Building a better world for marginalized language speakers
Revolutionizing communication for communities
The internet has revolutionized communication, connection, and change, for those of us who can read whatever piece of content we want on the internet in our own language. It’s a different story for people who don’t speak one of the internet’s dominant languages.
CLEAR Global and the TWB Community are on a mission to help more people realize the benefits of access to information and two-way communication. Because today, half the world’s population still can’t access information in their language via digital channels. People care when you speak their language, and it can change lives.
Thanks to people like you who share our vision, we’re helping create a world where everyone can get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. We are set to improve global communication and information access. How? By combining the expertise and innovation of CLEAR Global’s team, nonprofit partners, supporters, and sponsors, with TWB’s 100,000-strong community of language volunteers at our core.
Working as a community: supporting the world’s most marginalized communities to communicate and connect
We work as a community to help improve communication – and daily life – for people affected by war, people who have been displaced, and whose homes have been devastated by natural disasters. We help those most in need of reliable information on how to stay safe, get help, and more. The TWB community’s translations contribute to developing CLEAR Global’s AI-based language technology solutions. And they help provide much-needed language services so nonprofits worldwide can communicate with people in need of support. Together, we enable people who speak their mother language to access the same knowledge and opportunities as those who speak their country’s dominant or national language.
Who the community helps: a one-of-a-kind community of language volunteers powering social good
Over ten years since TWB was first established, we continue to partner with nonprofit organizations all over the world to connect linguists and their skills with people in need of critical information. TWB community members contribute to a range of language-related projects, including translation, revision, subtitling, and voice-over. By providing vital information in relevant languages, they’re helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people get answers to their questions in times of crisis, know their rights, and how to stay safe when forcibly displaced. They help people get accurate and reliable health information. And they help those who are most impacted by climate change protect themselves and our planet. By investing in our community, we know that we can make a bigger impact together. We rely on our generous network of sponsors, including language service, localization, and technology industry experts, who share our passion for effective, equitable communication, to help make it happen.
Giving back and growing skills – supporting language volunteers
With the support of sponsors including those who provide pro bono language services and expertise, we’re building communities of translators in critical languages. And we’re supporting new linguists to grow professionally. At the start of 2023, we launched the new TWB Learning Center, a place for community members to gain experience in humanitarian translation and learn in-demand language industry skills. It’s free, self-paced, and designed for everyone because we believe that every contribution matters – in every language. By making translator training accessible, we can empower linguists and non-professional bilinguals to participate in humanitarian and development initiatives to make their languages part of global conversations. Since we went live, we’ve welcomed thousands of users! We’re also improving our TWB platform, incorporating new language technology to give our community the tools they need to contribute to even more impactful projects.
A few projects our community members have translated recently include:
- 200,000 words for a Patient Cases project translated into three languages, for International League Against Epilepsy,
- 800,000 words of safeguarding content translated for Catholic Relief Services,
- 60,000 words for a Social Responsiveness in Health Service Psychology Education and Training Toolkit translated into Spanish and French for the Council of Chairs of Training Councils,
- and 32,000 words translated into Hindi in less than a month for the SPOON Foundation.
“My biggest motivation for volunteering with TWB is helping people access vital information in their own language by breaking language barriers. I also want to get more experience and grow professionally to be able to better support my family.”TWB Community member, Jeff featured left, Ursuline right. Read our TWB blog on supporting the African language community.
Every day, our partners request more support in more languages, and our community steps up to meet the need!
- Salwa has donated 650,404 words in Arabic and French on projects supporting children, health, and education for American Red Cross, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children, the H2H Network’s COVID-19 response, and the World Health Organization (WHO), among others on the TWB Platform. “To leave an impact,” is the first thing you would hear when you ask me “why”. Salwa, French teacher, and TWB Community member.
- Tien, “inspired by the fact that more Vietnamese migrants will be able to understand the information sent to them” has donated 82,853 words, translating and revising with CLEAR Global partners, the COVID-19 task, Partners In Health, the IFRC, and more on the TWB Platform.
- Hiba has donated 1,294,561 words in English and Arabic. She has translated and revised projects supporting people with health, migration, and equality with CLEAR Global partners, CARE International, IFRC, Oxfam, and other nonprofits on the TWB Platform.
- Usman worked with the TWB Community to help develop Shehu, CLEAR Global’s AI chatbot which helps people get reliable answers to their questions about COVID-19 in Hausa and Kanuri.
