Mon 8 Apr 2013 4:25AM

Language + style guide for translators

AI Alanna Irving Public Seen by 251


Loomio is part of a movement towards new forms of organisation, new social relationships, and new experiences. We don't necessarily have the language for these new forms yet.

As Marina Sitrin says in the translator's note at the start of Horizontalism "old words cannot define new things - a new language is necessary [...] We must try to listen to the experience before attempting to translate it into the language of our own experience."

"So, today we're constructing something different. And, in the process, a whole new language and new forms of expression come into being. Horizontalidad, direct democracy, sharing and effecting one another's movements, contamination, articulation, organizing in networks: these expressions are not often heard from the traditional left. There are many words from the past that could define today's situation, but since they're old words used to define new things, they create confusion."

It has been a significant challenge to translate some of these new organisational concepts into English words; I expect the challenge will deepen as we expand into other languages.

Word choices and tone/style

Overall, we aim for an informal, conversational tone throughout the app. Think about how people talk when they meet as equals in a friendly collaborative meeting. Clarity is the highest priority.

We've deliberately avoided language with strong connotations of traditional formalised majority-rules political decision-making. Rather than talking about elections or parliament or voting or quorum or any of that political jargon, we talk about people having discussions, building shared understanding and making collaborative decisions together. Loomio is motivated by the concept of everyday democracy - the idea that participating in decisions that affect you should be a part of daily life.

Here's a few key words in the app and the reasoning behind them. All these choices are up for discussion :)


A proposal is a suggested course of action, made by an individual to a group. In the codebase this is known as a 'motion', so you may see references to that word occasionally. We chose 'proposal' over 'motion' because it is slightly less formal and more flexible.


Individuals state their position on a proposal. There are times in English where 'vote' is a more convenient word (as it can function as a noun and a verb), but we've explicitly avoided using it. 'Vote' carries connotations of majority-rules adversarial decision-making, where-as a 'position' is more deliberative and collaborative.


A proposal with a collection of positions together make up a 'decision'.


A group (occasionally referred to as a 'parent group') contains all the individuals for a given organisation. A sub-group is a smaller collection of individuals. There is no hierarchy or superiority built into the group/sub-group model, it is simply a way of dividing up an organisation into smaller parts.

This concept is ugly to explain in English, so I expect a better choice will emerge eventually :) It's easy to explain in mathematics: the 'group' is a superset and the 'subgroup' is a subset


Francisco George PP-ES Mon 8 Apr 2013 9:34AM

@alannakrause Great! Lets Rock'n Roll :-)


Miguel Prados Rodriguez Tue 9 Apr 2013 6:53AM

Ready to empezar !


Alanna Irving Tue 9 Apr 2013 10:27PM

@richarddbartlett is away until tomorrow but after he gets back he's going to do a brainstorm and give me some information to start with about terms and words we have put a lot of thought into in English, and we found difficult to translate to in Spanish. I'd like to write up a language guide based on this info for translators.


Richard D. Bartlett Wed 10 Apr 2013 10:46PM

I've updated the context with a braindump of how I think about language and Loomio. It would be good to have some other English-speaking comms people expand on this outline @benjaminknight @alannakrause

@noelia were there any other words you came across that required some further explanation?

How should we expand this document to make it really useful to other translators? @mirceazachia @franciscogeorgeppes @miguelpradosrodriguez


Noelia Wed 10 Apr 2013 10:59PM

:) awesome job @richarddbartlett there were some instances were loomio says want and other times wish but i wont say that was difficult, like you explained above it has to do when people meet and talks in an equal and friendly manner, "statement" was a hard one if you translate that literally it means "declaration" or "enunciation" which for me sounds quite strict, but I'm sure when people starts using Loomio en Español it will change and we will find the perfect words. My two cents for now.


Benjamin Knight Wed 10 Apr 2013 11:22PM

This is totally awesome Richard D B! I've just elaborated a little bit on the tone/style, and bumped it up to the front to put the word choices in context - hope that's ok! Feel free to change if I've put anything you're not into :)


Alanna Irving Wed 17 Apr 2013 11:46PM

@richarddbartlett and @robertguthrie are currently working on the technical side of integrating translations with our development process. They are looking at Transifex and were helped by @zack to get going on that.

Myself and @noelia are working on how to support the translation community to provide translations and user support in their languages, starting with Spanish. We've realized we need to support a robust self-supporting language community to back up any Loomio release in another language. We want it to be easy for that community to talk to one another and help one another.

We are still sticking with the strategy of using Spanish as a test case and learning from it before moving on to other languages. We really appreciate the enthusiasm from other translators besides Spanish, and we hope you will be patient with us while we work out a good system! We are not forgetting about you. @rafaelgomes @filipesilva @laurentbassaler @franciscogeorgeppe


Richard D. Bartlett Fri 19 Apr 2013 2:21AM

Sneaky peek at progress:


It's happening!


Noelia Fri 19 Apr 2013 4:01AM

@richarddbartlett muy emocionante! :)


Rafael Gomes Fri 19 Apr 2013 2:45PM

@richarddbartlett great!

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