An overview of Translators without Borders and its work in the Kenyan Healthcare Translation Training Program, featuring an interview with co-founder Lori Thicke.
Translation vendor, TextPartner has raised $2,000 for Translator’s without Borders (TWB) Fund-a-Translator Program. TextPartner is the first organization to raise money for this exciting new TWB program.
The team at TextPartner cycled a total of 440kms from their branch office inKatowice,Polandto the recent ELIA conference inBudapest.
“The journey took 4 days, through some of the most beautiful scenery inEurope.” Said Marek Gawrysiak, Cyclist and Operations Manager at TextPartner. “Through people sponsoring us, we raised $2,000 for TWB’s Fund-a-Translator Program. This is enough to sponsor two Kenyan Trainee translators. As well as raising money, we had a great time and hope to repeat this next year.”
TWB’s Fund-a-Translator Program is part of the TWB Healthcare Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya. The Program invests funds and resources in local professionals to train as translators, building local language and translation skill.
“This bike ride was an awesome effort!” saidLori Thicke, President and co-founder of TWB, “The team at TextPartner did a great job and we now have the funds to start training 2 translators at the TWB center inNairobi. To train local translators, we need to maintain a physical location, hire local instructors and manage technology and Internet access for the trainees. This all needs funds and TextPartner has really kick-started the effort.”
Click here to see a slideshow from the bike ride!
For more information about the next TextPartner charity bike ride, simply visit: http://www.onourbikes.info/next/index.php
TextPartner is a regional language vendor with two offices in Poland. The company was founded in 1997 to satisfy the specific demands of international agencies concerning their Polish language assignments. Since then, the company has unceasingly supported its clients in their endeavours to build the image they seek in all their translated, typeset and printed materials. To carry out this mission, TextPartner employs expert individuals who work in competency teams covering as many as seventeen areas of expertise. TextPartner is a member of the European Language Industry Association and is proud to support Translators without Borders. To contact TextPartner, email [email protected], call +48 68 329 01 40 or visit www.textpartner.com
The office of the United Nations in Kenya is focused on healthcare issues in East Africa. A tweet this week from the Twitter handle of the office’s director, Aeneas C. Chuma, lamented ongoing health issues among mothers in Kenya: “Maternal health has not improved in Kenya over the last decades. Time to leverage the private sector for results on MDG5 (Millennium Development Goal 5, Maternal Health)!”
Meanwhile, CNN is discussing another lingering issue in Kenya and East Africa: childhood stunting. More than 2 million children in Kenya alone suffer from stunting; 180 million worldwide. A recent episode of Christine Amapour’s show on the network featured the head of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, who explained that the problem can easily be dealt with better nutrition and education.
These are just two recent examples of major non-governmental organizations talking about the stubborn problems of East Africa that continue to hold the region back despite strong growth outlooks. While journalists like to talk about the African Century and the incredible economic opportunities on the continent, we are still hearing about health issues that need to be fixed for that growth to reach its true potential. And, most frustratingly, these are issues that can be fixed with simple communication of critical information.
But that simple health information on nutrition, maternal health and other issues, such as cholera prevention, diarrhea treatment and infant care, must be provided in the language of the people who need it. In East Africa, that language is Swahili. Anyone who has been there knows that while English is taught in secondary school and can be heard in major urban centers such as Nairobi, KiSwahili is the lingua franca. In fact, it is the primary language for more than 60 million people in East Africa. It is the language of communication and must be the language for health information.
Translators without Borders believes that the information gap is in large part due to non-governmental organizations not providing the critical information in the language of the people who need it. But many NGOs are not getting that message. When I communicated with the Amapour program about the fact that language is key to addressing the issue of childhood stunting, they fully agreed and engaged in a discussion about it with us. We need to continue to spread that word. We also are working on some very exciting projects in Kenya through our Healthcare Translators’ Training Center in Nairobi. With our newly trained Swahili translators, we are translating a mass of general healthcare content from the Open University which will eventually go on the feature mobile phones of healthcare workers in the region. We also are transcribing maternal and infant care videos into Swahili. Those videos, developed by HealthPhone, will also be available pre-loaded on mobile phones at no cost to mothers.
The information gap is still wide, but through humanitarian translations we can narrow it significantly. Now we just need more non-governmental organizations and humanitarian leaders to acknowledge the issue and help us with the solution.
By Rebecca Petras, Translators without Borders Deputy Director and Head of Innovation
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.
In this issue we introduce two of our translator trainees from our new Healthcare Translators’ Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Our hard-working team in Kenya, led by Paul Warambo and Simon Andriesen, is translating vital health information and subtitling videos while also learning how to become professional translators. This is an important step in building a professional translation network in Swahili and beyond.
Matthias K. Kathuke
My name is Matthias K. Kathuke. I am 27. I was born and raised in Mananja village, Machakos County in Eastern province of Kenya, about 100km northeast of the capital Nairobi. I was also educated in the local primary and secondary schools and sadly, not much was expected of my education since the schools were low profile. For instance, my secondary school had never sent a student to university in over 40 years of its existence. Paradoxically, I was expected, especially by my father, to make it through with first-class performance. As destiny would have it, I did not disappoint, as I set a record by becoming the first ever to enter university from a village covering about 1000sq. km.
