Multiple languages and RDA

We’ve been thinking for some time about how to implement multi-lingual (and multi-script) vocabularies in the Registry. Some Registry users have been experimenting with language and script capability for some time (see Daniel Lovins’ Sandbox Hebrew GMD’s). But it was really when we started working with the RDA vocabularies that we got serious about multi-linguality.

At DC-2008 in Berlin, we started talking to the librarians at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek about adding German language versions of RDA vocabularies into the Registry. I knew how eager the German libraries were to participate more actively in the RDA development, and had been talking to German librarians for some time about their frustrations with the notion that they had to wait until “later” to become involved. Christine Frodl and Veronika Leibrecht have been our primary contacts at the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek on this work, and they’ve been a real pleasure to work with.

We decided collectively to start with some of the value vocabularies, in particular Content Type, Media Type and Carrier Type. We enabled Veronika to become a maintainer on those vocabularies, and she worked within her library and associated German-speaking libraries to translate and develop labels and definitions in German for the existing terms. As she describes the challenge:

“Because RDA was not developed simultaneously in various languages (that would be an even more daunting task!), we are looking for ways to adapt German to English language/cataloguing concepts and must get agreement on the terms in our community. The search for terminology to translate RDA will therefore be an ongoing process in the short term for us. … Now I am looking forward to seeing French and Spanish come along ;-) and would be happy to share a few resources I found which could help people in their search for terminology.”

Those of you who know German (or have an interest in multilingual vocabularies in general, might want to take a look at some of the work done already:

Content Type Vocabulary (you can see that for now, all concepts display in English)

Detail for concept of “computer program”: http://metadataregistry.org/concept/show/id/517.html (the German translation for the label appears in the list of properties of the concept)

Veronika points out that the process behind this effort is a complex one, but solidly based on existing relationships in the German-speaking world:

“[B]ecause of the federal system in Germany, the DNB works very closely with all library consortia in the country and Austria and decisions about cataloguing rules and data formats are reached through consensus with them. The reason for this it that the consortia include and represent libraries which existed long before the German state as such (or the DNB, for that matter) and therefore have traditionally and independently held the written cultural heritage of their individual counties, duchies, kingdoms etc.”

We have had some additional interest by other language communities in this effort, and Jon has added some detail on our wiki to describe how we plan to improve the software to make both building and maintenance of other language versions simpler, and easier to configure at the output end. Do note that this isn’t implemented yet, but is instead a blueprint for moving ahead in this critical area.

One thought on “Multiple languages and RDA”

  1. It’s a bit strange to have a URI end with numbers, though. E.g.:
    http://rdvocab.info/termList/RDAContentType/1020.
    With RDF, you can just added the localized label to the schema This is not the case now; even the English-only strings are missing a language tag.

    I’m also a little confused about why this URI is defined as a skos:Concept, rather than something higher level, like an rdfs:Class or owl:Class.

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