When English is not enough?

Well then let’s do it in Italian. (Or Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, French, Turkish, or . . .)

1. Start here: Italy, Italian and New Mobility. In June 2009, after four months of successful publication and an enthusiastic public reception in many parts of the world, the World Streets team found ourselves talking with an Italian colleague, the environmental activist Enrico Bonfatti who had been scanning the readership maps of World Streets and in the process noted that there were only one or two regular readers of the publication in Italy. Why? Good question.

Might it be that there was no interest in the concept of better explanation?

2. Time and language:
We concluded that Italy was in many ways a typical case, and that while there is plenty of interest in many parts of the country in these matters, almost everyone is suffering from major information overload on the one hand — and furthermore that very very few of us, even those of us who know another language well, are all that comfortable if we have to read daily dispatches on these complex if interesting matters in anything other than our own main language.

Now that may come as a surprise to anyone who thinks that English is taking over as the universal language. But if you actually take the time to speak with and get to know the people who are working with these matters at the level of cities, agencies, public interest groups, or even universities in different parts of the world, you will see that when it comes to day-to-day communication all of us really do work best in our main language. (The reactions to this claim turn out to be quite interesting and are by no means unanimous. However we have found upon careful examination and discussion with those directly involved that the thesis stands up to inspection and is realistic and relevant. So we have not hesitated to make it a pillar of our work.)

3. 1 July 2010: Nuova Mobilità goes on line in Italy.
After careful consideration and diligent preparations over a two-month period, starting on 1 July and with Enrico Bonfatti stepping forward as managing editor of the new publication, we set out on an adventure to bring these concepts into the daily life of colleagues across Italy, with the publication written in careful Italian and adapted for the Italian institutional context and felt priorities.

Over the remainder of 2009 we saw readership expanding regularly and could see from the stats that the journal was being visited by individuals and groups in more and more cities up and down the peninsula. As of this date we are seeing something on the order of anywhere from 100 to 200 Italian readers checking in each day, and thus far have noted visits from more than 60 Italian cities and, somewhat surprisingly, roughly 2 dozen from other parts of the world.

What is especially striking about this map for those of you happen to be familiar with Italy, is that in addition to the expected heavy readership in the northern half of the country, we are also seeing real interest from the South. This is an excellent sign for the future.

And if you wish to practice your Italian, nothing could be more simple: all you have to do is click to www.nuovamobilita.org. And if your usually excellent Italian should fill you, no problem, you will see the machine translation tool on the top left of the site. Benvenuti nel futuro della mobilità sostenibile in Italia.

4. What about other language/country editions?

One lesson we have abundantly learned over the last year of hard work in creating and publishing daily this Italian Journal is that it is not a job to be undertaken lightly. Despite the fact that roughly 2/3 of all the articles that appear are adapted from the latest postings of World Streets, there is more to it than simply having the skills to produce a good translation. The articles need to be selected and adapted for Italian readers, in the Italian cities, institutional and policy context; –but in addition to that there is the entire challenge of creating specific Italian content, which is also a time-consuming mission and which continues to be a process that even after all these months still needs to be fully engaged.

As result, we have discovered that organizing and maintaining anything along the lines of Nuova Mobilità is pretty close to a full-time job for one talented, hard-working person. This of course has economic implications, with which our readers will be entirely familiar.

5. Bridging the language gap:
What to do in the event that there is still this challenge of finding a way to bridge the language gap, but in a first instance perhaps not taking on the full load and financial implications of creating a new dedicated publication? This is a problem which we are facing with several colleagues and concerned organizations in Sweden, Finland, Portugal, France and Taiwan — and here is the way in which we are collaborating to get the job done.

The key lies in the creation of a special monthly edition of World Streets which provides in the target language a careful synopsis and one click access to the full contents of all content and commentaries published in the daily journal over the preceding month. These monthly reports are specially created by the World Streets team, working closely with the collaborating national sponsors in order to ensure that the final product is not only accurately and quickly developed, but that it is presented in a form which is agreeable to read and easy to move beyond through one-click links to the full sources in each case.

* * * Here is an example of a typical World Streets Monthly Edition, in this case is prepared to summarize for our subscribers/sponsors all items appearing over the month of April 2010 – http://tinyurl.com/ws-apr2010. For a copy of the other language editions, get in touch and we will be pleased to share them with you.

6. The last kilometer challenge

The “last kilometer” or “last mile” is, of course, a term from the telecommunications and cable television industries involving the final leg of delivering connectivity from a communications provider (in this case World Streets) to an end-user (in this case you and your busy colleagues). Here it is specifically aimed at supporting and expanding the network of those agencies, local authorities, universities, operators, associations, consultants and concerned citizens working on these issues within their country or region.

The following diagram and notes are intended to give a picture of how this can be made to work.

Once the current monthly report has been prepared with our language partner, they are then dispatched to all of those in the host country who are concerned with these matters. This listing turns out to be quite extensive in all cases thus far encountered, and includes not only the key national ministries and agencies charged with matters of transport, environment, cities, economics, social justice and more, but also all those working on these challenges at the level of the specific city or local administration, researchers, transportation operators, university programs, consultants, public interest groups, concerned citizens, and the national media.

Our goal in each case is to create an outreach in which the map in each cooperating country will gradually grow and eventually come to resemble the same level of coverage which we are achieving in Italy.

7. Want to discuss a collaborative outreach project?

We will be pleased to provide further information on both approaches and invite interested readers to get in touch by phone, e-mail, snail mail, Skype or, best of all, this is the power so we can talk about all this in person. Here is a quick summary of our main contact information:

Eric Britton, Editor
World Streets/The New Mobility Partnerships
8, rue Jospeh Bara, 75006 Paris France
Tel. Europe – +331 7550 3788
USA +1 (213) 984 1277
Skype: newmobility

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