My family is naturally a huge credit for the victories I have achieved so far. My mother is an elementary school teacher, my father an ex-marine. This combination of parentage ‘resource’ has propelled me towards intellectual excellence and operative discipline from my mother and father respectively. Being the firstborn (of 4 sisters and 1 brother), I have had a lot of modeling to do because my siblings look up to me for emulation and inspiration. This has in turn compelled me to become a natural leader.
My family is almost dependent on my mother’s earnings (and now mine) since my father no longer has a formal income. Our eldest sister is volunteering in our local secondary school while the rest are still pursuing their education. Just for the record, we are a very warm team, so I always miss them when I am away (well, almost everyone with a loving family does!).
As implied earlier, I was educated at Mananja Primary and Secondary Schools (both public schools). I look back to those days and feel grateful for coming this far. The experience was scrappy as learning resources (including teachers) were insufficient, and the learning a little harsh for conducive learning. How did I make through? A combination of fortune and determination. So, I qualified for government sponsorship to the University of Nairobi where I pursued a degree in Education: Linguistics major and Literature minor. I graduated with Second Class Honors in 2009 and have been teaching since then until August 2012, when I committed my entire working time to TWB.
Before committing all my working hours to translation, I consulted with Simon Andriesen and Paul Warambo. The implication of my choice was made clear from the onset so that I would make an informed decision. Eventually, I did commit all my time to translation. Well, so far so good, though there is still much ground to cover.
I am motivated by 3 things on my journey to becoming a translator: my love of linguistics (my childhood dream), desire to serve humanity and (frankly) the need to make a living out of my efforts!
The second reason is more significant, which is inspired by two touching examples from Simon Andriesen and Sue Pearson (of Summer Institute of Linguistics). Sue narrates about a French-speaking mother in Chad who administers to her child a drug meant to induce production of breast milk on her dry breasts; while Simon tells of a mother who stops giving her sick child water since it would immediately come out through the other end. Sadly in both cases, the children end up dying, not because of lack of doctors or treatment, but lack of (correct) medical information. Paul Warambo’s story almost sends me to tears when he narrates how his kid sister was to undergo an unsafe abortion – an exercise that would have denied Paul an opportunity to have a brilliant nephew (Levis Otieno). I came to interact with these moving stories during our translation training that was facilitated by Simon and Paul (these two gentlemen, truth be told, make up a perfect team for TWB).
I am in total agreement with the philosophy of Translators without Borders: that never again should people die of lack of information whilst there is something we could do to avert the situation. I therefore would love to become a professional translator in order to help avail information to the average, less privileged population, which cannot access important medical information because it is encoded in a foreign language (quite literally).
The process of becoming a translator is very demanding – I have found it more mentally exhausting than teaching, especially at the initial stages.
Besides, translation is a new profession in Africa, which is both a merit and a demerit in that we reserve exclusive skills, but also the market does not recognize the need for translators as professionals. Companies may not easily embrace the idea of hiring a professional translator whilst a lay person would take up the job. (And did I just overhear Simon say that translation doesn’t make millionaires?)
I hope to run a non-profit translation agency to serve my village with information on the key aspects of society namely health, education, law and agriculture. I would like to translate the available information from English to Swahili and vernacular. I would also link with other like-minded individuals to run a network of similar agencies so as to avail the same information in diverse vernaculars in Kenya and hopefully East Africa.
I am a soccer fan, specifically FC Barcelona much more because of their philosophy than the football. They train their players from a young age to become humble, respectful and able to function more as a team despite their individual talent. I also love music: I play the guitar, participate and watch live concerts and dash to the studio occasionally to record.
It would be an almost unforgivable sin not to express my sincere gratitude to Translators without Borders for the opportunity to become a health translator. I thank the TWB board members for coming up with this great idea. I whole heartedly thank Simon Andriesen for his insightful lectures during our training. I must also thank Paul Warambo for giving us instructions with his Swahili knowledge – Paul is always with us, guiding us and helping us with Swahili terminologies and grammar. Indeed we don’t know what we would do without Paul and Simon in this training. Thanks a million!
Anne Njeri Mwangi
My name is Anne Njeri Mwangi, aged 38 years, born and brought up in Kenya in a town called Nyeri and working in the capital city, Nairobi.
I am the fourth born in a family of seven siblings: five girls and two boys. All my siblings are adults with families; my parents are alive and well. I am married to Simon, and we have a lovely son, Victor, who is 11 years old.
I received my primary and secondary education from the nearby schools in the village. After secondary school, I joined medical training college in Mombasa where I pursued a diploma in community health nursing for 3½ years (1993-1997). Later, I pursued a course in reproductive health for six months in 2007. In 2011/2012, I went back to Kenya Medical Training College in Nairobi and pursued a Higher National Diploma in Health Education and Promotion, which I completed in July this year.
