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July 23, 2014, 1:08 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.theguardian.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   July 23, 2014

To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, The Guardian today launched a massive 32-minute interactive documentary that illustrates the history of the war.

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The Guardian’s aim with the interactive is to tell the story of the war from a global perspective. To achieve that, the documentary includes 10 historians from all around the world discussing the war and its impact from their country’s perspective. In a blog post on The Guardian’s website, special projects editor Francesca Panetta explained how her team set out to get a global perspective on World War I:

I also sourced letters, diary entries and poems from around the world. We’re familiar here in the UK with war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but I thought there must be Turkish and Indian equivalents. With the help of Modern Poetry in Translation we found poems from all over the world. Of course, cutting all this together is itself editorialising. But as much as possible we wanted this global story to be told through the words of participators rather than a posh, English, scripted voiceover!

To further that global approach, The Guardian, through a partnership with the British Academy, translated the interactive into six additional languages aside from English — French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi. (The videos are all narrated in English, but have different subtitles depending on what language the user selects.) Since 2011, the British Academy, which supports the humanities and social sciences in the U.K., has funded a program with The Guardian to advocate for improved language education. That program, the Case for Language Learning, paid for professional translations.

Kiln, the London-based interactive design firm that built the interactive, “designed a clever mechanism that displayed the subtitles and an international team of Guardian journalists checked them for accuracy,” Panetta wrote in her blog post. “We had all languages skills in-house, except Hindi!” The Guardian is looking to translate the interactive into even more languages by asking readers if they’d like offer their own translation services for additional languages. Other news organizations have also offered to help with translations, Panetta said.

“A Scandinavian paper has already approached us saying they may be interested in collaborating in this way,” she told me in an email. “It depends on the response we get, but we would very much like to relaunch in the autumn with more languages. That’s the plan.”

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