Translators without Borders response to the Philippines Typhoon

Thursday (November 7) night at the tcworld Conference this year was like none other for me. Normally a relaxing second moment in the middle of this particular conference, this time I had only one thing on my mind: an enormous typhoon was barreling toward the central Philippines, and Translators without Borders was being asked to activate a team to help deal with the chaos that was bound to ensue.

After dinner I worked through the night assembling our team, putting communications pieces in place, and keeping the vast and wide network of humanitarian aid responders with whom we partner apprised of our capabilities. Meanwhile, I watched as the typhoon made landfall and the area of greatest impact went dark. Mother Nature reminding us who is in charge: A circumstance that has become more familiar over the past four years but, fortunately, one that we are learning to address more quickly in an attempt to use language to save lives.

It was almost four years ago now since Haiti was ravaged by an earthquake. That crisis was a wake-up call for the translation industry—and, more importantly, the international aid organizations—regarding the vital role translation plays during such a crisis. The silver lining to that disaster was the growth of Translators without Borders, with a dedicated board and a committed advisory committee. We now handle more than 750,000 humanitarian words every month through the Translators without Borders Workspace (powered by Proz.com) and we have a vast network of translators ready to help out. This infrastructure was critical in setting up our response to last week’s typhoon. Tagalog (or Filipino) and English are the national languages of the Philippines. There are also eight major dialects; in central Philippines the most important being Waray and Cebuano. We were able to quickly assemble a team of Tagalog translators who could also handle the major dialects. A key factor was that the members of this team of dedicated volunteers were geographically dispersed, allowing us to offer assistance quickly at any time of the day.

With the team assembled, the real work began on Friday, November 8. The initial activation came from UN OCHA via the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN). As a member of DHN, we work with a wide array of committed aid response organizations that help the major responders to quickly put together a picture of the situation, often using micro-mapping and big data to assist. Social media is mined for this work, and our initial role in this activation was to handle the non-English Tweets and public Facebook messages. Additionally, we created a list of key terms – everything from ‘flood’ through ‘damaged’ and ‘injured’ to ‘dead’ – in Tagalog and Cebuano in order to help data miners sort through and prioritize the mountains of information being generated.

As the activation continued and responders on the ground gained a clearer picture of the devastation, we were called in by other partners to be ready to respond. One of our translators worked directly with Humanity Road, a DHN partner that educates the public before, during, and after a crisis. We are also a full member of the CDAC-Network (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities), which was created by major aid organizations, including UN OCHA, Save the Children, WorldVision, Internews, the International Federation of Red Cross, and Red Crescent Societies, to improve ‘Communications with Communities’ (or CwC). CwC is being recognized more and more as critical factor during a crisis. While it might seem obvious, it is not simple when all telecommunications are down, cell phone batteries die, and people speak an array of different languages. Through CDAC-N we are on call to assist with communications from aid workers to the affected populations as they work feverishly to get materials and information out. Finally, we are on call with UNHCR, which is the lead organization for refugees, to provide translations of more long term and longer format materials for refugees who will not have proper shelter for many months to come.

Throughout the process, our team of translators has been engaged and committed to help. Unlike many of the other responders to a crisis, Translators without Borders volunteers are intimately linked to the affected communities. In many cases, they have friends and family in the middle of the crisis. Language is the ultimate connector – and once our team members know their loved ones are safe, they use language to make a difference, helping responders save lives. In fact their knowledge of the community and the geographic region allows our team to be supportive in other ways as well, including giving CwC responders contacts in the local media and assessing the on-the-ground communications situation. I am so proud of our team of translators – they are making a difference every hour.
We are also documenting what we have learnt from this latest crisis to improve our own response to the next that will undoubtedly come, and to provide important input to our Words of Relief pilot project, due to  kick off in Kenya next month. With that project, funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, we will be testing the concept of a spider network of responders in regional and local languages as well as an interactive, collaborative and mobile translation system to engage people now living away from their homelands quickly and in a meaningful way. Stay tuned for much more on Words of Relief.

Finally, we could not do this without the support of our donors and sponsors. We have a vision to use language to increase access to knowledge and to save lives. Communications IS aid (#commisaid). And in communications, language is key. We will keep telling this story, and we ask you to keep supporting us in our efforts.

 

Rebecca PetrasBy Rebecca Petras, Translators without Borders Deputy Director and Head of Innovation

Our translation center in Nairobi: An update

Swahili Translations

July saw the completion by our Health Translation Center in Nairobi, Kenya, of the translation of some 250,000 words of high-level health information. The content was written by the Open University (UK) to train community health workers in the Swahili-speaking regions of East Africa. The completed modules are Prenatal Care, Labour & Delivery Care, and Postnatal Care. Other modules are in the pipeline, and these are about topics such as Infant Care Nutrition and Family Planning.

