Dear friends, liebe Freundinnen von Voice,
After some long and complicated surgery, SC-Voice is back with a new release as SC-Voice 2.0.
SCV-bilara has a completely new search engine based on segmented texts which can handle not only bilingual but also trilingual text segments. SCV-bilara is basically designed for offline use, a feature that will be further developed in the future.
SC-Voice/bilara-data has next to Bhante Sujato’s segmented translations in English also a repository for new segmented German translations by Sabbamitta that will be added as the translation work progresses. So far we have the AN Ones and Twos and the first 50 of the Threes, suttas 1–33 of the 12th Samyutta of the SN, a few suttas spread here and there in the SN and AN, and MN 23 and 33. It’s 144 sutta files altogether (counting sutta ranges like in the AN Ones and Twos as one file).
If you search for the sutta ID of a German sutta that has not yet been newly translated, Voice will play you a legacy translation. If you enter other terms than sutta IDs into the search field only the new segmented translations are searched, just as is the case for English. The same happens when you press “Inspire Me!” oder „Such mir etwas aus!“: You will only get results from segmented texts.
To make Voice even more international, we have still added user interfaces in 10 (TEN!) new languages:
A great THANK YOU for the translation goes to a lot of you—but unfortunately I just learned that D&D only allows me to mention up to 10 users in one post. You are slightly more, so I will make an extra post afterwards, a gratitude post!
For one of the new languages, Portuguese, there is already a voice available so that you can listen to Portuguese legacy suttas if you enter a respective sutta ID. When the new Portuguese segmented translations by @Gabriel_L and @Marco become available you can also listen to those and enjoy all features of Voice in Portuguese language.
For a full list of release items see here.
New German translations
And maybe this is the point for me to say something about my work on German sutta translations, since for this release it has been going closely hand in hand with the development of Voice.
Why make new German translations in the first place, as the entire canon is basically already covered? And also, unlike many English translations, there are no copyright restrictions; all publishers have been kindly permitting SuttaCentral to host their texts, and for older translations, existing copyrights are already expiring. So why?
There are several reasons:
- The existing translations are very inconsistent and of greatly varying quality. Not only is there no overall translation of the canon; for the SN there is not even an overall translation of one Nikaya. The existing translation of the Samyutta Nikaya has been made by three different people.
- Quality is largely varying between the different parts of the canon.
- For most parts, readability is not easy. Much of it is written in 100–150 years old language that isn’t easily accessible for today’s readers. And much has been written by linguists for linguists, not for the people from next door who are interested in the suttas. And even those translators who had rather in mind to make the suttas available than to explore an ancient language: they too are often using artificial words that don’t exist as such in the German language, and without a lot of explanation nobody does really understand what they are supposed to mean. Well, and after complaining long enough about all the instances of „Genügensreiz“ or „programmierte Wohlerfahrungssuche“, and more particularly after seeing Bhante @sujato’s new English translations, I started thinking about doing something different. Which means by no means that I am denigrating the work of the former German translators. The task of translating the canon is vaste, and I wouldn’t be able to do what I try to do without those who have come before!
- And, not the least important, none of the existing German translations is available in segmented form, a prerequisite to make them accessible in Voice with full support for all features.
- And, another point of no little importance, considering the joy I personally find in exploring the suttas and getting close to them by an easily accessible language, I just would like my fellow country people to have the same opportunity.
The biggest hindrance I saw when thinking about it is the fact that I have only a limited knowledge of Pali, and to develop this to a sufficiently high level to be able to really translate a Pali text would take time. I am not that young anymore and also do have some other duties in life, like looking after my parents, so that I won’t be able to translate four Nikayas within 2,5 years as Bhante Sujato did. So I have to choose well how I want to spend the remaining time of y life, and spending a few years on learning Pali would probably not allow me enough time afterwards for the actual translation work. Therefore, I decided to stand on others’ shoulders and use Bhante Sujato’s English translations as my main source, of course informed by the Pali text, and hopefully developing my understanding of it over time.
And now, having somehow become a member of the SC-Voice development team without even the slightest knowledge of website development, this has also influenced me to get started with this work now. Voice wants to go towards internationalization, and for @karl_lew it was a help to develop it with some existing segmented translations in another language than English. He also understands some German, so this was the opportunity to use. At the same time, Karl also helped me a lot with technical features he is building for Voice that make my work so much easier. I guess this has been a very fruitful cooperation for both sides. At least, for me it was!
Well, yes, and for the same reason I also decided to start publishing my suttas as a work in progress. Since I want to make a consistent translation of the canon, there is no point in “finalizing” one sutta, publishing it, and then starting the next. As I go through the canon I see other instances of similar passages to what has already been translated, but in a slightly different context that perhaps requires a somewhat different rendering, and so I am constantly making changes and adaptations to already translated suttas. This basically happens every day.
But since the scope of time this translation will take is rather long, and Voice has to be developed now, when Karl is able to do it, my suttas are in Voice, even unfinalized. They get updated when necessary, so what you hear today may be different tomorrow!
I very much welcome any feedback! I am aware that this is an English-speaking forum, and not everyone understands German; but there are a few German speakers around, and I’d just like to hear how you feel about the translations, as well as concrete suggestions or considerations to a particular passage.
Sometimes I doubt what I am doing: I mean, what can you expect—a person without knowledge of website development working on a project like SC-Voice, and without proper knowledge of Pali undertaking a translation of the Buddhist canon?
Still, I am grateful to be able to do this work, even if in the end of the day nobody will like my translations. It’s such a great way to dive into the suttas, and I very much appreciate it just for this. If others can benefit too—even better!
Prospect for the next release
In our next release we want to tackle some accessibility and UI issues that are all in a way related to each other. We know that speed and voice of some of the English reading voices do work fine for some users, but are rather off-putting for others. We therefore consider some changes there and would like to ask for feedback from you, the D&D users, which voices are most accessible for you (in the broadest sense of the word).
For details see this thread.