Changing the world while sitting on your sofa

Changing the world through language

Listen to Translator without Borders Executive Director, Aimee Ansari talk about changing the world through language at [email protected] in November 2016.

“I believe that… I have to help”

Alaa Amro is Palestinian. She has grown up among Palestinian refugees and the aid workers that support and help them.* Alaa has a deep empathy for people displaced by conflict and is strongly driven to support them.

Joining TWB

In 2016, Alaa came across the Translators without Borders (TWB) website, where she learned that she could develop her skills through volunteering. So she became a member of TWB’s European refugee crisis Rapid Response Team (RRT), translating and editing articles from English into Arabic.

As a linguist, Alaa understands that communication barriers add to the chaos faced by displaced people. “Most of the refugees who are coming from Syria speak Arabic language and [few of them] know English.” Alaa believes that having information in a language they understand is essential to refugees, empowering them to feel more in control of their own future.

At any time of day there are a lot of articles that need to be translated,” says Alaa, “and I have free time to help.” She has translated articles about the refugee crisis from international media outlets, in addition to practical information such as weather reports and directions to key locations.

remote translation platform

TWB’s remote translation platform is a useful tool for her as a translator. “It is easy to work with the RRT because I can do the translations directly [online].” So although Alaa lives far from the European refugees she is helping, she can still support them.  The most satisfying translations, she says, have been the Rumors” responses which TWB translates on behalf of partner Internews. This involves translating objective, informed responses to rumors that aid workers hear during their daily activities on the migration route. Internews publishes and distributes responses in several languages. Correcting misconceptions and providing accurate information for refugees is an important part of reassuring them and reducing the stress that they suffer. Alaa also translates local, European and international media articles into Arabic, giving refugees access to a wider range of news and opinions.

“A lot of refugees panic because they have been displaced so it is very important for them to understand directions to places they need to go for help, the weather forecast and other practical information”

I have to help

Alaa hopes that the translations she contributes can help to reduce that sense of panic by providing practical information in a language familiar to the refugees.

I know that many people are helping refugees, and Translator without Borders gives me the chance to help too. Moreover, I am a Palestinian girl who is familiar with refugee suffering. I believe that… I have to help.”

Currently a sociology student at Bethlehem University in the West Bank, Alaa is trying to improve her language and translation skills so that she can participate in more youth activities promoting peace, human rights and tolerance of difference.

* Some five million Palestinians are registered to receive support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which operates 58 camps in the region.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

How To: Make a Difference from a Distance

Born in Iran, but now a US citizen, Translators without Borders (TWB) volunteer Mehrnaz Kuros has a degree in business administration, and considerable experience working in the corporate sector. She is well aware that many of the refugees she sees on television have similar qualifications and experience to herself. That is why she decided to make a difference from a distance.

Desperate to help

Like many of us, when Mehrnaz saw the first television and print images of refugees bound for Europe, she was shocked and sad. She realized that many of them had been forced into this action by circumstances well beyond their control. “It is unbelievable, how people give up everything and risk their lives, to begin a new life, in a new world.”

It all comes down to politics,” she notes. “For some people, being in power blinds them to the inherent value of people, nature, heritage, and humanity.”

Mehrnaz was determined to help those affected by political turmoil.

“I thought that by cooperating with Translators without Borders, I could play a small part in helping migrants and refugees. I wish the best for them”

Mehrnaz’s daughter sent her a link to a site that talked about the work of TWB to help refugees affected by the crisis in Europe. With considerable experience translating between English and Farsi, Mehrnaz was quick to volunteer her skills and join TWB’s Rapid Response Translation (RRT) team.

Helping from a distance

Several times a week, Mehrnaz connects remotely with TWB team members and volunteers to identify the material that she can translate. She does all of the translation remotely, even while she is traveling.

Being able to communicate in other languages is important to Mehrnaz. She believes that it helps her to relate to people from different nations and to stay informed about news and current affairs. Her language skills enable her, through translation, to help other people to adjust to new conditions, environments, and societies. One of the most satisfying translations Mehrnaz has completed for TWB was a text regarding the EU-Turkey deal, which negotiated in March 2016. While she was aware of the many challenges the deal presented, she saw it as at least a framework for responding. She was happy to be able to communicate it to people who, until then, had operated in an environment of uncertainty, rumor, and chaos.

Clearly affected by what she describes as “the modern exodus,” Mehrnaz remains optimistic about addressing it. “It’s so sad to read the news – and it’s somehow unbelievable – to have had so many disasters in the 21st century. I hope things will move in a better direction and crises can be solved.”

