OER Translation

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Image courtesy of Creative Commons

While it is difficult to determine the quality of an OER in another language, it is not uncommon for an OER to be translated. While there are some large translation efforts, such as the move to translate MIT OCW material into Chinese, most OER translation occurs on an "as needed" basis. Be aware that material with a Creative Commons "No Derivatives (ND)" clause disallows translation (Hatcher, 2008).

Translation can be a time consuming process. Before beginning a translation, make sure there isn't equivalent material in the target language already. Usually OER producers will note whether or not their OER is available in multiple languages. The next step is to contact the OER developers to see if they would like to assist in the translation. Having the OER developers assist can be tremendously helpful, because they understand the original meaning and intent of the OER. If the OER developer is not bilingual or is unavailable, look for someone who understands both the original language and the target language very well.

Typically translation occurs in two passes. The first is a quick, rough translation. In some instances this can be done through various language translation websites, such as Google Translate[1]. As most machine translations will leave inaccuracies that require human intervention, a second translation is inevitably needed. Post your request for a translator to message boards that match the subject area. Another possible pool of translators is local students. If you are at a university or college, or one is located nearby, they will likely have a diverse student body with students who can speak multiple languages.

Once you find a translator, have them look at a rough translation, with the original OER also available for reference. Once the translator is done with the second translation, consider a back translation (by a different translator) before having someone who represents target learners check the OER to see if it makes sense. Revise as needed.

For some types of OER (e.g., those with highly specialized vocabulary) it is vital to select excellent interpreters with a sound knowledge of the subject area in both languages.


  1. http://translate.google.com/


Hatcher, J.S. (2008, February 14). "English subs, worldwide audiences, anime, and open content." Opencontentlawyer.com. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from http://www.opencontentlawyer.com/2008/02/14/english-subs-worldwide-audiences-anime-and-open-content/