The team also recently completed the Swahili translation of ten videos on New Born Care. These instructional videos have been conceptualized and produced by Deb Van Dyke’s Global Health Media.  In total the team has translated more than 20 videos. The work involved the translation of the English captions (subtitles) and putting the Swahili subtitles in the video, as well as recording the narrative, with Rodha Moraa, one of the translation team members, serving as the ‘voice actor’.

The translation team, recruited and trained in the summer of 2012, has now developed into a super group of experienced health translators. The team is also rather unique, as in East Africa there is no other group of experienced linguists and health workers whose skills and educational backgrounds are combined to work on the translation of such material. We are speaking with international as well as local NGOs about involving our translation team in their projects.

Training-In-A-Box

During the coming months we will be investigating the possibility of a program called ‘Training-In-A-Box’.  All training material, lecture notes and exercises will be evaluated, and if relevant, updated. The material will then be organized into one package – one ‘Box’ as it were –  which TWB can use to support the translator training of linguists and health workers all over the world.

The medical modules concern 15-20 ‘Africa-relevant’ topics, including pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, bilharzia, as well as topics from the social medicine field, such as malnutrition, unsafe abortion, female genital mutilation, and more. Each module has between 15 and 50 slides, and we are in the process of typing in the narrative. The material also includes a large section about the profession of translation.

The Training-In-A-Box program is an attempt to bring together our know-how and best practices from years of training a host of translators in many different countries,” says TWB President Lori Thicke. “I’m sure it’s going to make the starting up of new teams in the future a whole lot easier.”

Thank you Fund-A-Translator Charity Ride Sponsors!

The second Fund-a-Translator Charity Ride, developed and organized by TextPartner in Poland, took place earlier this summer.  Our dedicated cyclists organized a ride through five countries in eastern Europe for a total of 589 kilometers!  Each kilometer was available to sponsors for $5. The purpose of the annual ride is to raise funds and awareness for our trainees in Kenya.  Each $1,000 raised helps us train a translator for a year.

This year the event was so successful that the team raised the $2,945 for the ride and then kept going beyond $3,000, ending up with a total of 652 sponsored kilometers ($3,260).   As promised, they rode the additional kilometers in an extra ride to make sure every sponsored kilometer was cycled.

The TextPartner team conceived of the charity ride in 2012 and did their first ride that year to the ELIA conference in Budapest. Plans are underway for the 2014 ride and the route will be announced soon!

Blog AuthorBy Simon Andriesen, Board President of TWB Kenya and CEO of MediLingua

The fast-track path into Translators without Borders

Volunteer translators form the very core of Translators without Borders. They donate their time, efforts and expertise to help doctors, nurses and other volunteers working in humanitarian organizations to make the world a better place.

Since translations related to humanitarian emergencies leave no time for reviews or mistakes, there is a strict procedure in place to ensure that all members of our team are experienced and solid translators, able to do it right the first time. Applications from potential volunteers are reviewed and, if approved, a sample translation is requested and then evaluated by at least two editors before a new translator is welcomed onto the team.

There is a second way, called the fast track, opened back in early 2011 when Translators without Borders was contacted by the organization GoodPlanet with the request of translating their new website into as many languages as possible. Since at that time the pool of volunteers was concentrated in the pairs of English to and from French, a decision was made to contact members of ProZ.com’s Certified PRO Network.

With over 3,400 members, the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network is an initiative of the ProZ.com community to provide qualified translators and translation companies with an opportunity to network and collaborate in an environment consisting entirely of screened professionals.

To enter the Certified PRO Network, ProZ.com members must complete an online application and submit it for review to prove they meet or exceed minimum professional standards based on the EN15038 standard for quality in translation and in three screening areas: translation ability, business reliability and online citizenship.

Since the screening of translation ability is essentially the same in both programs (and in both cases done on a platform powered by ProZ.com), a fast track was created whereby any translator who is part of the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network is automatically accepted as a Translator without Borders without the need of any further testing.

The fast track proved very powerful, and currently some 40% of the professionals approved by Translators without Borders were accepted because of their ProZ.com Certified PRO Network status.

The experience led to the decision to extend this approach to other industry certifications that involve active testing of translation abilities. In particular, the fast track benefits are also available to all ATA-certified translators—an opportunity that we would like to advertise better. We are working on identifying similar certification programs and announciProz logong those fast track opportunities to potential volunteers.