After qualifying in 1997, I was employed by the government of Kenya and have worked as a Nursing Officer in various hospitals. In the course of that time, I have practiced offering curative services and came to realize that many of the patients I was attending to were suffering due to lack of information. I consequently felt the need to promote health by educating and giving the correct information to people, thus deciding to take a course in health education and promotion to get the relevant skills. Translators without Borders came in handy at a time when I had just completed my training and ripe for health promotion, and as a Health Promoter, I felt it would be quite prudent to give information in a language that is well understood by the majority in my country. Therefore when I got the chance to be part of the translators at the Translators without Borders Healthcare Translators’ Training Center, I totally embraced it because it is a positive engagement that would enable me to promote health through a language that the majority would understand.
In all these I wish to thank Simon Andriesen – the director of the Healthcare Translators’ Training Center for being available to give me the much needed translation skills. I would also like to thank Paul Warambo who has been our course instructor during the course; his incredible brilliance in Swahili language and translation skills has made us see the light in the field of translation. I also extend my gratitude to the translation team for their spirit of unity.
Being a translator will enable me to ensure that society receives information in a language that people understand best. I am glad to have become a translator, especially of healthcare materials, because I will be promoting health when people receive and understand information. Health promotion is my passion.
Becoming a translator requires a lot of dedication, determination and commitment. It’s hard to be a translator if one does not have these qualities.
Once I gain experience in translation which is currently from English to Swahili, I would like to move my translation skills into another level of translating the healthcare materials to my native language (Kikuyu) so that those who understand neither English nor Swahili may also get access to information.
My interests are traveling, walking and traversing social media.
If you would like to help support the effort to increase language capacity into Swahili and other critical languages, please consider sponsoring a translator this holiday season through our Fund-a-Translator program. Details by emailing [email protected]
Translators without Border’s Fund-a-Translator program is a new scheme to further help train local people in Kenya to become professional translators.
The team of Lucjan Szreter and Marek Gawrysiak from TextPartner cycled 288 km from Poland to Budapest to help raise money for the Fund-a-Translator Program.
They raised $700 on Day 1 of the great ride from Poland to Hungary!
For Hillary Clinton’s latest trip to Africa, she probably didn’t need to take along many translators or interpreters. Maybe just a French speaker. Of the nine countries on her itinerary, seven are considered Anglophone and two Francophone.
That, of course, does not tell the whole story—far from it. In one of those Anglophone countries, Nigeria, more than 500 languages are spoken.
It’s mainly the elite who speak these colonial languages. In Uganda, it’s English, in Senegal, French, in Mozambique, Portuguese. But most people—especially outside the big cities—don’t understand those languages.
That’s a huge problem for aid agencies trying to get the word out about disease prevention. The brochures, leaflets and posters they distribute tend to be written in those colonial languages.
Lori Thicke, who runs Translators without Borders, told me that she’s visited villages in Africa where you can find a plentiful supply of brochures about AIDS prevention. Many contain technical and sensitive information: how to practise safe sex, how to use a condom. But because the brochures are in written in European languages, it’s often the case that that the not a single villager understands them.
I also talked with Nataly Kelly of translation industry research group Common Sense Advisory. She co-authored a report for Translators without Borders on the state of the translation industry in Africa. You can hear our conversation in the podcast. The bottom line is that, aside from South Africa, no sub-Saharan African nation has much of a translation industry.
There are signs of change. Some African nations are starting to promote their indigenous languages. There’s a debate in Ghana about replacing English as the official language, or augmenting it, with one or more of the more prominent local languages.
The problem is, none of those local languages is spoken across Ghana. They’re regional, and so adopting one of those as the official language would give the impression of favoring a single linguistic and ethnic group.
In South Africa, there are eleven official languages That’s helped with the status of some of the less widely spoken ones, like Ndebele and Venda. It means that some official documents must be published in those languages. That raises their status and has spawned a translation industry—something that barely exists around minority languages elsewhere in Africa.
Many Africans speak two or more languages. In Cameroon, it’s not uncommon to find people who speak four or five languages. That’s led some outsiders to assume that Africa doesn’t have a translation deficit. But it does. Speaking a second language doesn’t automatically make you a translator.
You need training to be able to translate. You also need tools: dictionaries and glossaries of technical terms. And you need to be online to access them.
Translators without Borders has started a training program for translators in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. They’ve begun with Swahili. It’s the closest Africa has to its own link language, spoken now by an estimated 40 million people.
There’s also a Translators without Borders project that connects volunteer translators with Wikipedia and local mobile phone operators. The idea is to translate Wikipedia articles on AIDS, malaria and the like into local languages, and then make them accessible on people’s phones.
But it’s slow-going: Translators without Borders has only a handful of volunteers who know those African languages.
By Patrick Cox
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.
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
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)
40 million people estimated living with HIV worldwide, with 95% in developing countries, two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa. (PIH)
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)
22,000 children estimated to die each day from preventable diseases. (UNICEF)
© Françoise Herrmann 2011
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.
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.
By Simon Andriesen, Board President of TWB Kenya and CEO of MediLingua