Marah Tarawneh translated the webpages on the Washington College website into five different languages—simplified and traditional Chinese, Tamil, Arabic, and Hindi. This was part of an effort to inform incoming international students about WC prior to their arrival on campus.
“The folks in Admissions do a great job of providing prospective students with information to help them choose WC, and Student Affairs and the Global Education Office provide an extensive orientation program once students are here, but Xiaoka, Qinxuan, and Yuanqi believed that students needed more information to help them understand our academic culture to ease any misunderstandings caused by cultural and academic differences,” Heppler said.
The first step was to create links to the Office of English Language Learning (OELL) on both the Admissions page as well as the Global Education Office’s main page. An explanation of the OELL was expanded, in addition to descriptions of the books that are read in Heppler’s courses. A set of nine frequently asked questions and their corresponding short answers appear on the bottom of the office homepage; several of the questions pertain to the differences between a college and a university, the definition of a liberal arts education, and how to make friends.
This translation project was launched at the beginning of the spring 2016 semester. The translations into simplified and traditional Chinese were finished by finals week. This was a massive undertaking due to the need to match tone – casual or formal – and register (colloquial or genre-specific vocabularies), so Dr. David Hull of the Modern Languages department was brought in to review and approve their work.
Following finals week, Arora, Ganeshan, and Tarawneh joined the project to work through the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Ganeshan focused on Tamil, Tarawneh on Arabic, and Rhea and Ganeshan joined forces to complete the Hindi translations.
The translated webpages are maintained by LiveWhale, an educational content management system that is used by the College Relations & Marketing (CRM) department. Just before undertaking this project, White Whale, Inc., the company that developed the platform, upgraded to support other writing systems. This made the OELL translation project and the translators involved “guinea pigs” for the system, which resulted in working closely with Lindsay Bergman-Debes of CRM to upload and test the translations. “We were one of the first customers to try multilingual content, so Lindsay had to work with our student works and staff at White Whale to check that everything worked correctly the way it should in all five languages,” Heppler said. Bergman-Debes also provided hands-on training to Yang, Zhang, and Zhou so they could learn the system and maintain the pages on their own.
The translations into the different languages did pose some challenges, such as difficulty in matching tone and register, specifically for the Chinese pages, Arora and Gaeshan also said the Hindi translation took a long time. However, all involved agreed the project was with their efforts.
Heppler and the OELL department hope to add other languages to the website, including Bengali and Thai. Later this academic year, Yang, Zhang, and Zhou will develop storyboards forvideos based on the information they developed for the FAQs. “This project has a much bigger scope, and we expect that it will take us until the 2017-2018 academic year to complete,” Heppler said.