Help us translate educational videos about microbiology and disaster management from Michigan, Ghana, and East Africa

by Kathleen Ludewig Omollo · January 28th, 2013 · 6 Comments

NOTE – On March 22, 2013, I posted a follow-up with results from the translation campaign.  We are still inviting volunteers to continue the translation progress. We launched the translation campaign with the post below:

Calling all linguists and polyglots worldwide! Among the many collaborative projects for Open.Michigan there are two that we would like to bring to your attention:

  • a collection of 12 clinical microbiology videos, which were co-authored by professors at University of Michigan and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana in 2009. Collectively, these microbiology videos have over 500,000 views on YouTube. The videos are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 License.
  • a collection of 19 disaster management videos, which were jointly authored in 2009-2012 by the East Africa Health Alliance (a consortium of 7 schools of public health including Makerere University in Uganda, Jimma University School of Public Health in Ethiopia, Moi University in Kenya, University of Nairobi in Kenya, National University of Rwanda, Kinshasa University in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania), Johns Hopkins University (USA) and Tulane University (USA) – with some formatting and publishing support from University of Michigan. The lectures were designed to be used across the East Africa region, but their current English-only captions and narration make them largely inaccessible to regional French- and Swahili- speaking countries. The videos are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

In order to further expand the global impact of these videos, we are launching a campaign to attract volunteers to translate the video captions from English into other languages – using YouTube and Amara to streamline the process. (We even used the YouTube remix feature.) The videos vary in length, with the shortest at 46 seconds and the longest at thirteen minutes. All of the translations will be shared under the same Creative Commons license as the original video. The transcripts and video descriptions will acknowledge the names of contributing translators.

Our priority languages are French, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish, and Swahili, but we encourage all languages. (We have computer-generated translations in those 4, plus 31 others.) 

So, please, volunteer some of your time, flex your language skills, and earn some recognition and a line for your resume or professional portfolio. Your contribution will certainly have a significant impact on increasing the portability and visibility of these learning materials around the world.

If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, stop by the Translate-A-Bowl Friday, February 1 – Sunday, February 3, 2013, organized by the University of Michigan Language Resource Center, to translate the videos alongside your multilingual peers from University of Michigan and the local community. The Translate-A-Bowl will include these videos as well as other resources to translate.

(NOTE: If you’re not in Ann Arbor or you already have weekend plans, no worries. You can participate remotely wherever and whenever works for you. Read on.)

Sign up to translate the captions

Request access through our signup form. After an editor grants you access to the captions, you’ll receive email notifications with links for the languages that you requested.

Anyone who has edit access to captions for a particular video can also invite others to translate the same language for the same video. To invite others to a particular video, click on a caption link for which you have permission. In the YouTube translation editor, go to File > Invite people. Click the “Send Invitations Button” to send them an email with the link. (For more details: see Google Translate Toolkit: Collaborators help.)

All translations will be sent to the video owner to review before they are publicly viewable on the video page.

How the translation process works

First, request access through our signup form. Next:

  1. Open a web browser – preferably Chrome, Firefox or Safari. (The YouTube video editor will not work in Internet Explorer.)
  2. Open the Google Document with the video and caption links. Find your video of choice and click on the link for the desired language.
  3. This will open the translation editor. (If you click one of the 35 languages listed, it will open YouTube. If you select “Other”, it will open Amara. The instructions below are for YouTube. Amara is similar but doesn’t provide the computer translations as a guide.)
  4. For each segment, you’ll see the start and end time, the English transcript, and the corresponding computer translations for the given language from Google Translate. In the textbox, you can edit the translation. Click the Show/Hide Toolkit button in upper right corner to show/hide the Translation Search tabs at the bottom. You can click “use suggestion” if the computer translation is correct. Each caption allows multiple people editing simultaneously.


  1. If interested, for each segment, you can also use the play button to hear the English audio. You can use the eraser button to clear out the translation for that segment. Alternatively, go to the File menu and select Undo to undo the previous action. Once you are content with the translation for the given segment, click the Next arrow > to store your translation and proceed to the next segment. (see screenshot below).


  1. Once you’ve completed all segments for the video, click the “Publish to YouTube” button. This will send an email to the video owner that there’s a pending translation waiting to be approved and published. This also updates the progress bar at the top to 100% (see screenshot below), so that other translators can see that the translation is complete.


Ready… Get set…


Tags: Community · Events || · · · · · · · · · ·

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kathleen Ludewig Omollo // Jan 31, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    If you’re interested in adding subtitles or translating captions for your videos, here’s the process we used to get to this point:

  • 2 Kathleen Ludewig Omollo // Feb 9, 2013 at 10:37 am

    We’ve had 22 volunteers so far and have already rolled out new captions for several of the 31 videos in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Swahili, and Russian.

    There is not a hard deadline for the translation. We’re trying to complete as much of the translation work as possible over the next 3 weeks. Even after that, though, we’ll continue to welcome translators and to publish new language captions as they’re completed. So, if you’re interested in helping us add more captions to include more of the 31 videos, please signup above.

  • 3 Kathleen Ludewig Omollo // Feb 9, 2013 at 11:22 am

    We’re proud to have this project featured by multiple departments on campus, including:

    - UMHS Headlines
    - Global REACH
    - Record Update
    - MLibrary-ETECHLIB

  • 4 Kathleen Ludewig Omollo // Mar 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

    We’ve had 34 volunteers sign up so far. To date, we have 69 caption tracks in other languages: 28 in Spanish, 16 in Portuguese, 14 in French, 7 in Russian, 2 in Danish, 1 in Swahili, 1 in Luganda.

    We’ll continue to invite translators and post new languages as the translations are completed. You can sign up to translate at:

  • 5 Tercüme Bürosu // May 9, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Even after that, though, we’ll continue to welcome translators and to publish new language captions as they’re completed.

  • 6 atfeh // Oct 9, 2013 at 1:49 am


    I came across your address from the site: Open Culture

    Firstly I would like to thank you for offering lectures to the broad world wide community on this site.

    In a spirit to make available knowledge to all and free of any charge, I am contacting you regarding my cousin, Dr. H.A. Olia, a retired professor who is very much interested to make available his broad knowledge on volunteer basis.
    I am wondering if you are interested in establishing contact with him. He is a retired architect. His knowledge and range of interest are extremely wide and based on a very creative intellectual background. To name only a few, they range from history, cultural studies, to active renovation and restoration of historical sites,literature, visual art, etc…etc… He is a bilingual Italian and Persian speaker. He would love to offer his assistance and to relate his broad multicultural knowledge to anyone interested free of any charge. He lives in Italy and would be interested to assist via internet or on the site.

    Myself, I have never stopped learning form him.

    Best regards

    Atefeh Oliai

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