Monday, May 23, 2011
WHY FRENCH GERMAN & CHINESE on ATAWALK.net
Far from taking the attitude that the Englo-Speaking world is self sufficient and needs not to make any concession to other languages... and being French-Canadian myself, I decided long ago that if I was to restart ATAWALK, it would have to be multi lingual from the core up!
There may be as many as 5000 covered bridges in China alone, most of the CB in Europe are in the Germanic world and Canada is the home of the PONTS COUVERTS en bois, so explain to me then how a publication-to-be about covered bridges could do a decent job and be taken seriously if it only communicated it's content in English?
Precisely... but that notion of internationality sits badly with those self-centered north American for whom the world should... and will one day all be spoken in English...
RIGHT... and for those who like the idea, the end of your world was May 21st...
Respect for OTHER cultures... NAH... too much trouble, too confusing, too many languages...
Dunno where to read...
OMG... if you cannot recognize your very own language out of a choice of 4 texts of which one is Chinese... your life needs re-adjusting. If you are too tired to fight your way through a page with 4 languages... take a nap or buy Readers' Digest! ATAWALK is for those who like to discover new stuff – new people, new places... bridges, communities... NEW LIFE!!!
Someone told me once " Why would anyone buy a magazine they only can read or understand 1/4 of ?" It took me by surprise for as far as I know... you will understand 100% of it because it is the same text. It is written in four different languages, yes, but it all says THE SAME THING!
So I get blasted by people here, some are even Asian and Jewish... and still don't seem to get that for the majority of folks on earth... English is a concept, a communication device out of their realm.
Nothing says WELCOME/BIENVENUE/WILLKOMMEN/欢迎 like seing it in the language you can actually read!
People sometimes seem to perceive other cultures as invaders or as creatures endangering their own. Could it just be intolerance or ignorance? YES! I cannot excuse this type of behaviour anymore. ATAWALK will be for the people who have achieved some sort of understanding about our planet and the people who share it's surfaces. I am not gonna be preaching in the desert to a narrow-minded segment of the population. They can simply go somewhere else if what ATAWALK is not to their liking... very simple, very sweet...
The first edition of ATAWALK will be English, French, German & Chinese.
A second when time comes will be in Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Italian.
That way every edition has a huge market potential and will, by design, have an international appeal and flair for people who can tell the difference between, and respect other cultures.
I will never forget the first HATRED message I ever got from an Ohio resident of German descent himself who was "Shocked and disgusted" at the fact that I was giving directions in Germans to bridges in Ohio, since we give directions to covered bridge in Germany in English, I really never realized doing the opposite was such a blunder... my answer to that one was "Get with it dude, your are yourself of German origin and the war has been over 60 years now"
I love the Chinese script myself. I am starting to learn it bit by bit. It is fascinating. I really believe it gives such a more worldly feel to a publication to see and actually be in contact with a system that, to this day, is the oldest communication device in all mankind and is still spoken, written and read by over 3 billion folks on earth. Having German is an honour because it is also a language that is old and where both French and English do find some of their roots. To associate German only with a war is a common mistake, I prefer to look at the complete history of a people rather than keep my focus on events we all wish had never taken place.
So ATAWALK is a multi-cultural platform UP-FRONT.
This is it's quality, it demeanour and the reason why it exists. Time will tell if it is a success. I do not have 20/20 hindsight but for my energy, to be able to communicate with the largest market possible has never been so easy. It requires a bit more efforts, more thinking and a bit more time to process, but in the end, we are all better for knowing more about ourselves...
... by the way we look at others!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
ATAWALK since 1996
It has been 15 years 2 days ago that ATAWALK was started. I twas incorporated in the province of Ontario in June 2000 and laid dormant for a few years. As I travelled to Germany and discovered many structures, it became clear that covered bridges were present in so many places but that little was known of them across the linguistic and cultural barriers imposed by our political past and the flow of common and often tumultuous history.
How to present the subject in a way that reflects all the locations and takes nothing away from the cultural heritage in which the structures are placed? How to do this soon became obvious when searching for covered bridges on the web. German covered bridges were found using German search engines and German words for wooden covered bridges... bedeckte Holzbrücken.
And in the same year, 2005, news came that there was over 5000 covered bridges still standing in China. So that kinda became the order of the day. If ANYONE wishes to do a publication about covered bridge and be serious about it, one cannot simply ignore 5000 + structures on the pretext that they where not made for vehicular traffic... as some would have liked us to do!
Since I took some German and became able to handle some of the work of translation, the transformation began and along came some amazing reactions and also some dreadful one. Overall reaction is positive in Europe, I apparently made very little mistakes and the site is well liked for it gives good direction in German to the bridges in Amerika...
Nothing says WILLKOMMEN like seeing it in your own language!
Bienvenue and 欢迎, now it also comes in Chinese.
The addition of the Chinese scripts for me is the real symbol of the international flavour of ATAWALK for sure, but more importantly of the amazing legacy left to us by architects and designers all over 3 continents.