There is good room for growth here. Feedback and advice will be very welcome.

blog authorBy Enrique Cavalitto from ProZ.com

Translators without Borders changing the world

Sometimes I get really discouraged about all the stuff that’s wrong with the human race… the arguing, the senseless violence, the control-freak posturing and the corruption in every direction. Why don’t people see how stupid all of that is? Why don’t they listen more, put themselves in the shoes of their fellow human beings, try to do better?

Well, the thing is, they do. For every act of senseless violence, there is an act of selfless love. You know, the mom who gets up to take care of her crying baby — not because she has to, but because she wants to. The man who stops to change a stranger’s tire. The couple who offers hospitality to a foreigner. Naturally, the larger and more public any of these acts get, the more likely it is that corruption will find them, too; that they will be done for show rather than for mercy. And perhaps it’s impossible to really and truly do anything selfless. As they say, virtue is its own reward, and that great feeling you get when you’ve done something good is a measurable emotional return on investment.

But I’ll take it. And this fills me with hope. I’ve been tracking an organization called Translators without Borders since before its inception — it was a French company before it became a US-based nonprofit. For a long time, it ran in the background, without any contributions other than the time of translators and project managers. Over the years, it donated about $1,000,000 worth of translations to nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders, and then the Haiti crises happened. Because I’m the managing editor for the industry magazine, I got carbon copied on a whole lot of e-mails that suddenly surged between CEOs of translation service providers, translation tool vendors, web-based translation platforms. And it was like, overnight, almost, the thing blew up. The industry coordinated itself with zero outside donations; it set up a web-based platform where translators around the globe could log on and use what they were good at to help out. This seemed incredible to me. And the momentum continued; using the same (improved) web platform, translators can still log on and find life-changing texts to translate. It’s almost like a dating site for NGOs and translators.

But here’s the thing: this only works with languages for which there are established translators, and for which there is a mode of dissemination in place. You can make health posters, for example, in English or French, but what about the first languages of the diverse people groups of rural Africa or Southeast Asia? As it happens, they often have health materials available, but they’re typically not in minority languages. Given just how understaffed most of these regions are in terms of health care professionals, this means that people may have no way of knowing what to do when they get sick. And this means that up to 90% of childhood deaths in these regions are totally preventable.

Yeah, that’s right. 90%. The most common killer of children in certain regions of Africa is diarrhea. A high percentage of mothers in these areas think you’re actually supposed to withhold liquid when your child has diarrhea. And their babies die with everything they need to survive — water, sugar, salt — in the same room.

Once Translators without Borders figured this out, they started a translator training program in Kenya. And, in conjunction, they collaborated on what they call the 80 x 80 project: simplify the 80 most accessed medical articles into easy-to-understand English, and translate them into 80 languages. I hosted a session last Thursday at Localization World where Val Swisher of Content Rules described how her content-creation company has been re-crafting the articles, which are vetted by physicians and then uploaded onto Simple English Wikipedia. Already, translators are transferring these to crucial minority languages. But, of course, this would be pointless unless minority language speakers have some way of accessing the articles. And here’s another interesting thing: most of the developing world has access to mobile phones, so the 80 x 80 project has convinced mobile phone companies to allow individuals in the developing world to log on to Wikipedia free of charge via mobile.

Right now, Translators without Borders has one paid employee, and is funding translator training. Everything else has been done by volunteers. I’m one of them — and I’m not a translator. I’m an editor. So I edit their newsletter, which is something of a work in progress. And if you want to volunteer as well, you probably can — from wherever you are in the world.

BKatie Botkin, Translators without Borders volunteer

Five Success Strategies for Non-Profits Needing Translations

Volunteer translators dedicate only a part of their time to unpaid humanitarian activities, and this scarce resource is also demanded by other projects and organizations. This means that there may be translation requests that will not be fulfilled.

To improve the odds that your requests for help will be accepted, you should do your best to make the projects attractive to the volunteer translators. Some success strategies are presented in this article.

You need an appealing project

You are asking for a donation of someone’s skill and time, and you need to explain why it is needed. To do so, you should create a project name, summary and description that all explain why the translation will make a difference by helping mitigate damages or risks, by improving education, and so on. Whenever possible, include details such as the nature of the “event” behind the need (earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, civil war outbreaks), the location, the people that will benefit by the project’s deliverables, and so forth.

Provide a reasonable deadline

The choice of the right deadline is a critical factor for project acceptance by the volunteers. In general, more available time means a more likely acceptance. A week is reasonable for documents of up to 2,000 words, but longer times should be considered for larger files. If shorter deadlines are really needed it may be helpful to explain the reasons behind the urgency.

