MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVI No. 3
December / January 2004
Financing MIT
Vest to the Faculty
Our New Look
The Search for a New President
Assigning a Final Grade When Some of the Work Has Not Been Completed
Identifying My Father
A Child's Chore
The Laboratory for Nuclear Science
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
LBGT Issues
Trans at the Institute
Making the Most of E-Mail: Popular Services, Recent Changes
OCW as Knight Errant
Individuals Appointed to the Faculty
1985 to Present
Printable Version

OpenCourseWare Update

OCW as Knight Errant
OpenCourseWare launches Spanish,
Portuguese translations of MIT faculty content

Douglas Morgenstern and Margarita Ribas Groeger

OpenCourseWare in the language of Cervantes? Ostensibly a Quixotic enterprise, but with the help of, this undertaking has been launched successfully.

Universia is a consortium of more than 700 colleges and universities in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal that has translated a sample of 24 MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) subjects into Spanish and Portuguese. Currently active in nine countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, and Venezuela) and Puerto Rico, Universia reaches 10 million university and high school students, alumni, teachers, and administrators around the world. OCW's partnership with Universia is a precursor to what OCW hopes will be other collaborative efforts for translation into additional languages to reach audiences in Africa and Asia.

What is interesting about this relationship is that Universia is paying for all the translation work.

The organization, headquartered in Madrid, has made a substantial financial investment in the conversion of our faculty content into Spanish and Portuguese, which is a testament to the value the educators at Universia - and thus, their constituency of educators and learners throughout the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world - see in free and open access to the MIT faculty's content. The available Spanish (at ) and Brazilian Portuguese translations ( ) already include the following subjects:

  • 1.061: Transport Processes in the Environment
  • 2.71: Optics
  • 6.071: Introduction to Electronics
  • 6.170: Laboratory in Software Engineering
  • 6.281J: Logistical and Transportation Planning Methods
  • 6.542J: Laboratory on the Physiology, Acoustics and Perception of Speech
  • 7.012: Introduction to Biology
  • 7.28: Molecular Biology
  • 7.51: Graduate Biochemistry
  • 8.02: Electricity and Magnetism: TEAL/Studio Physics Project
  • 11.208: Introduction to Computers and Public Management II
  • 12.409: Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets
  • 14.271: Industrial Organization I
  • 14.33: Economics Research and Communication
  • 14.452: Macroeconomic Theory II
  • 15.053: Introduction to Optimization
  • 15.810: Introduction to Marketing
  • 17.871: Political Science Laboratory
  • 18.06: Linear Algebra
  • 18.996: Topics in Theoretical Computer Science - Internet Research Problems
  • 21H.433: The Age of Reason
  • 21L.435: Shakespeare, Film and Media
  • 24.900: Introduction to Linguistics
  • CMS.930: Media, Education and the Marketplace
Back to top

In January 2004, a second phase of translations will be published for the following subjects:

  • 2.96: Management in Engineering
  • 6.263J: Data Communication Networks
  • 14.27: Economics and E-Commerce
  • 15.783J: Product Design and Development
  • 17.196: Globalization
  • 18.404J: Theory of Computation
  • 21A.218J: Identity and Difference
  • 21F.019: Communicating Across Cultures
  • MAS.450: Holographic Imaging

Early usage data indicates an exceptionally strong interest in MIT's OCW project, with the number of hits, page views, and e-mails making this the most popular of Universia's translation projects, which also offer content from Wharton, Stanford, and Science magazine. This phenomenon is remarkable considering the other content has been available for quite some time, while OCW premiered only a few months ago.

Translating into Spanish is always a daunting task, since geography and history have brought about differences among dialects that sometimes offer impediments to the quest for universal transparency. This effort is made even more challenging by the fact that some instances of language, grounded in educational arrangements within the United States and even more specifically, at MIT, can be derived from assumptions that are absent or significantly different in other educational environments. Reading an OCW translation in another language constitutes an act of interpretation and reflection, both about the culture of MIT and the culture of the reader. Interpretation and reflection ideally can lead to change, and dissemination of knowledge in the service of collaboration and change is one of the core missions of OCW.

Back to top

How did the OCW team ensure that our faculty's content was being represented in a quality translation? Universia has a team of translators who did the initial translations of MIT materials, and once that first round of translations was completed, a faculty member from a Universia-member institution, who specialized in the particular discipline being translated, did a quality-assurance check of the work. Then, here at MIT, multiple faculty did spot checks of the translations and made some suggestions of how to improve the content - in fact, we were able to change the translations to be more suitable for Spanish speakers in this hemisphere (avoiding use of the Spanish peninsular "vosotros"), based on a suggestion from Professor Rafael Bras, chair of the MIT faculty.

As members of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures within the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at MIT, we try to engage our students in a continuing dialogue that embraces language, literature, film and other media, art, music, culture, history, economics, and politics. As teachers of Spanish, the majority of whose speakers reside in the developing world, we are pleased and impressed by OCW's commitment to the educational transformation of developing countries.

MIT educates and is educated by a large proportion of students from all over the world, and even before OCW, was engaged in global collaborative efforts of many kinds. Some of our students study abroad for a summer or a semester, and others perform volunteer work internationally. We are gratified to be part of OCW and thus share our ideas on teaching language and the humanities with other educators, and of course, receive feedback from them.

But we are equally excited to see that by embarking on an impressive and long-range OCW translation project, the Institute is demonstrating its commitment not only to help design and construct windmills as an alternative energy source, but also to take on, with abundant intellectual and electronic energy, the virtual windmills of educational global transformation in a manner that surely would have amazed and delighted Don Quixote.

If you would like to participate in OCW, please contact Jon Paul Potts, the OCW communications manager, at or 2-3621.

Back to top
Send your comments