Meet Aghilas: sharing accurate information with the Arabic-speaking world

Translators improve lives by translating lifesaving information for people who speak marginalized languages. Those who volunteer as part of the Translators without Borders (TWB) community have a range of experiences and skills. They share our vision of a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. We are grateful for all our translators, and we love sharing their stories.

Meet Aghilas 

  • A TWB translator who has donated 70,287 words from English to Arabic, as of February 2021
  • Loves his beautiful hometown of Bizerte, Tunisia
  • A night-owl, who prefers to translate at night!

Where did it all begin? 

In his home city of Bizerte, Tunisia, Aghilas wanted to offer his professional services to international humanitarian organizations to support people in need. It all came from a desire to support communities that have been marginalized, in countries affected by war, and people facing gender-based violence. He thought volunteering as a translator would enable him to better establish his career, offering useful professional experience along the way. He found the opportunity he had been looking for in TWB. On discovering TWB, Aghilas found an organization with values that matched his own, and a shared mission to make crucial information accessible to people in a language they understand. 

Aghilas’ home city of Bizerte,  the northernmost city in Africa. For him, it’s the epitome of the Tunisian way of life, culture and history. 

Daily devotion 

Like many of us over the last year, Aghilas works online from home. Pandemic restrictions left his translation schedule largely unaffected. Even before the lockdown, Aghilas enjoyed a routine, devoting three hours each evening to volunteering as a translator and reviser. It’s a practice he has stuck to almost daily, which has allowed him to focus on bigger revision tasks for TWB. In doing that, he has translated over 70,000 words for 25 different nonprofit organizations. 

The main project of focus in recent months informed people about “Public health and social measures for COVID-19 response in low capacity and humanitarian settings.” The guidance is intended for humanitarians working with communities and local authorities to reduce the risk of spread and the impact of the disease. It was developed in collaboration with the American Red Cross (ARC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), UNICEF, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UNHABITAT), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) members. Aghilas saw it as his responsibility to devote time to revising as many COVID-19-related documents as he could. He was determined to further the dissemination of accurate, credible information to the Arabic-speaking world and support people through the pandemic.

Asked how volunteering with TWB has impacted his life, Aghilas responded:

“It is truly a life experience. I am proud that I dedicated my skills for a good, noble cause, and made a difference in the worldwide community. Through my translations I supported those in need, provided them with basic and crucial information, and even helped save lives.”

He goes as far as to say it shaped a new approach to translation for him. 

“In fact, I believe that translation not only has the power of bridging communication gaps between cultures but it can forge a better world for affected populations as it responds to the challenges they face and prevents the occurrence of disasters.”

Three memorable moments with TWB 

Aghilas says that after just one year volunteering with TWB, he has some great memories to share. 

  1. Winning third prize in the Translation Marathon in September 2019.
  2. Receiving a recommendation letter on LinkedIn from my lovely mentor, Ambra, TWB’s Senior Community Officer. 
  3. Achieving my goal of donating 70,000 words!  
“This is the same place I volunteer daily for TWB” – Aghilas shows off his Arabic Translation Marathon prize, a personalized TWB t-shirt. In front of him is his TWB translation word count, standing at 70,287 at the time of the photo.

Aghilas reminisces, “It has been a fruitful and rewarding journey. I have enjoyed every day with TWB so far. It has been a great adventure that I will never forget. Indeed, words cannot describe how grateful I am for the whole TWB team.”

Three tips from Aghilas on volunteering as a translator

  1. Join TWB to gain confidence and experience as a translator, especially if you’re a beginner looking to take the first steps in your career.
  2. Check your notification settings to ensure you see new tasks in your language pair.
  3. Practice as much as possible: hard work always pays off. 

He explains, “You are part of an honorable humanitarian mission to share vital information and improve this world, making it a safer place to live. Believe me, every word matters.”

Written by Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for TWB. Interview responses by Aghilas Ait Mihoub, Volunteer Translator for TWB. 

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