Want to volunteer?

With dedicated volunteers like Mehrnaz working from a distance, there is always hope that things will indeed change for the better. Sign up to be a Rapid Response Volunteer with Translators without Borders now.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

“Freedom and safety shouldn’t be taken for granted in our world”

Inspired by the pain and suffering prevailing in many parts of the world, Ali Bai looked for an opportunity to help others. He had the feeling that he should do something – anything – to help the refugees he saw every day on television. However, he also felt that government assistance in emergency situations was too often bureaucratic and political, so he wanted to be part of a non-governmental humanitarian response. As a full-time translator and proofreader, Ali decided that Translators without Borders (TWB) was an obvious way for him to help people in need. So he joined our Rapid Response Team.

Joining the TWB Rapid Response Team

Ali has a BA in English Translation and an MA in General Linguistics, so he puts his training and translation experience to good use in TWB’s Rapid Response Translation Team (RRT). He now has the sense that he is making a timely contribution.

Translators have to work very fast in the RRT, while also maintaining a high level of quality and accuracy,” he explains. “I am lucky to have great co-workers and the environment is really welcoming. We all are dedicated to the purpose and we help each other in translating and editing.”

Ali’s tasks include translating texts from English to his native Farsi. The volunteer work is satisfying for Ali because he knows that every translation can make a positive difference in the lives of other humans. Of course, translating good news that gives promise to refugees is his favorite type of job and always gives him the greatest satisfaction.

putting yourself In their shoes

Like many of TWB’s volunteers, Ali fits his RRT work around his full-time job and other commitments. He often imagines life as a refugee who has lost loved ones in a war, and he thinks about how it must feel to decide to then risk traveling by sea to a safer country. He imagines the devastation that refugees must feel when they finally arrive on a foreign beach, only to realize that the food and shelter they desperately need is not immediately accessible due to language barriers.

I think providing refugees with material in their own languages not only helps them address their immediate challenges, but also makes them feel safe and that someone cares about them,” Ali says. He points out that refugees who have already experienced much pain and suffering are exposed to a kind of “second victimization” when they arrive in Europe. He asks,

“How can they make reasonable decisions without access to a familiar language?”

Ali, an Iranian, points out that his country has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the past few decades. He is conscious of the positive impact they have had on his country’s economy.

These fellow human beings shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the integrity of European communities,” Ali insists. “I think by accepting and welcoming refugees, Europe can make an economic opportunity out of this crisis, while making life safer for refugees. Furthermore, we should always remember that any one of us might lose our home or family; freedom and safety shouldn’t be taken for granted in our world.”

Want to volunteer?

You can apply to become a part of the TWB Rapid Response team here.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer

VoiceBox – Spreading the message through video

“As a company, we love the immediacy and accessibility of what we do. We are delighted to be able to help Translators without Borders in achieving its mission – you can’t put a price on that!”

Working in over 200 languages, VoiceBox, a multimedia agency based in the vibrant production and tech hub of Swansea, South Wales, is an expert in video content localization using multilingual voiceover and subtitling. In 2016, VoiceBox established a new working relationship with Translators without Borders for the provision of multilingual dubbing and subtitles for a series of videos.

The agency is currently working on two projects with TWB. One involves dubbing a video for young people, produced by Blue Seat Studio, focusing on the important theme of sexual consent into 12 languages from Finnish, Russian and Bulgarian to Greek, Italian and German. Another project involves dubbing a series of World Health Organization training videos, which are part of a public health emergency exercise program for communications professionals, into French and Russian.

Voicebox: Responding to the demands of a fast-changing world

VoiceBox’s Marketing Manager Ben Dobson explains that “video content can overcome barriers to literacy and provide useful solutions through subtitles or signing for the deaf or hard of hearing. This means our work guarantees both immediacy and accessibility. This is invaluable at times of crisis or disaster when important messages must reach the largest possible audience to support people in need. Our work with TWB builds on this capability.”

For maximum exposure of video content, we also focus on social media engagement and search engine optimization. Of course, throughout, quality of product is paramount. Our cloud-based operation uses 100% native-only artists to ensure linguistic authenticity. Our translators don’t just translate, they effectively ‘trans-create.”

Our wide range of clients includes companies and organizations of all sizes, from big names such as Disney, Coca-Cola, Intel, Google, Apple and the BBC to up-and-coming production agencies such as GinGenious. As a company, we love the immediacy and accessibility of what we do. We are delighted to be able to help Translators without Borders in achieving its mission – you can’t put a price on that!

