Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written here previously about the collaborative online annotation tool Hypothes.is and about the Open Library of the Humanities, and we have long been proponents of Open Access resources. A few weeks ago, OLH co-founder Martin Eve introduced a new tool, called Annotran. It’s part of the mission of OLH to provide Open Access and accessible scholarly materials, but, as Eve points out:
However, the paywall barrier is only one dimension of closed access. If you are a monolingual reader, much scholarly material may be inaccessible in your first language. By building technologies that allow people to translate between themselves, we make the first step towards a fresh scholarly communications paradigm that focuses on communication, rather than just on accreditation. Of course, there is still much to do: without incentives we would not expect huge uptake of translation authorship. However, Annotran represents a positive initial move.
Annotran is built off of the open source Hypothes.is annotation platform. It’s a browser plugin that allows users to go in and collaboratively translate texts into a variety of languages, much like Hypothes.is allows users to collaboratively annotate a text. Translators can choose a text to translate, while readers can choose a language to read the text in once it is available. It’s as easy to use and install as Hypothes.is, which is a real strength.
The tools allows for the translated language to live on top of the text, so when I user selects a language, you see the target language, and can access the original language by hovering your mouse over the text. You can also restrict your translations to private groups, which could represent a way to use the tool in teaching, as well as evaluate the quality of the translations.
I would have appreciated having this tool when I was teaching literature in translation where we had access to the book, but not a lot of scholarship related to said work, or the scholarship in English wasn’t a reflection of how the work was viewed or received in the original language and culture. Even just having one article, translated, would have been a valuable resource for me, my students, and other instructors who found themselves in a similar situation (all seven of us who teach Québécois literature in translation).
But more importantly, this is another way to share and disseminate not only research, but any web-based textually based resource.
Eve cautions that the tool is still in Beta so might still have some bugs. He does invite feedback, however, and hopes that more people play with it and use it.
Will you try Annotran? How do you see using it in a classroom setting? How else can you see this tool improving access?
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