By Talya Jesperson (UVic) and Alyssa Arbuckle (UVic), with the ETCL Team

At the University of Victoria, where our team is located, most research is conducted and communicated in English. This monolingual approach poses language accessibility barriers and limits who can engage with our research and activities. This past year we were grateful to receive funding through Wikimedia Canada to increase accessibility to our Honorary Resident Wikipedian program in languages other than English.

Each year, in partnership with INKE, the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the University of Victoria Libraries, our research lab, the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL), appoints an Honorary Resident Wikipedian to encourage engagement with Wikipedia’s tools and to share and develop knowledge on the encyclopedia, making it more accessible to the broader public. Their role often involves consulting on Wikipedia pages, giving talks, and leading Wikipedia edit-a-thons.

On June 8, 2022, during the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), Nastasia Herold (U Leipzig), our Honorary Resident Wikipedian for 2021–22, and Thérèse Ottawa (Atikamekw First Nation), gave a talk titled “On the Responsibility to Implement the Perspective of the People in Focus of (Digital) Projects.” The talk focused on the Wikipetcia Atikamekw Nehiromowin project and best practices for academic / community and collaboration on Wikipedia.

Herold is fluent in English, French, and German and Ottawa is fluent in French and Atikamekw. For this virtual talk, live translations in English and French were available, allowing presenters to speak in their fluent language(s) and attendees to fully understand the presentation in whichever language they were most comfortable with. Using the translation feature on Zoom, interpreters from Archway Community Services could speak alongside the presenters, and viewers could easily toggle to their preferred language.

During the live event, ~100 participants were in attendance and many more engaged with the recorded talk after the fact. Overall the viewing experience was extremely positive. Having live interpreters allowed everyone to seamlessly keep up with the presentation, including the lecture, questions, and slides, without any delays or inaccuracies that can come with auto-translation or transcription services. Afterwards, the recorded bilingual presentation was accessible to the ~1,000 attendees who registered for DHSI 2022. As an extension of this grant, an earlier talk by Herold and Ottawa from October 2021 titled “Public Talk: Ethics and Responsibilities of Open Access and its Realization in the Atikamekw First Nation’s Wikipedia” was transcribed by a UVic team and translated into Atikamekw by Anthony Dube and shared with the Atikamekw community to engage with.

We are grateful for the support of Wikimedia Canada in providing funding for translation for Herold and Ottawa’s talks. It was an excellent step for our Honorary Resident Wikipedian program to become more accessible in languages other than English and with a broad and diverse audience. We are excited to explore further how to increase language accessibility in the future.