ATAWALK doesn't have yet the resources to translate the complete site. But having the different languages in the main pages will go a long way in making this NEW platform a showcase for jurisdictions and industries related to the covered bridges.
Many have asked if it was important to present 4 languages on ATAWALK...
Many still don't really understand that the #1 language in Europe is German, not English.
Even in Business, German is used more and more and as for Asia, business may be done in English in the great port cities... but the bulk of the covered bridges are in areas where English is not at all common, so for the information to flow in and out, a vehicle had to be devised to be able to carry it.
Even to the folks in Quebec and in France, access to the bridges in French seems to have had an impact if only for telling them the meaning of the words associated with the locations. After listing directions in English to bridges in Germany, it made sense to me that the German directions to North-American bridges was as important specially in view of the affluence of that segment of the tourism trade!
Since the largest groups of visitors in places like Rome, Paris or Barcelona are from Asia, mainly Chinese, attitudes are changing fast. These facts also have to influence the way we look at the world and the vacation habits of those who now have the means to go abroad and cross those bridges between cultures. Eventually, ATAWALK will list all known covered bridges as it once did, but in four languages without that dreadful language BUTTON atop the page that seldom works correctly.
Ever notice how the content of a page shrinks under some translation options... sorry but ATAWALK will give you the content in a clear, uncluttered way. The magazine will do the same. People don't usually read magazines, they look at them and read the bits that inform on the photos they like. So text will be there, precise and clear! Again, this is not a Covered Bridge Society Bulletin... it is a magazine about architecture/travel that follows the location of covered ridges in Asia, America and Europe. We would never be able to replace these groups of volunteers, but what we can do is to bring attention to them and tell a bit of their stories to the other cultures so that they know it exists, and also know where to find the action!
There are covered bridge festivals in China too. They rebuild some structures at those events a bit like the Cedar bridge in Iowa or Bridgeton Indiana... no, Oprah wasn't at the Chinese festivals but judging by the crowd, they had no trouble raising the structure and having a good time at it anyway!
So why a covered bridge magazine?
Sylvain @ ATAWALK.net
Friday, May 13, 2011
Again... this question comes back. How do you count attendance at a covered bridge festival? Well... the way I do is I spend about an our at each bridges, extrapolate the numbers over an 8 hour-long period and try my best to take in account distances and proximity to other bridges or local landmarks of importance.
As I did in Ashtabula in 1997, 16 covered bridges visited, 1-hour each over the two days of the festival... plus travel time, minus distance from other bridges, some are more popular than others but all in all... it gave us a figure of about 235,000 entering the county over a 2 day period... far more accurate that gate-receips at the fairground which tells little if nothing at all of the popularity of the covered bridges themselves.
Numbers can be way more accurate if one person can sit at every single structure for a day and count cars and people like I also did in Quebec in the 1980s. Those numbers also thought me that even the most remote covered bridges is still worth about $50,000 in tourism revenues for the local economies... anywhere in the Americas. The remote bridges attract a different crowd who travel longer, farther and deeper into the land... I was shocked to see how many folk came to see the 61-38-11, Pont couvert de l'Aigle in northern Gatineau Quebec, there was a constant flow of cars and plates from Vermont, Ontario, Manitoba to Arkansas... something I wasn't seeing at the other bridges.
So you wanna know how many folks go see your bridges???
Put Aunt Betsy at one, cousin Bill and Trixie at an other, make sure Mikey is connected to his playstation at a third, ask politely to cousin Chuck to monitor a fouth, and ask Irene and Gerald to do the fifth... now if the rest of the county does the same, you will cover all you bridges!
All you do is write the car...
Black Chevy - Vermont plates, with 4 adults, stayed 12 minute took pictures
Simple, easy, and make sure every one gets their lunches and their drinks!
the numbers you will get will blow your mind.
Now doing this in Germany was a bit more tricky because the plates look very similar, but once I got told about the way they can be told apart, I was also blown away to see what the traffic of visitors was at Hohenfichte, about 80 Km west of Dresden, Saxony... people came from France, the UK and from all over Germany. Located near a train station and first erected in 1616... the bridges survived the Napoleonic Wars, WW1 and 2 and 60 years of communism. The crowd was relentless and the local plates were a minority.
From that, to the visit of the Hennersdorf and Zwickau covered bridges, I was able to establish that these structures were extremely popular with tourists who, once they had arrived in Dresden and seen the magnificent rococo covered bridge between the palace and the cathedral, needed very little convincing to be brought out to the Saxon country side to the other bridges.
I could see the faces of little kids in those cars... totally amazed the car was being driven into some kind of house ... then once across, they park the car and come out for a walk! Just like me when I was a little kid travelling with dad in northern Quebec. Covered bridges will do that to ya... they are impressive in a very familiar way. We all associate with houses somehow, so as a little kid, driving through one is kinda weird... no matter what culture you grew up in!
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