by Bob Henson
Translators Marina LaGrave and
David Russi. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)
The World Wide Web offers a huge range of information on weather
and climate, but only a sliver of that spectrum is available in Spanish.
This is despite the fact that many research scientists are fluent
in both English and Spanish, and internationally focused efforts
such as UOP’s GLOBE Program have long included materials online
in the six official United Nations languages, including Spanish.
Still, it can be difficult for Spanish speakers to find what they
need online in the way of educational materials on the Earth system.
The typically monolingual world of atmospheric science on the U.S.
Web is beginning to change, however. In the last year, UCAR has dramatically
stepped up its efforts to offer online educational materials en español.
“There’s an ignored ocean of demand,” says Roberta
Johnson, director of UCAR Education and Outreach (EO). Her program
now provides some 5,000 pages of Web materials in Spanish. Another
center of translation action is UOP’s COMET Program, which
recently unveiled a Spanish version of the higher-level pages on
its popular MetEd site (see “On the Web”). And there
is also strong interest in translating the introductory pages of
the UCAR/NCAR Web site into Spanish as funding allows. Software underpinning
the site was recently upgraded to permit versions in multiple languages.
Forecaster training in two languages
Most of COMET’s modules are intended as continuing education
for operational forecasters, but they are also popular in college
classrooms and even among motivated high school students eager to
learn about such topics as rip currents or mesoscale convective systems.
Until recently, Vilma Castro—a professor at the World Meteorological
Organization’s Regional Meteorological Training Center at the
University of Costa Rica—had been translating one or two modules
per year into Spanish for COMET as time and funding allowed. But
in 2005, the NWS Office of International Affairs expressed interest
in a stepped-up program of Spanish-language training.
Roberta Johnson and Marina LaGrave
(right, behind desk) brought some of UCAR’s Spanish-language
educational materials to the annual meeting of Mexico’s
National Association of Science Teachers in Puebla last
November. (Photo courtesy UCAR Education and Outreach.)
COMET responded by hiring David Russi as the program’s first
full-time translator. Over the last year Russi has produced Spanish
versions of all the top-level MetEd pages in addition to translating
15 modules. Currently, COMET has almost 40 hours of educational materials
available in Spanish and plans to add 20 to 40 hours each year. A
distance learning course on basic hydrologic science is COMET’s
first to be released at roughly the same time in English and Spanish.
The full course, including 11 individual modules, will be available
Russi has also translated two of COMET’s modules on the GOES-10
satellite, which is now observing Central and South America (see
President’s Corner, page 2). Meanwhile, Castro continues to
advise COMET on which modules would be most useful to Latin Americans,
as well as providing and reviewing translations for the program. “We’re
working toward the goal of having most of our materials available
in both English and Spanish,” says COMET’s Liz Lissard,
who oversees the translation efforts.
Terminology is a particular focus of COMET’s translation
efforts. The new Spanish resource page available on MetEd provides
access to many external glossaries and dictionaries in Spanish and
English. In addition, COMET is translating its own glossaries to
help bridge English and Spanish materials. “There’s
really nothing like them out there for Spanish speakers. We think
they’ll be a fabulous resource,” says Russi. Glossaries
that are tied directly to a module will provide full definitions
in both languages.
Russi takes pains to make his Spanish as international as possible. “There
are differences between Central and South America and across the
Atlantic. I try to stay away from localisms of any kind.”
El tiempo en español
Among UCAR’s educational tools aimed at the K-12 audience,
much of the translation to date has centered on Windows to the Universe.
Now in its 12th year, this multilayered guide to Earth and planetary
science draws so many students, teachers, and members of the public
to its 7,000 pages that it accounts for more than half of the traffic
on UCAR servers.
Beginning in 2004 with the help of NSF funding, EO has translated
about 75% of the W2U site into Spanish. The translations include
a new section called Earth’s Polar Regions, which debuted on
1 March in honor of the International Polar Year (2007–09).
Of the roughly 16 million users who visit W2U each year, more than
a quarter now head for the Spanish pages. There’s a fair bit
of cross-visitation, though, says Johnson. “Because you can
easily switch from English to Spanish or vice versa, there are people
using the site to learn both languages.”
Roberta Johnson. (Photo by Carlye
Teachers crave additional background to help them convey geoscience
concepts to students across the Spanish-speaking world as well
as in bilingual U.S. classrooms. One of EO’s first attempts
to meet this need was a workshop in 2004 for 30 teachers who conduct
bilingual K-12 programs in Boulder County, where UCAR is based.
This one-shot effort has since morphed into NCAR’s Bilingual
Science Teachers Annual Resources Symposium (BSTARS), which provides
Earth system teaching tools to bilingually oriented teachers along
Colorado’s Front Range.
Last year, 96 teachers participated in the first BSTARS symposium,
including six from Veracruz, Mexico, and 80 from across Colorado
who attended with support from the state department of education.
The workshop occurred at the start of Boulder’s unusually
wet winter, giving the Mexican teachers their first glimpse of
snowfall. To help stretch the limited budget, EO staff personally
hosted the teachers from Veracruz in their own homes.
The Mexico connection grew out of the MILAGRO field program (Megacity
Initiative: Local and Global Research Observatory), which was based
in Mexico City and Veracruz earlier in 2006. Along with producing
Spanish-language outreach materials for the MILAGRO Web site, the
group built strong ties with teachers and education specialists
in Veracruz. One day during MILAGRO when EO translator and coordinator
Marina LaGrave and colleague Randy Russell were visiting the region,
the two were asked to whip up a late-afternoon workshop for Veracruz
science teachers. Despite the short notice, 65 local educators
showed up for the training.
EO now has a memorandum of understanding with the state of Veracruz
to advance science education, says Johnson. A similar arrangement
is in the works with the state of Jalisco, where sustainability
is a hot topic. EO is also working with leading educators in Chile,
who are interested in technology to improve K-12 science education.
Funding for this work remains a challenge, with resources sparse
in Mexico and often directed elsewhere in the United States. Yet
Johnson and LaGrave are inspired by the enormous potential to change
young lives by conveying the workings of the atmosphere in Spanish.
One mother of seven boys in Mexico wrote to thank the group for
helping pull her sons onto the information highway and away from
trouble in their neighborhood streets. “I can’t put
into words how meaningful this work is to us,” says Johnson.