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Jim Foran, with the assistance of a number of staff from the Irish Institutes of Technology has taken on the task of translating the Millennium WebOPAC into Irish. Jim Foran spoke about the reasons for translating the publicly viewed text of Millennium into a minority language. Three questions must be answered satisfactorily before you attempt to do a project like this – Why are you doing it? – Who is going to use it? and -- How are you going to do it?
The presenter gave a short history of the decline of spoken Irish and the attempts at its revival and the current situation. Those involved in the project had a number of social and cultural reasons to promote Irish language and culture and they wanted to encourage the use of Irish by making it part of the modern world. The Institute is part of a consortium of 14 technical education institutions, which is converting to Millennium.
The intended users of the Irish language web catalog are the students who have been educated through the Irish school system and have reached the level of the technical institutes, adults who have a basic grasp of the language and want to try to use it in everyday life, and students who are taking Irish language courses at the institutes or at other universities.
The resources used to complete this project are not difficult to use and don’t require you to be highly skilled in web design. However, there are some basic technical competencies you need to be aware of. Basically you need to be able to use and copy HTML and GIF files, have the Innovative Translation Module software and have access to good vocabulary and technical usage dictionaries for the target language.
The project began with the module that would make the most impact – the WebOPAC. The group hopes to translate these modules later in this priority order- Millennium Circulation, Serials, Acquisitions, Text-based and GUICat.
Mr. Foran then demonstrated with examples the methods and steps he used to construct an Irish language WebOPAC interface. The WebOPAC Main Menu, OPAC Menu and Search Help screens were tackled first by translating the HTML files in the Web Server File Maintenance function. This program uses the Full Screen Editing protocols already familiar to cataloguers using text-based system. Then the Translation Module was used to translate system-produced text such as in Browse screens. Using the h(has) search operator works best for identifying strings of text to be translated. After the translation is done, you use the Install function to update your work. Mr. Foran then used Paint Shop Pro to create button .gif files and import them into the system. Finally, Innovative set up IT Sligo as a multilingual site so that translated system codes for labels could be used.
The difficulties of producing a translated interface are not just technical, as there are language translation problems as well. Included in the tools you need are general English-Irish, Irish-English dictionaries and specialized technology dictionaries such as the computer terminology dictionary produced by the Fiontar Irish Language Computing and Business Department of Dublin City University.
Many new English words and phrases relating to information technology are made by combining well-known words. This does not always work well for Irish, but the technique can be used. The Irish for hardware (cruaearrai) was already well accepted, so the pattern of combining the words for "soft" and "ware" (bogearrai) was also accepted. Some phrases are difficult to translate because the literal meaning is too cumbersome or not quite ‘right on’. An example given was for the word ‘click". The Irish phrase used was cnag an cnaipe which translates literally as ‘knock the button’. However, sometimes endings can be added to a foreign word to make up a new word in the target language. For example, the French use cliquez for ‘click’ as a computer term, so the term cliceáil might be proposed instead for Irish. Mr. Foran believes that acceptance of the new term will be dictated by its widespread usage rather than by whether it is grammatically pure.
Translators of Irish face another complication in that they may have to translate American English to British English before attempting the Irish translation. An example given was the American term ‘call number’ for which the British term would be ‘class number.’
Finally, all the pieces must be put together in a way that encourages those interested in using the non-English language WebOPAC. There are a number of strategies that can be used to present the minority language option. You can either place on the Main Menu the option to use the HTML link to the Irish language version and have a corresponding HTML link back to the English version. You could also use the LANG Option in WWWOptions to make a language other than English the default language, but you most likely would want to leave the majority language as the default with an option to switch to the other language. You could also place a link on your library home page to the other language OPAC.
The session “A Question of Language” presents a good starting point for others to plan a project to translate their local WebOPAC system into whatever other language is needed to serve the local patron base.