Open.Michigan video translations

New Language Captions for Health Videos: Translation Update

by Kathleen Ludewig Omollo · March 22nd, 2013

Approximately eight weeks ago, we put out an appeal to our global community: help us translate two of our video collections into other languages. Our vision: make some of our educational content more accessible to non-English speakers. We decided to target 31 videos from our collection: 12 clinical microbiology videos co-authored by instructors in Ghana and Michigan and 19 disaster management videos co-authored by seven schools of public health in East Africa. We chose these two collections because they were both collaboratively authored by educators in multiple countries and they both had already attracted an audience in countries where English is not the native language.

Image CC BY NC SA Tobias Mikkelsen (Flickr)

Our community responded to the call with tremendous enthusiasm. We are very grateful to our collaborators Philomena and Julie at the Language Resource Center, who helped us recruit local multilingual talent through the Translate-A-Bowl and theLanguage Bank. We also received many responses from outside University of Michigan through the connections we have developed around the world as part of our Open.Michigan outreach and institutional partnerships.


Now we have 70 caption tracks in other languages: 28 in Spanish, 16 in Portuguese, 14 in French, 7 in Russian, 2 in Danish, 2 in Swahili, and 1 in Luganda. Woo hoo! Most captions were completed by a single translator, but some had two: one to translate and one to review.

Through this translation experiment,  we have learned a lot about the processes for crowd-sourcing captions and translations. Additionally, we have affirmed the importance of captioning for increasing accessibility, for improved ease of searching within videos, and for enabling translations. We have already begun adding English captions to additional videos in our collection for further translation activities and have even added a tag “multilingual” for our learning materials to make them easier to identify.


We will continue to invite translators for those 31 videos and will post new languages as the translations are completed. Volunteers can sign up to translate at:

For a list of current volunteers, as well as a review of the videos translated so far (and the languages those videos have been translated into), see the full post on the Open.Michigan site.

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