Monday, December 20, 2010

FBA's Growing International Platform

Free Buddhist AudioSpreading the Dharma
Sharing our Practice
Connecting our Community Worldwide

Here at Free Buddhist Audio we are a thoroughly international team, with volunteers around the world and core team members in the USA (east and west coasts), England and Saudi Arabia! So we are very happy to let you know today that our efforts to turn the site into a more international platform are well underway.

Free Buddhist Audio serves an international community. And today we'd like to give you a bit of background on how we've been setting up conditions to move towards being able to support the many languages of the Triratna world.

We received a UK government grant in 2008 to create our Community Places and community upload system. (see: Community Upload System Gains Momentum). With this we were able to set up individual archives for Buddhist centres and projects around the world, allowing for centres to upload talks directly to the site in their local languages. Places quite active with this are: Essen and Berlin, Germany; Valencia, Spain; Pune, India; Ghent, Belgium; Krakow, Poland; Paris, France; Oslo, Norway; Dharmakranti, India. You can also hear many of Subhuti's talks with simultaneous translation into Hindi on our specialist Indian Pages.

Next, we took a fresh look at the structure of our site itself. If you look down in the lower right corner of the site, you will see five little flags. Seasoned users will remember that these little flags used to take you to versions of FBA in Chinese, German, Spanish, French, and Dutch. In fact, we had full translations of the site in each language but we discovered that people from those language groups didn't much visit as there simply wasn't enough local content available and easy to find amongst all the English language material. So we successfully set about promoting use of our upload system in non-English speaking Centres and replaced the full translations with some focussed content pages instead. This means that all the talks in a particular language can now be sorted together for quick access. In 2010 we've done this for Hindi, German and Spanish, and we're looking to extend the service to cover French talks (and possibly other languages) in 2011. Chinese, however, is a very special case! There are, as yet, no Triratna talks available in Chinese, but our site has modest use amongst English speakers in China and we're proud to provide them with a clear, Buddhist source of Dharma. And so far, the site remains unblocked by the Chinese authorities, which is also perhaps a feat to be celebrated!

In general in our promotional work this year, we are aiming to communicate more directly with sanghas all over the world. This work has included creating email newsletters for local communities, and we have worked with several generous volunteers to create translations of these where needed. So far, we have publicized FBA in the Spanish, Dutch, and Swedish. In undertaking our international promotional and fundraising work, it has also become clear that we need to create donation pages in local languages in order to encourage local support! So we're happy to report that we have now finished the Spanish versions, and will soon be hard at work on the German pages. We hope this will really help folk everywhere in the Triratna Community come to feel a genuine sense that Free Buddhist Audio is made for them too!

All this is, of course, only the start of what is possible. The new version of our website has been built to accommodate multiple language versions of all the text on the site, but it remains quite a complex task to make sure we have enough diverse content that will work in sync with different translations, and to consider how best to serve the needs of particular language communities. We are very much learning as we go, and we are learning in partnership with our international users! To that end we have set up a great working translation team, with technical assistance from one of our Spanish speaking community members, and we will look again at getting the whole site translated into as many languages as seems practically useful in the coming year. Getting all our FBA pages, features sections - and our search engine! - to work well across multiple languages is quite a technological challenge. But we are determined to serve our whole community and we're excited to be at the forefront of promoting a vibrant and coherent presentation of the Dharma for all in years ahead!

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