Format should be user-friendly

Format is paramount for a translator. Protected documents are not translatable. PDF files are not compatible with translation tools. PDF files can sometimes be extracted into other formats but this extraction is extra work, and most probably the page layout will be affected, sometimes severely. If you locate the editable document used to create the PDF, you will greatly improve the chances that your translation request will be accepted by volunteers. You will also improve the quality and delivery time of the translation.

Instructions should be complete

Clearly state your needs when you create the translation request. Remember to include all relevant information, such as local variant of the target language to be used, register, and educational level of the people who will use the translation. Most translators working into Iberian Portuguese will decline a text that is supposed to be translated into Brazilian Portuguese, so this information should be available from the start. Also consider adding reference material that could be useful to the translators. Glossaries, similar translated documents, common acronyms and the like will make the translators happier and will result in a better translation.

Build a relationship

Volunteer translators are generous individuals willing to donate their time and professional expertise for a humanitarian cause, and they should not be taken for granted. Remember to thank them. Be quick to answer their queries and to share any good feedback received about their translations. Whenever possible, acknowledge their work within your

Volunteer translators are generous individuals willing to donate their time and professional expertise for a humanitarian cause, and they should not be taken for granted. Remember to thank them. Be quick to answer their queries and to share any good feedback received about their translations. Whenever possible, acknowledge their work within your organization, on our Facebook page and in social media. In short, build a two-way relationship — the best success strategy in Translators without Borders as well as in life.

Bblog authory Enrique Cavalitto from ProZ.com

TWB Translator Training Session in Nairobi, Kenya

Meet Translators without Borders trainees in Nairobi, Kenya.

When the trainees have finished this module, they will begin translating a healthcare application into Swahili that can then be accessed via cell phones.

Translating For Humanity

In response to the demand for pro bono translation services worldwide… 

© BY FRANÇOISE HERRMANN, PhD

Founded 18 years ago in Paris by Lori Thicke (CEO of Lexcelera) and Ros Smith-Thomas (co-owner of Lexcelera), Traducteurs sans frontières was established as a charitable organization in France. The name Traducteurs sans frontières was selected because the organization’s first client was Médicins sans frontières/Doctors without Borders, the medical disaster-relief NGO (non-governmental organization) that later won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2010, Lori Thicke founded Translators without Borders, a sister organization in the United States with non-profit 501©(3) status. Until fairly recently, Traducteurs sans frontières brokered pro bono translation services of approximately 1 million words per year to NGOs, representing about $250,000 of donated services per year. In 2011, however, with the foundation of Translators without Borders in the US, this number doubled, with 1 million words already translated as early as June; a 10-fold projected increase within the next few years was envisioned. (For the most up-to-date figures, see the counter displaying the number of translated words at theTWB Translation Center.)

For all languages

Translators without Borders is equipped to provide pro bono translation services in any language combination. For the first half of 2011, the highest demands were: French to English (34.6%), English to French (16.7%), English to Spanish (9.84%), English to Arabic (3.87%) and English to Russian (2.07%), with the balance (32.92%) consisting of another 40 language combinations, including English to Yoruba (0.33%), English to German (0.90%), English to Turkish (1.13%), English to Persian (1.13%)*.

Translators without Borders vets any NGO requesting its services. This means that all NGOs with which it works are verified in terms of their status as charitable and non-profit organizations. It also means that translators may rest assured that their pro bono services are received for legitimate non-profit causes. The requesting organizations are also vetted to ensure that they do not advocate extreme religious or political views. There are currently 53 NGOs registered with Translators without Borders, and the organization has the capacity to take on 100 more. (Browse the list of NGOs and their descriptions at the TWB Translation Center).

In the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, Translators without Borders partnered with ProZ.com, an online community of 
professional translators and adopted their networking tools. Inundated with requests for translations in Haiti, where an international rescue effort was underway, Translators without Borders initially turned toProZ.com for more volunteer translators, and then to screen translators, because of the spectacular number of responses (800!) from the ProZ.com community of translators. Moving forward, this partnership, born in a crisis of catastrophic proportions, led to the development of the TWB Translation Center, an automated service and delivery platform, donated 100% by ProZ.com. It is this invisible technology quietly empowering Translators without Borders that explains the quantum leap in the number of pro bono translated words in response to an increased capacity to process NGO requests.