Become a TWB sponsor

Click here to learn about the types of sponsorships offered at TWB. Annual sponsorship commitments are available from Bronze ($1,000) to Diamond Plus ($20,000), and many levels in between.

Blog AuthorBy Sarah Powell, Translators without Borders Volunteer 

12 reasons to celebrate TWB in 2016!

celebrate twb

In 2016 we worked with some wonderful partners to change people’s lives through access to vital information in the right language. We believe that no person should suffer because they cannot access or understand the information that they need.
So lets celebrate TWB with a recap of our year:

January

In JANUARY we were providing translations in six languages to humanitarian aid agencies responding to the European refugee crisis.

Board with translated text
From left to right: Abdelah Lomri, former TWB Arabic Team Leader and Farideh Colthart, TWB volunteer interpreter

FEbruary

In FEBRUARY we worked with the American Red Cross to translate their First Aid and Hazard Universal apps. These apps help enhance individual disaster preparedness and response to emergencies.

march

In MARCH we announced the winners of our third Access to Knowledge Awards, in acknowledgement of their outstanding support.

april

In APRIL we partnered with Global Health Media Project, to bring multilingual health care instruction to practitioners of health through video.

may

In MAY we attended the World Humanitarian Summit where we advocated for the inclusion of language in humanitarian response.

june

In JUNE we made an impact with a new video on how Translators without Borders responds to crisis by working with non-profit partners globally.

july

In JULY we translated the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability into Swahili for partner CHS Alliance.

august

By AUGUST we had trained over 480 interpreters and translators and we had created the world’s first-ever humanitarian interpreter roster.

TWB's team in Greece
From left to right: Abdelah Lomri and Lali Foster, TWB team in Greece

september

In SEPTEMBER we trained 15 Guinean translators so that communities in West Africa can access more health care information in their language.

october

In OCTOBER following Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, we translated cholera prevention messages into Haitian Creole, for affected communities.

november

In NOVEMBER we developed the world’s first crisis-specific machine translation engine for Kurdish languages using content from our Words of Relief response in Greece.

december

In DECEMBER we reached 10 million words translated in one year, something we would not have been able to do without the help of our volunteers and
supporters!

We’ve had some great successes this year but there is still more work to be done! This holiday season, consider a donation to support the work of TWB.

Volunteer for 60 minutes per day, and you too can be a hero

Hanan Ben Nafa wishes she had learned about Translators without Borders years ago. “I’ve always been interested in translation, but I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t think twice about it once the opportunity came along.” Now, she spends 60 minutes working for TWB each day.

volunteering 60 minutes per day

As a member of the TWB Rapid Response Translation Team, Hanan now spends around an hour each day translating and editing crisis response content from English to Arabic.

Volunteering with TWB is instantly rewarding for Hanan, she says, knowing that many refugees will be helped by the information that she translates. The most satisfying work, she feels, has been short texts that give detailed instructions to refugees on specific issues such as where to find their registration number or where their full-registration appointments will be held.

Such information is very basic,” Hanan says, “yet it’s crucial and needs to be correct so that the refugees feel that their case is progressing. In such situations, I am sure that our help is going to have an instant impact on someone’s well-being.”

personal gains

Having the opportunity to help others is exciting for Hanan, but she is also enthusiastic about what she gains from it personally. She believes that she has become a better translator and editor, and also feels more aware of the refugee situation.

Before, I honestly did not follow news related to refugees very closely,” she confesses. “The articles we work on are usually not found on mainstream news portals, so I have the chance to read updates about the refugee crisis and what is being done to address it. Now I’m more informed and have more empathy.”

In 2009, Hanan moved from Libya to the United Kingdom, where she is currently completing a PhD in Sociolinguistics. When she first arrived in England, her English language skills were, as she says, “adequate”, but she struggled a lot with the regional accent. Even though now she is fluent in English, Hanan still faltered recently when she was a patient in the Accident and Emergency unit of her local hospital. She realized how stress can affect one’s ability to communicate clearly, and found herself wondering how a patient who does not speak the local language might feel in such a situation.

“Being in hospital made me realise that there is nothing luxurious about providing refugees with information in their first language. They need it to be able to make informed decisions about their lives”

Hanan knows that her occasional frustrations with English are different to the frustration a refugee might feel when they cannot communicate with an asylum officer, for example.

