Community translation supports the COVID-19 response

Translators play a key role in slowing the spread and supporting people through the pandemic. So much so that the theme of International Translation Day, 2020 is “Finding the words for a world in crisis.” COVID-19 has without question put the spotlight on the need for language support during a crisis.

For International Translation Day 2020, we’re celebrating our translator community. Like many organizations, Translators without Borders and the translators who work with us have had to pivot to keep up with rapidly changing expectations. The need to overcome language barriers in providing public health information has never been clearer. Our translators have been at the forefront of providing accurate, clear, and consistent information to people who need it, in a language they understand.

This year, our translators’ contributions are supporting more people than ever through an unprecedented crisis of information.

Our community of 30,000 translators has come together to translate critical public-facing content into languages and formats that more people can understand. Since January, we’ve translated 4.8 million words in 101 languages for the COVID-19 response

For this very special International Translations Day, we interviewed two translators who are dedicating time to COVID-19 projects.

First and foremost, our community is made up of individuals with immense motivation to do good with their translation skills. Like most of us, they are living through times of intense change and readjustment, while finding time to volunteer. So today, on International Translation Day 2020, learn more about these two translators: 

Barbara Pissane, based in Lyon, France

  • Green-tea drinker and dark-chocolate lover
  • Proud recipient of two French RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) diplomas 
  • Interested in international relations, ethics, refugees, human rights, and medical devices
Barbara Pissane standing in a city street.

“I love discovering new subjects and working with people from all around the world.”

Barbara Pissane

Maria Paula Gorgone, an Argentinian living in Norway 

  • Committed translator
  • Works from home and is adjusting to “the new normal”
  • Has met some amazing people through TWB who she is now “lucky to call friends”
Maria Paula Gorgone sits on top of a hill after a hike.

“I believe that information is a right and everyone should have access to it. The organizations that we get to support through TWB aid people who are in situations where lack of information or misunderstandings can have serious consequences. No one should be left aside because of a language barrier, and I just hope that by volunteering my skills I can do a small part to help break these barriers.”

Maria Paula Gorgone

Barbara and Maria Paula are long-time supporters of Translators without Borders, and now volunteers to review translation tests for French and Spanish. As well as translating tasks, they help us verify new translators, which directly improves the quality of TWB’s projects. Here are some of their major contributions as TWB translators:

Barbara Pissane: translator

Maria Paula Gorgone: translator

  • English to Spanish translator and reviser
  • Revised 57,000 words for COVID-19 projects
  • Translated nearly 500,000 words since starting at TWB

Right now, translation work for COVID-19 is especially relevant, and significant for many. Barbara and Maria Paula have worked on the following projects for various nonprofit partners in the past few months.

Barbara Pissane: COVID-19 contributor

Core Group Consortium: This COVID-19 Library offers health workers and trainers access to quality assured, openly licensed content that can be used on mobile devices and shared amongst communities.

Partners in Health: Translations included work on COVID-19 patient management for medical staff with a focus on health issues for poor and marginalized people. The information included how to initially assess a patient with the coronavirus, oxygen management, management of organ failure, COVID-19 triage and screening. Barbara also revised the “COVID-19 Guide: Clinical Management of COVID-19,” a document used across many countries as a guide for community and clinical management of the disease.

H2H Network: Barbara revised several COVID-19 H2H Network resources for a joint project with TWB, to provide robust evidence on the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. 

WHO: Barbara translated an online course for “Emerging respiratory viruses, including nCoV: methods for detection, prevention, response and control,” available on OpenWHO online. You can access the course here.

Maria Paula Gorgone: COVID-19 contributor

ACAPS: Maria Paula revised a task for ACAPS, a nonprofit, independent information provider. The project focused on Mexico: migration and COVID-19, a report that provides an overview how the spread of COVID-19 has led to a deteriorating situation for migrants in Mexico. It primarily focuses on how the pandemic has provided an opportunity for US immigration policy to become even more stringent.

Partners in Health: Maria Paula revised an online resource titled “COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Immigrants in Massachusetts.” This story is about the work of the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative (COVID-19 contact tracing initiative) and how contact tracers are working with immigrant communities. 

War Child: Maria Paula worked on a subtitling project, Child Safeguarding during the COVID-19 response. She also revised the Child Protection Case Management guide for development or humanitarian settings. It is a way of organizing and carrying out work to address children’s and families’ needs in an appropriate, systematic and timely manner.

MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières or Doctors without Borders): This translated document, on “Emergency and Basic Critical Care for COVID-19 in Resource-Limited Settings” provides clinical guidance for COVID-19 patient care in MSF’s existing field projects in resource-limited settings.

WHO: Maria Paula joined fellow translators to work on an online course on emerging respiratory viruses. The training materials on respiratory diseases and critical care for the WHO stood out as an impactful project for her:

“I remember working on this task very early on the pandemic, at a time where everything was a bit confusing and there was a lot of misinformation going around. It was a great feeling knowing I was doing my small part to fight misinformation.”

Maria Paula Gorgone

Thank you to all of the translators who directly contribute words in this crisis, and the partners and supporters who facilitate this vital work. To join our unique community, click here.

Written by Ambra Sottile, Senior Community Officer, and Danielle Moore, Communications Officer for TWB.