As Lori Thicke puts it:

The idea is that with a huge pool of talented volunteers on one side, and an enormous demand from non-profits on the other, the only bottleneck is getting those two groups together. Our guiding principle has been that we don’t need to be in the middle of this process. All we need to do is set certain standards for both translators and charities then put the technology in place to help them work together.” (Lori’s blog, posted May 30, 2011)

At the end of the day

To become listed in the Translators without Borders database of translators, linguists are required to submit an application at the Translators without Borders website (click on Translators>How to volunteer). Only professional translators are finally admitted. Translators are then evaluated via the automated ProZ.com testing platform using a series of Translators without Borders tests that the translator selects in his or her area of specialization and language combinations. A committee of three Translators without Borders translators then evaluates the tests. Once accepted, the translator’s name is registered in the Translators without Borders database of translators, and the translator is supplied with a login ID and password to gain access to the NGO requests via the TWB Translation Center. Once a translation request is fulfilled, it is uploaded to the TWB Translation Center for delivery to the NGO and pick-up. The turnaround time for projects is slightly longer, because this is pro bono work and translators are not expected to spend their entire week on a project.

There are currently 640 approved translators in the Translators without Borders database, and many more have recently submitted test translations. (See the list with photos, and query the database by language combinations and fields of specialization at the TWB Translation Center.) During the month of June 2011 alone, 319 translators were active, translating a total of 186,926 words. Among the 319 active translators, the top 10 (most active) volunteer translators averaged 6186 words of donated translation services, with jobs ranging on average approximately 1000 to 1600 words. As Gail Desautels, Translators without Borders super-superstar with 25 jobs and 16771 words to her credit during the month of June 2011, puts it:

…translating for TWB is the redemption in my day. Not only do I get to travel to countries around the world, but I can also say at the end of the day that I have done something very worthwhile.” (Gail Desautels, from a personal email communication, August 20, 2011)

Even if pro bono work hardly pays the rent, here is how the process completes for Corinne Durand, another Translators without Borders top contributor with 4 jobs and 6795 words to her credit for the month of June 2011:

I had often wondered how to go about bringing my personal contribution to the relentless work of NGOs. TSB/TWB has provided me with a way to do it that fits perfectly both with my personal and professional life. Indeed, I feel very privileged to be allowed to make a little difference by doing something I love.” (Corinne Durand, from a personal email communication, August 21, 2011)

In many fields

The types of NGO translation requests span such domains as legal, medical, healthcare, epidemiology, educational, and agricultural, including the following kinds of requests: translation of eyewitness or awareness reports in conflict areas; documentation for a campaign against child labor; field reports on urban violence; NGO web pages (see, for example,Goodplanet.org); instructions manual for dealing with child trauma victims; manuals for childcare of orphans developed in collaboration with local professionals; requests for micro-funding, directions for coordinating international disaster-relief teams; medical training manuals; medical information for childbirth, childcare, and first aid instructions. Projects range from one page to several hundred, with the larger projects divided among several 
volunteer translators so that no one is asked to translate more than 10 pages.

Translators without Borders clients i
nclude Doctors without Borders, Action Against Hunger, Zafèn, Trickle up, Oxfam, QuakeSOS, Make-a-Wish, AIDES, Handicap International, Partners in Health, Fair Start Training, Medical Aid Films, and many more. During the month of June 2011, the most active organization was Zafèn (representing 28.57% of the TWB Translation Center activity), an organization that organizes micro-financing opportunities in Haiti.

The Translators without Borders motto is “Every dollar we save for an NGO is another dollar that can be spent caring for people in the field.” At a rate of 1 million words (valued at $250,000) each year for 17 years, and the capacity for a projected 10 million words per year, with the empowerment of ProZ.com technology, this is indeed “changing the world, one word at a time” and is truly an impressive feat on more counts than one.

To get involved

If you want to get involved… this is the place to start. Despite moving mountains, Translators without Borders barely covers 1% of the translation needs of NGOs. As Lori Thicke has pointed out, it is not only diseases that kill. The absence of information, or misinformation, is also a major killer—for example, when mothers believe they must withhold fluids in case of diarrhea,
 when boiling milk becomes a cure for malaria, or when smoking is believed to be a cure for migraines and protection from stroke. The organization’s mission is to increase access to information through translation. As Lori puts it:

The elephant in the access to information room is translation.” (Lori’sblog, posted May 16, 2011)

Stay tuned—because Translators without Borders has taken yet another step forward, securing funding to open, as early as February 2012, a Translation Training Center in Nairobi, in the Horn of Africa, that is designed to train healthcare translators. This center is envisioned as a pilot for future Translators without Borders training centers across the world “…wherever there is a devastating mix of extreme poverty, poor health and a non-existing translation infrastructure,” according to Simon Andriesen, Translators without Borders Board Member. This center is envisioned to fulfill some of the tremendous needs for translation in local languages: in Swahili, spoken by 5 to 10 million people as a first language and 100 million people as a second language, and in other local languages such as Maasai, Kikamba and Luo.

