Monday, November 30, 2009

PL 68/09: Learning by translating

Filed under: LATINA — plinius @ 10:05 pm

LATINA was born as a training course.

In 2008, Oslo University College started a summer school – lasting three weeks – for an international group of students. The people behind LATINA – Helge Høivik, Lars Egeland and Tord Høivik – designed the course as a web-oriented learning environment.

We have worked with digital tools in education for several decades. But the years after 2005 open totally new posssibilities of integrating web resources, portable computers and audio-visual tools in knowledge production. Through LATINA, we wanted to give students and teachers the chance to explore the new forms of learning and teaching.


Today, we can look back on five LATINA productions:

  1. the first LATINA summer course 2008 – three intensive weeks
  2. the LATINA spring course 2009 – three dispersed weeks combined with individual study
  3. the second LATINA summer course 2009 – three intensive weeks
  4. a digital dissemination course for museum pedagogues in the autumn 2009 – three dispersed weeks combined with individual study (conducted in Norwegian)
  5. a six week internship program for five Erasmus Mundus students from Akershus University College in the autumn 2009

We have just started a five year work/study programme for librarians with a master degree (half time study) – and are planning

  1. a one week training course for Nordic librarians in Finland in June 2010
  2. a third LATINA summer course 2010 – three intensive weeks

Working with diversity

We work with people from many different countries and with widely different skills in English. This is typical of many international courses. As more and more students are expected to study abroad, our linguistic environment is becoming more and more heterogeneous.

This diversity can be met in two ways: by standardization or by inclusion. We may (try to) restrict the intake to students with fluent English – or prepare for a wide range of English language skills.

Since we need to communicate with all participants, we must require some knowledge of English. But in LATINA we aim to develop resources and ways of working that allow students to much of the work in their own languages.

In the summer of 2008, the class had two important language groups besides English: four Chinese participants using Mandarin and three participants from Sudan having Arabic as their shared language. The 2009 spring course included a group of Norwegian college teachers and four young students from China. The 2009 summer course included three who spoke Mandarin,  three with Polish and two who could communicate in Ukrainian – one from the country itself and one Tanzanian who studied there.  The interns all had a good mastery of English, but their regular working languages were French (2), Spanish (2) and Polish (1).

The story does not end there, however. The Polish intern spoke excellent Spanish. The French speakers had learned French at school. At home – in Benin and the Ivory Coast – they grew up speaking several local languages. – The official language is French, wrote one of them – but we also have more than 40 local languages. In addition to French and English, I also speak some local languages. In this case, some equalled four – with Yoruba as the main one. The other African intern spoke “only” Senoufo and Bambara.


In LATINA, we have used this range of language skills to explore the role of translation and interpretation in individual and collective learning. Immediately after the 2009 summer course, we organized a one week translation workshop where some of the participants translated central LATINA educational resources into Spanish, Polish and Ukrainian. These will be used in connection with the 2010 course, and are also available for free non-commercial re-use by educators in general.

In the autumn 2009, the interns were asked to translate a general article (10 pages) about LATINA into French, Spanish and Polish. At the same time, they should observe and reflect on their use of Google Translate – using their blogs to document their thinking. The end result will be a collective paper on translation as a learning activity – based on their shared experiences working on the same text.

Statistical advocacy

The demand for multilingual training crops up in many different settings. The International Federation of Library Associations – IFLA – is developing a series of one-day courses for librarians worldwide. The courses are developed in English, but will later be conducted in  many different languages – starting with some of the official IFLA idioms: Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and Chinese.

I am coordinating the development work for one of these courses – the one dealing with statistical advocacy. And if that term does not sound a bell – you may read all about it on the GLOSSA blog … The LATINA principles – or rather practices – are very appropriate to this up-and-coming course.

The GLOSSA blog is meant to be bilingual in English and Spanish – and one of our interns has done a great job translating central posts and pages into Spanish. After a planning meeting in the Hague, in early December, we now plan three multilingual events in 2010:

  1. a pilot course in Poland in the spring 2010 (English/Polish)
  2. a “stream” devoted to library statistics within the LATINA summer course in July 2010
  3. a series of parallell workshops at the IFLA Congress in Gothenburg August 2010 (see Appendix)
    • English – of course
    • Spanish – definitely
    • Scandinavian – probably
    • French – possibly

This means that we get the chance to try out our training materials and approach with participants from different linguistic communities.


Plinius in English

Plinius in Norwegian


At the SES meeting in Milan in August, we decided to offer a one-day off-site workshop on library statistics during the IFLA congress in Gothenburg (Aug. 10-15, 2010). It will be on one of the main conference days (no pre or post) and will be planned by a group consisting of: Frankie Wilson (chair), Wanda Dole, Colleen Cook, Ulla Wimmer and Tord Høivik.

The workshop will be based on the work package for the capacity building workshops (GLOSSA) developed by then. There should be ca. 5 parallel workshops so that ca. 100 attendants can be accomodated. Workshop languages should be English, French, Spanish and possibly other IFLA Languages. The workshop should be promoted to Management of Library Associations Section and National Libraries Section to enhance attendance.

Expert meeting agenda. GLOSSA blog Nov. 30, 2009


1 Comment »

  1. а

    Comment by Jexannedia — Friday, December 6, 2013 @ 9:09 am

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