Read testimonials from some of our community members in our blog, “Discover the community impact of our projects around the world”
“We are making a great positive impact on the lives of people in northeast Nigeria and Maiduguri to be specific.”Usman, CLEAR Global Project Officer.
More than translation – life-changing language resources
Our organization offers language services and a lot more. We advocate for the inclusion of under-resourced languages in digital spaces. We develop useful, open-access language resources and tools, and foster collaboration among key players who we believe can make a difference. You can explore our resources and research, filter by topic, program, language, and region on the CLEAR Global Resources Library. With the help of our supporters, we can work together to promote language equality and ensure more marginalized voices are heard.
Talking about preventing sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) in Venezuela
Venezuela is facing a severe humanitarian crisis, with millions of people suffering from hunger, disease, and lack of basic services. The crisis has forced more than 5.5 million Venezuelans to flee their country and many refugees and migrants find themselves exposed to poverty, homelessness, exploitation, and abuse (Source: Reliefweb). All of these people need accurate information and access to critical services in a language they understand. Over 50 Indigenous groups live in Venezuela, many with their own languages. Some community members speak little or no Spanish or have limited access to humanitarian information and assistance in their own languages. This poses a serious challenge for humanitarian responders who need to communicate with them about preventing sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA).
Tools for Indigenous Communities, developed by Indigenous People
Humanitarian responders need practical tools to overcome language barriers so they can provide people with effective assistance. To address this gap, we partnered with local linguists and community-based organizations in Venezuela that support Indigenous communities across the country. The remote location of many communities and the low internet connectivity are problematic. So we trained Indigenous linguists to test and validate terms related to PSEA, working offline in three of the most widely spoken Indigenous languages: Pemón, Warao, and Wayúu. These terms are now available in our multilingual PSEA glossary, which helps humanitarians and community members to understand each other clearly and respectfully. By promoting language diversity and inclusion, we can enhance the quality and accountability of humanitarian action. By tackling these language barriers we can empower Indigenous people to be informed and make their voices heard.
Glossaries combat mistranslation and misunderstanding
We’ve developed multilingual glossaries and conducted terminology testing in various countries to help clarify abstract humanitarian jargon, improve understanding, and address common difficulties encountered in discussing taboo subjects. The aim is to make communication between affected people and humanitarians more effective.
During glossary development and testing stages, we regularly uncover terms that are confusing, so we work with local linguists to localize key terms that could aid in accurate, effective communication. Some examples from our projects around the world:
- In Malawi (Chewa), people found ‘negative coping mechanisms’ confusing. They preferred ‘dealing with a problem in a way that creates more problems’.
- In Iraq (Kurdish), the abstract terms ‘whistleblower’ and ‘informed consent’ were not clear. More direct terms like ‘to report’ and ‘approval’ were much easier to understand.
- In Haiti (Haitian Creole), the term for a ‘complaint mechanism’ was ‘Plent Mekanis’ in Frenchified Creole. But people preferred the more descriptive phrase ‘fason pou w pote plent’ (way for raising a complaint).
Our community and our supporters have helped us create and share numerous glossaries to help people navigate communication in challenging situations. Our glossaries include terms and definitions on topics such as COVID-19, safeguarding and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA), community engagement, refugee response, and more. They are available in multiple languages to cater to people in all kinds of contexts, with audio pronunciation and offline access. Our glossaries help people working in humanitarian and development contexts to make an impact with clear, accurate, and consistent communication. When a company decides to sponsor TWB, they have the exciting opportunity to help fund the development and expansion of new and existing glossaries. Explore all glossaries here – and don’t forget to share with someone who could use them. It can make all the difference.
Back in 2020, our friends at TransPerfect (TWB Platinum Sponsor) – shared our COVID-19 glossary on social media.
An old friend working in a long-term care facility in a diverse neighborhood reached out to a TWB team member, she was relieved she found our COVID-19 glossary. Her work involved speech pathology primarily in English, but her clients’ diverse backgrounds and languages made her the “go-to” to help figure out communication and understanding issues. Not only was she very grateful – this glossary tool made a real difference for her and her colleagues – but it also helped empower the people she worked with to get the support they needed. We have the opportunity to scale and adapt our resources to make them count in diverse contexts – whenever and wherever people need support.
Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Harassment with the Resource & Support Hub
To support people facing vulnerable situations in humanitarian contexts including the Ukraine response, we’ve worked with the Resource and Support Hub to produce a number of resources in various languages. With the support of TWB Community members who speak relevant languages, we:
- have produced a multilingual film to help prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in humanitarian action, with InterAction
- developed a multilingual glossary, including sign languages;
- delivered online interpreter training and remote plain language training to better support affected people;
- continue to train major humanitarian actors in Plain Language so they can help people understand their rights and how to access services;
- translated the Core Humanitarian Standard into Slovak, Hungarian, and Romanian, to help humanitarian actors meet quality standards and connect with local people
- localized RespondLocal, NeedsList’s online platform to help local organizations quickly access large-scale donations of warm clothes, generators, food and other fundamental items. Now accessible for people who speak Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian
- Find our communication toolkit of resources for Ukraine responders here
“We found the plain language editing was really helpful in making these concepts [rights] concrete and understandable. We made the messages and we thought they were understandable, but CLEAR Global took them and made them really much clearer and used words that were digestible.”Rebecca Hiemsra, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Responding to floods in Pakistan: in the right languages
When devastating flooding affected Pakistan in 2022, we knew from previous responses that effective communication can be the key to addressing people’s real needs. The UN says an estimated 33 million people have been affected, with millions still living in poor conditions. Pakistan is facing a food crisis, and people need aid and vital services in a language they can understand. CLEAR Global conducted research on local languages and people’s needs. We then updated our PSEA Glossary to include five key languages for Pakistan, in collaboration with SSD (Social Development Direct) and the RSH (Resource and Support Hub). This free, online language resource supports humanitarians and affected people with communication about protection from sexual exploitation, abuse, and harm. This recent update adds five languages: Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto, and Urdu. These languages are essential for reaching millions of people who do not speak or understand Urdu, the country’s official language.
Pakistan has high linguistic diversity and low literacy rates. Many people lack the information they need in their language to access assistance, avoid further harm, and prepare for future crises. With our PSEA glossary, we aim to help humanitarian workers communicate more effectively with the people they support, ensuring that they can be informed, respected, and understood. For example, the glossary can help women who experience sexual abuse to make reports to humanitarian workers and seek support in their own language. A young female farm laborer in Sindh told us that:
“We only get information from our men, we can’t say what we want and what we don’t want.”Interview respondant, Pakistan
With this new resource, community support workers and people working in the aid sector will be able to provide more accurate information and awareness on PSEA. Here are some of the ways it can help:
- Translators working for local NGOs can use the glossary to translate PSEA materials and messages into the languages of the communities they support, ensuring that they are clear, accurate, and culturally appropriate.
- Volunteers working on PSEA awareness in flood-affected villages can use the glossary to prepare communications, answer questions from community members in their native languages, and build trust.
- Local interpreters can know which terms to use, and better understand what people are saying about their experiences.
- Organizations can avoid confusion and stigma and communicate more effectively on PSEA with both communities and their staff with accurate, consistent, and standard translations that are appropriate to the context.
- Aid workers supporting people in Pakistan and around the world can understand unfamiliar terms, check definitions, select the appropriate words, and prepare for challenging conversations
- This resource can be used in various contexts, it can help when: providing information and awareness on PSEA, conducting surveys and interviews, reporting and responding to cases of abuse, training staff and volunteers
We collaborated with Social Development Direct and the Resource and Support hub to define and include locally accepted terminology, so individuals can understand their rights, be heard, and receive the support they need. This need is urgent. At the UN’s annual Committee on Information last month, “the representative of Pakistan voiced concern about the digital divide and the issue of growing inequality in access to timely, multilingual communications.” It was reported that 2.9 billion people have never used the internet, and 96% of those live in developing countries. “The issue of unequal access to information, due to a lack of linguistic diversity, must be addressed.” This poses another challenge on top of recent floods – the delegate for Pakistan referred to TWB’s report highlighting the dangerous information gap that amplifies the risk faced by affected communities (Source: UN Press, April 2023). Explore the glossaries and learn more about how you can support the development of new and expanded resources – visit clearglobal.org You can also learn more about language data in Pakistan at this link.
It’s time to act.
So join us in empowering people through language. When a crisis hits, our global team and community unite language and technology at scale combined with decades of international aid experience to address the digital language divide. This allows us to work as a catalyst for change, building AI-powered language solutions with high social impact. And the vital funds and support provided by sponsors help us reach more people, to create even more change for good. Sounds like a good way to do social responsibility? If you think so, we could work together to use language technology to drive development, create more equality, and give people agency over their own lives. Get in touch today on our website.
We thank Microsoft for their kind Azure donation which hosts much of our language technology resources.
Written by Danielle Moore, Communications and Engagement Officer, CLEAR Global