Similarly, stay tuned for more exponential ProZ.com community-building activity, linking professional service providers and the demand for services, since the pro bono TWB Translation Center has proved an extremely rigorous field test of ProZ.com technology and its amazing and beautiful capacity for vibrant empowerment.

Now, that’s worshipping Ganesh! **

*All statistics are courtesy of Enrique Cavalitto atProZ.com.

** Hindu deity—Remover of obstacles—represented as an elephant.

AT A GLANCE –
 GUIDELINES FOR GETTING INVOLVED IN PRO-BONO TRANSLATION FOR HUMANITARIAN CAUSES

1. Translators without Borders (requires enrollment and registration to evaluate your credentials and capacities). This is the largest network of humanitarian translation opportunities and services. The non-profit status of the NGOs (non-government organizations) requesting translations, is verified, as well as their causes.

2. Work directly with an NGO or non-profit organization. In this case, verify the status of the requesting organization yourself with a non-profit watch organization such as Charity Navigator.

3. Regular translation agencies sometimes provide humanitarian translation services. In this case transparency is paramount and the best practice. Normally, if an agency accepts a pro bono translation project, it is the agency’s contribution and gift.

© Françoise Herrmann 2011

AT A GLANCE – HUMANITARIAN CAUSES IN 2011

Famine
Drought-stricken Horn of Africa—12.4 million people affected. (UN WFP)

Famine officially declared in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda with catastrophic proportions in Mogadishu.

Water & sanitation
Even without drought 300 to 500 million people in Africa do not have access to sanitation and safe drinking water. (UN WFP)

Japan: March 2011 Earthquake and tsunami resulting in a nuclear crisis—500,000 people homeless, 20,000 perished.

Haiti: Cholera epidemic following the 2010 earthquake that claimed 250,000 lives and displaced more than 1 million people. (PIH)

HIV/AIDS
40 million people estimated living with HIV worldwide, with 95% in developing countries, two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa. (PIH)

Tuberculosis
Curable lung disease killing 2 million people each year. (PIH)

Childbirth & labor
1000 women die from childbirth or the complications of labor each day: 300 in Asia and 570 in Sub-Saharan Africa. (WHO- UNICEF)

Childhood
22,000 children estimated to die each day from preventable diseases. (UNICEF)

© Françoise Herrmann 2011

Acknowledgements:

Many thanks for the information they have so kindly supplied for this article in a series of phone conversations: Lori Thicke (CEO Lexcelera), co-founder of TSF and TWB, located in France & Simon Andriesen (CEO of Medilingua) located in Holland, TWB Board Member in charge of Operations, and Enrique Cavalitto, ProZ.com Manager, located in Argentina, in charge of the ProZ.com ”white label” technology for the TWB Translation Center.

WEBSITES:

TWB

TSF

Translation Center

Lori Thicke Co-founder of TSF/TWB

Translators without Borders opens Health Translators’ Training Center in Kenya

Translators Without Borders, a humanitarian organization providing free translations, opens a training school in Nairobi, Kenya. Simon Andriesen, TWB Board Member, talks about the opening and the organization’s mission.

The 2nd of April was a special day for Translators without Borders.  On that day, after much preparation, Translators without Borders (TWB) opened its pilot Health Translators’ Training Center in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. During three to four-day sessions over four weeks, six groups of participants were introduced to translation, and more specifically to translation of health information. In all, 100 participants took part in the April sessions. Based on the experiences, the program is being revised and modified before returning to Kenya in August.

The participants had widely varying backgrounds, from health librarians to government employees working in the field on Health Promotion, from youth workers to dispensary staff and community health workers, and from peer educators to hospital interpreters. What they had in common was an affinity with public health promotion and a strong interest in language.

Translators without Borders is known for facilitating the work that professional translators volunteer to do for humanitarian organizations, such as Doctors without Borders, using a web-based platform generously developed, donated, and managed by ProZ. In 2011, TWB helped translate over three million words, with a ‘street value’ of around $600,000. This in itself is already a sizable donation but, more importantly, translation can be of life-saving importance to millions of people with poor health, no doctors around, and health information all in the wrong language. These populations typically live in poor areas, and studying a language is not something many people can afford to do. Even so, many people in Africa speak three to five different languages. In Kenya, for example, people with at least some education often speak English and Swahili, languages taught at school, as well as one, or a few, of the 42 local languages spoken at home. Swahili is spoken by around 75 million people, across 9 countries in East Africa, mostly as a lingua franca. This language area covers a territory with at least 200 different local languages.