While my frustration was triggered by a need for integration, theirs is triggered by a need for survival,” she says. “I cannot imagine how refugees feel, waiting in front of closed doors and borders with no acknowledgement of their right for a peaceful life. The last thing they should be facing is more distress because of a lack of correct information that could be easily solved with some collaboration and patience.“

Want to volunteer?

Do you want to join Hanan for 60 minutes – or just any minute – translating for TWB? Apply for a position in our volunteer translator community here.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

“I want to ask myself, why are people dying every day?”

translation saves lives

A speaker of 5 languages, Jeanne Martin Goumou from Guinea, recognized the importance of giving people access to information in the right language during the Ebola crisis. In a country of almost 12 million people where more than 40 languages are spoken daily, Ebola prevention messages in French and English were not understood by the majority of the Guinean population. Making good use of her fluency in 3 local languages, Jeanne Martin decided to help by manning the lines of the free National Ebola Hotline, helping those across the country who were desperately seeking vital information in a language they
could understand. Because she knows that translation saves lives.

During my interview with Jeanne Martin, she told me about Guinea and the times of Ebola. “

“I want to ask myself, why are people dying every day?”

She spoke of a country with a high maternal mortality rate, and where malaria is one of the biggest killers of children. She spoke of a country where information arrives in European languages that the majority of the population doesn’t understand.

Jeanne Martin is one of the 12 recent graduates of the Translators without Borders’ translator training course in Guinea, a project in collaboration with eHealth Africa that aims to build language capacity in countries where there are few to no translators. She feels passionate about the training, and for her, the course was a professional opportunity to grow as a translator and to learn new information on important medical topics.

Translation saves lives
Image courtesy of Photoshare

Challenges

One of the biggest linguistic challenges she encountered during the training is emblematic of the importance of the very work she is doing. She says there are a great amount of “false friends” in the documents she translates; words that look or sound very similar in two languages but that have very different meanings. This is just an example, in the everyday life of a translator, that shows why information in the right language is so important – so that information is clear and there are no misinterpretations when vital health care instructions are given in a foreign language.

Looking to the future, Jeanne Martin wishes to continue to help people in Guinea access health care information in a language and format they can understand.

Blog AuthorBy Caterina Marcellini, Translators without Borders Communications Officer

 

On Our Bikes – inspiration to give and to get fit!

Raising awareness while getting fit

Let’s grab our helmets, flasks and cameras, get on our bikes and support TWB! A great way to show others that translation really matters. In many parts of the world it saves people’s lives

In 2012, Marek Gawrysiak, co-founder and managing partner of translation agency TextPartner in Katowice, Poland, met representatives of Translators without Borders (TWB). Fired with enthusiasm about the organization’s mission to see a world that knows no language barriers, Marek wanted to help sponsor the Fund-a-Translator program in Kenya. He, his wife Ewa and a colleague, Lucjan, share a passion for mountain biking, so they decided to organize a long-distance, sponsored cycle under the banner of OnOurBikes.info, to fundraise for TWB. “We were thinking we should do something a little bit crazy which could attract more interest to the cause,” explains Marek. So far, TextPartner’s OnOurBikes sponsored cycle rides have raised over $20,000 for TWB, funding the training of 20 translators in Kenya.

Raising awareness of TWB

To raise awareness of TWB among the wider translating community, the TextPartner team approached John Terninko, Executive Director of the European Language Industry Association (ELIA), which runs a major annual international networking conference. In 2012 the venue was to be Budapest. Marek suggested organizing a 440 km, circular cycle tour, starting in Katowice, which would reach Budapest in time for the conference, and they would flag up the fundraising initiative to participants at the ELIA conference.

John supported the proposal and the first to join the team was Michal Kmet from Lexika in Slovakia who was joined by Raymund Prins from Global Textware in the Netherlands, a former professional cyclist, who helped organize the tour. Both became sponsors and the tour went ahead with 21 further sponsors signing up during the ELIA stopover.

ELIA’s leaders have always supported TWB and our fundraising initiatives”,
says Marek. The ELIA community includes friends, sponsors and cycling
enthusiasts.  “ELIA Networking Days help us gain international recognition as a business as well as raising awareness for our support to TWB. A big thanks to them for their continued support!” adds Marek.

