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Published:
2020-10-26 11:22:20 -0400
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Laure, who volunteers in the Translation Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I'm one of the volunteers managing the Translation Committee, and I'm also a French translator! So I get to participate in the organisational and administrative side of things, and I still translate or proofread documents sometimes.

Although many people think that Translation works on fanfic, we don’t translate them (it would be nice but there are so. many. of them!). What we work on is a lot of the information and news content that’s produced by the OTW and its projects — like the FAQs, news posts, and some of the homepages. We’re trying to make it all as accessible as possible to fans who don’t speak English!

At the moment there are more than 250 translators for 45 languages, and it’s been amazing to get to work and chat with people from so many different cultures.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

It really depends on the week, it can vary a lot! We have plenty of different types of tasks, some can be done individually, some require group work, and some are even cross-committee efforts. Most of the time we each decide what we work on, it’s quite flexible, but it also requires a lot of self-determination. That part is difficult for me, so teaming up with colleagues and having their support has helped a lot.

For example, I can have a quiet week where I attend our monthly committee meeting, take minutes for it if it’s my turn to do so, and then change our internal documentation if decisions have been taken. Or I can have a very busy week, with several new documents to prepare for translation; discussing with my colleagues to decide which teams we need to recruit for; taking notes for the annual interviews we hold with almost all our translators; and then beta an urgent translation. And that's to cite only a few things that can happen!

We also have the on-call week, which all the Translation managers do on rotation. It means that every two months or so, I’m the one in charge of replying to emails; assigning documents to translate or beta; helping translators if they have any issues; or other kinds of tasks. I love this part of my role because it’s when I get to interact with other volunteers the most.

It can all get very busy when we have special events going on, like the membership drive, the elections, recruitments or when we organise individual check-ins with the translators -- which I also enjoy a lot. I’m not here only for the chatting I promise!

What made you decide to volunteer?

It happened a bit by chance, to be honest. I'd been reading fics on AO3 for years, but I never really had the time and energy to check what happened behind the scenes. Then last year I saw on the homepage that French translators were needed, and I happened to have time at that moment, so I applied!

I thought it was a good opportunity to give back to AO3 for all the time I spent on the site. I also wanted to translate again. I studied translation but it didn’t become my day job, so it’s really nice to use this skill in a fandom context.

Then another Frenchie encouraged me to apply for the manager role, and the more I learn about how the OTW works, the more I want to discover. It’s a far bigger machine than I imagined, it’s really interesting to see how complex it is.

What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?

The biggest challenge has been letting go of my bad reflexes from previous jobs. I’ve worked in companies that relied a lot on punishing and guilting employees for mistakes, and it really leaves a lasting impression. It’s also really bad management in my opinion! Guilt doesn’t work as a lasting motivation (and is also bad for your health, don’t do this at home).

So when I arrived in the Translation Committee and I found kind management I was very wary, and it took me some time to de-stress and trust that I wouldn’t be punished for the smallest mistake. It’s human to make mistakes, and when that happens we try to see what went wrong in the process, and how we can help so that it doesn’t happen again. And now that I’m also a volunteer manager, I’m striving to keep that up.

What fannish things do you like to do?

Mostly reading! The amount of reading material on AO3 always blows my mind. I could spend all my time reading (I wish) and never run out of good stories to discover. I’m amazed and very grateful for writers who share their works. And the same for fanart and any fanworks actually, I’m not shutting any enjoyable doors.

Also about that, lately I've had the motivation to start writing again. I haven’t in ages so it’s tough to get it rolling again. I’m going to participate in a mini bang soon to get some motivation!

I also started translating a fanfic from English into French, as I’m hoping to get more French friends to read it. It’s easy to forget that everyone doesn’t read and/or speak English when we’re so often chatting in this language. Translation is still a great and necessary accessibility tool, especially if it’s for accessing Transformers fanfics!


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.