Most of the health information available in Kenya is available in English only even though half of the population does not speak English. Translation in Swahili would already be a big step forward, but it would be much better to translate vital health information into the local languages.

There are many tragic examples of what may happen if people do not have access to health information in a language they understand. But one story I always keep in the back of my mind is about a one-year-old girl who died after a few days of diarrhea. The mother commented she had stopped feeding the girl water ‘because it immediately came out at the other end and that way it never stops.’ As many people know, in the treatment of diarrhea it is crucial to feed the patient lots of water, to prevent dehydration, which if untreated will lead to shock and, ultimately, death. The person telling us this dreadful story mentioned that the parents had in fact clean water, sugar and salt in their house, and these are the only things you need to treat diarrhea. The parents simply did not know. Yet it takes only one quarter of an A4 sheet of paper to print the instructions around diarrhea, and maybe 20 minutes of work for a translator.

At TWB we decided that we no longer accept that people would suffer, or die, because of a language obstacle.  We understood that the platform would not be enough to reach some populations because there were simply not enough translators working into certain languages.  We prepared plans to train health information translators. As a member of TWB’s Board of Directors, I volunteered to make the training package available that my company had developed to train medical translators. This package is written for experienced, professional translators, who need to be introduced to medical translation. When looking at the materials, I quickly realized that the assumed level of background and education was simply not realistic, and I then decided to start from scratch and regenerate all materials. A new feature was a half day introductory module on what translation is, and more specifically what medical translation, or rather: healthcare translation is all about. This module includes translation methods, tips and tricks, an introduction to TM tools, and on how to build and maintain a glossary – all very basic information. I also integrated information on the difference between translation and interpretation, and produced an introduction to subtitling, and instructions about word count and spell checking, as well as on how to Skype and how to use search engines.

The medical component of the training package consists of around 20 introductions to Africa-relevant health problems. These are mostly disorders, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and cholera, but also social health issues, such as malnutrition, unsafe abortion, and female genital mutilation (FGM). Each of these medical modules takes 30-45 minutes to teach and most of these are followed by an exercise: participants each translate a few sentences from a related health information sheet and the results are projected on the screen and then discussed by the whole group. This is a very powerful education method and participants really seem to learn a lot from these discussions. During the training, it was remarkable to watch people who had never translated before behave like typical translators in having heated debates about the meaning of a specific word, or the proper location of a comma.

For one group of trainees we travelled half a day to the part of Kenya where the Masaai live. For a group of 12 school teachers, a social worker, dispensary staff and a community health worker, we focused on the translation of materials about specific disorders, for example trachoma, an infectious eye disease that will lead to blindness if not treated. We used an empty school class room. The dedication and motivation of the Masaai participants was overwhelming. One of the projects we worked on was the translation of subtitles into Maa of a health video on cholera prevention. This is probably the first ever video with Maa subtitles!

We also attracted quite a bit of press interest: The Voice of America followed us one day and did a radio and television piece on the training; the Guardian carried an interesting article about us; and, we took the BBC World Service along to the Masaai training.

The Translators without Borders Healthcare Translation Training Center is partly funded by TWB, partly by earmarked donations, and partly by involved TWB Board Members. Whenever I claim ‘that we no longer accept that people would suffer, or die, because of a language obstacle,’ I would like to think that I speak on behalf of the whole localization sector. Companies that want to support our work can do so. They can become TWB sponsors or they can adopt part of our efforts in Kenya. To train a translator for three weeks costs around $400; a PC and a decent set of dictionaries costs around $300. Throw in an extra $300 and the translator has one year of unlimited internet access.

Small amounts. Huge effects. Think about the baby that died not of diarrhea but of lack of information. Keep her in mind. And then just visit www.translatorswithoutborders.com and hit the Donate button.

Blog AuthorBy Simon Andriesen, Board President of TWB Kenya and CEO of MediLingua

Training healthcare translators in Kenya

Translators without Borders is just a step away from starting up a training program for healthcare translators in Kenya. And your help is needed! Please keep reading and you will find some suggestions about how you can contribute to this very important project.

Lack of African Healthcare Translators
Translators without Borders’ core role is to facilitate the work professional translators donate to humanitarian organizations. And for most languages, this works very well. In 2011, we provided around 2.5 million words to more than 70 NGOs. However, for a number of target languages we have found there are not any, or at least very few, translators available. One of these languages is Swahili, spoken (mostly as a lingua franca) by around 100 million people across nine countries in East Africa. This language area ‘covers’ hundreds of smaller languages (there are 42 languages in Kenya alone!). To remedy this problem, especially for healthcare information, we designed a healthcare translators’ training program that we will roll out in Kenya.

