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Comments on language services

  • To: language-services-policy@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comments on language services
  • From: Kieren McCarthy <kieren@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 21 May 2012 21:55:48 +0200

ICANN's translation/interpretation services have greatly improved over the
past few years so it is good to see a formal document outlining and
summarizing them.

That said, while this document does a good job listing what services are
provided, it falls short by not providing a path or a guide to what ICANN
needs to do with respect to language services in order to make its work
accessible to a global audience.

The most significant omission is the fact that no guide is provided for the
ICANN website - the entry point for almost every interaction that the
Internet community has with ICANN. As things stands, the website is
exclusively designed for English speakers. As soon you a user moves away
from English, all they receive is a long list of documents in their chosen
language, with little or no context or explanation.

The result is that non-English speakers are at a significant disadvantage
and, it could be argued, are simply not able to follow ICANN's work. Since
ICANN is running its website on the latest version of Drupal, which
contains a significantly improved language facility, it is a large omission
that this language services document does not tackle how translated
material is created and displayed on the ICANN website.

Another significant flaw in ICANN's current approach is the fact that while
English is the working language of the organization, it is also given
exceptional priority over other languages. Despite the best efforts of the
language department, all documents are published first in English and then
translations act as an afterthought. The result is often that timely
announcements are only provided many days later, and that documents can
often be under formal discussion by the time a translated version arrives.

The paper's vision statement notes: "In all aspects of implementing this
policy, a balance must be achieved between the benefits gained from
including more people in ICANN’s work and the potential cost in time, money
and possible delay to the policy development process."

Unfortunately this operational attitude will almost certainly continue to
exclude important actors in the organization's work and so continue to
undermine ICANN in the broader international field. This statement should
be removed and replaced with one that recognizes the work that ICANN
undertakes has a global impact and so must be made available in other
languages if it is to be legitimate.

ICANN needs only to decide that formal documents or announcements will not
be released until full translations are available, and within a few months
the organization's procedures will adjust to account for the additional
time required. A similar situation occurred when ICANN's Board decided that
documents would have to be provided at least 14 days before an
international public meeting; and when the Board decided that it would only
consider documents at its own meetings that had been provided a given time
in advance.

In both cases, the additional time was simply accounted for by setting back
the document deadline. And the benefits from not having to deal with
last-minute documents were immediate. The same would be true of translated
documents provided on an equitable basis in all languages: after a short
period of time, the processes will simply adjust and the organization as a
whole would benefit.

It is important to note that the quantity and the quality of ICANN's
languages services have increased significantly on the past few years.

However, that investment, and ICANN's own legitimacy as an institution
making decisions that affect people globally, requires that the
organization take this opportunity to look beyond a list of services and
contemplate how it can institutionally improve the way it serves that the
majority of the world's speakers who use the Internet but do not speak

Thanks for your consideration of these points.

Kieren McCarthy


Kieren McCarthy
CEO | .Nxt, Inc.
+1 415 937 1451
kieren@xxxxxxxxxxx | http://dot-nxt.com

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