Why is translation in African languages important? In our visits to Africa we have discovered that people who don’t speak a European language – 70-80 percent of the population – cannot understand critical knowledge that they need to keep themselves and their families healthy. According to the former head of UNICEF, most of the children who die in Africa die not of diseases, but because of lack of knowledge. We aim to change that by building local capacity to translate critical health information so it can be understood by the people who need this information the most.

Translators without Borders warmly welcomed!
During a recent fact-finding trip we discussed our plans with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. They warmly welcomed the initiative and immediately offered us a 150 square meter training location, walking distance from the Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in East Africa. We also spoke with many local organizations, doctors, and community healthcare workers and learned the following:

  • There is indeed a shortage of healthcare translators.
  • English documents, brochures and flyers are useless for many people as they don’t speak English.
  • Translated materials will definitely save time for overburdened doctors, nurses, and community healthcare workers informing people about their health (or condition), and trying to prevent disease.

We also found out that translation into Swahili alone is not enough; translation training is needed for at least ten of the other Kenyan languages.

The training program
The training program is based on the MediLingua course ‘Medical-Pharmaceutical Translation’, but rewritten for people who do not need to be trained in complex matters such as how to translate extremely technical surgeons’ instructions, and also for people who are mostly new to translation. Starting this spring we will train a variety of people to translate simple but crucial healthcare information on Africa-relevant topics, including infectious diseases, STDs, reproductive health, malaria, family planning, unsafe abortions, and female genital mutilation. The introductory training will include basic modules such as:

  • What is translation?
  • How to build glossaries
  • How to find background information
  • How to deal with new terms and write clearly
  • Introduction to interpretation
  • How to translate and subtitle videos

Read more

How can you help?
If you live in Kenya and you feel you can assist us in training people in one of the 42 local languages, please let us know.
If you feel you have an excellent command of Swahili and/or other Kenyan languages, we would appreciate your skills in reviewing the trainees’ work and/or mentoring one or more of the trainees.

Of course, if you can’t do any of this but you want to support us, we desperately need funding. TWB is a volunteer organization, but that does not mean we don’t have expenses running the center. It is not much: we really only need $5,000 (or €4,000) a month to finance the center. Please help us set up this very important center.

Visit the Translators without Borders website to find instructions about how you can donate!

Blog AuthorBy Simon Andriesen, Board President of Kenya and CEO of MediLingua

Want to End Poverty and Save Lives? Translate!

During all those years I spent “almost giving” I imagined myself serving food in a refugee camp, or teaching children in an orphanage. I never dreamed that my own métier – translation – could actually be a key to ending poverty and saving lives.

The thing is, knowledge is incredibly powerful. Knowledge ensures better health and longer lives, it reduces maternal mortality, it empowers women, it saves children from dying unnecessarily, it improves economic opportunities, it lifts people out of poverty, it encourages protection of the environment…

Oh wait, aren’t those the Millennium Development Goals?

Translation is essential to meeting all eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Translators without Borders is supporting the Millennium Development goals.

 Few people make this connection, but in fact, without translation how can there be global access to knowledge? And without global access to knowledge, how can the Millennium Goals be met to reduce poverty, maternal mortality, childhood deaths and AIDS? How will we ensure universal access to education,  environmental sustainability, global partnership and the empowerment of women?

We believe all people deserve access to knowledge

Translators without Borders is working tirelessly to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from one language to another by creating and managing a community of NGOs who need translations and professional, vetted translators who volunteer their time to help.

Through the Translators without Borders platform powered by ProZ.com, aid groups can easily connect directly with professional translators, breaking down the barriers of language and building up the transfer of information to people in need.

We have an excellent and growing community in European languages, but we still have a huge need for translators from other parts of the world, particularly from the Middle East, India and Africa.

If you are a translator in these languages, and you are willing to donate your time and professional skills to Translators without Borders, you will directly support humanitarian projects that will give people the knowledge they need to live healthy and productive lives.  To join TWB, we ask you to fill in the translator application form. We particularly need those of you who translate into Arabic or an African or Indian language.

We have many exciting projects going on right now for those languages including subtitling health videos and translating health articles from Wikipedia. Our goal is to take down the language barriers to information so that people in the developing world will have access to the same information we do. To make global knowledge local – and to make local knowledge global.

There is so much good we can do. Please join us.