Fundraiser in Berlin
On Our Bikes in Berlin

“Our fantastic TextPartner team of in-house linguists are also enthusiastic supporters.We would not have been able to leave the office for so long had they not been so supportive and well-organized. While the major part of our business involves linguistic services aimed at central European languages, with the strongest focus on our mother tongue, Polish, we also have a DTP department and a print shop where we produce books, brochures and magazines, business cards and laser-marked pencils. We make some of those for Translators without Borders, providing further in-kind sponsorship.”

OnOurBikes makes its mark!

Following the success of 2012, the OnOurBikes tour became an annual event. 2013 was even more ambitious, with a 600 km circuit taking in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. This was followed in 2014 by the Baltic Route, cycling from Poland through Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; with participants taking ferries to extend the trip through Finland and Sweden before returning to Poland – a total distance of 2,300 km! In 2015, the Capitals’ Route included Dublin, London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin. Some participants cycle the whole route, others just join part of it, so the event is exceptionally sociable and fun. During all the tours, bridges and borders are crossed and friendships formed.

In terms of training, Marek explains “our bike rides usually start in spring, so our training takes place in the winter. Surprisingly, the training is fun! We
typically skip lunch to cycle in the woods, in below zero temperatures. We use
spiky tyres for the necessary grip, especially on snow and ice. The woods
are full of wildlife and very quiet at that time. We’d miss the training if we
didn’t have it
.”

On Our Bikes Fundraiser
Selfie on the road

Our next ‘grand tour’ will be in 2017, setting off from Lake Garda in
Italy, then, via Venice, over to Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary – with a stopover
for MemoQ fest -on to Slovakia and back to Poland. But there are events in 2016 too.We are very excited that groups such as Zelenka and Ciklopea are keen to join our new Around the World initiative! The idea is to connect multiple smaller cycling events all around the world in the single aim of supporting TWB’s work. We already have three prospective teams, and more indicating they would like to participate. If anyone else feels ready to join us, please get in touch now!

Translation saves lives

The TextPartner team promote an important message when cycling and raising awareness – emphasizing that translation really matters. It saves people’s lives in many parts of the world. It lifts them out of poverty and empowers them with knowledge. This message is on their banners, leaflets and in their interviews with the media. Marek remarks “Our cycle tours are a call to action to other cyclists worldwide. Let’s grab our helmets, flasks and cameras, get on our bikes and support TWB! It is a great way to show others that translation really matters and that in many parts of the world it saves people’s lives!

Blog AuthorBy Sarah Powell, Translators without Borders volunteer 

Lugha Zima La Teknolojia – The Universal Language Of Technology

The Uber driver told me his 80-year-old grandmother would only accept M-Pesa as payment. She sells bananas up-country. The Uber guy and I are sitting in the infamous Nairobi traffic, chatting about business, robbery and technology. It’s safer for her, he explains, she tells all that she only accepts M-Pesa payments because it means she’s less likely to get robbed. I think his grandmother must be a strong character. M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service. It was started in Kenya, and the idea quickly spread across borders – and now M-Pesa is used in Tanzania, South Africa, India, Albania and Romania. Funds are transferred between accounts via mobile phone – any cell phone. The system is intuitive and in Swahili, so even basically literate people can use it. You can pay for your vegetables from the street vendor with M-Pesa (she prefers it); you can pay for your Uber driver via M-Pesa. EVERYONE in Kenya pays or gets paid with M-Pesa. The language of technology speaks for itself.

The tech side of Kenya

I was in Nairobi to support the filming of a Translators without Borders (TWB) video and to meet the TWB team there; TWB’s only physical office is in Nairobi; we train translators in east Africa and beyond. I’ve been to Kenya dozens of times – mostly on holiday, but also for work – so I wasn’t expecting to learn much about Kenya itself. I knew that Kenya has a cool tech side, but didn’t think much about it.

I was blown away

The woman we hired for the video, Jane, lives in a slum; she has M-Pesa. She also is confident and comfortable around smart phones, iPads, etc. Jane is functionally illiterate; she can’t sign her name, but she was happy to read her lines from a script on an iPad, sign a receipt with a thumb print and accept money into her M-Pesa account. She is thinking about getting M-Kopa to affordably provide solar electricity to her home in the slum for her phone, lights and radio.

M-Kopa
M-Kopa

Jane knows how to use her phone. She can easily get information from it. Literacy is not a barrier. Basic menus in Swahili work for Jane.

Which brought me, later that day, to iHub (I missed Mark Zuckerberg’s visit by about an hour). I was there to meet Ushahidi and to discuss our growing partnership; but I also wanted to meet the mobile systems providers’ association to discuss developing mobile courses to train translators in very local languages outside of Kenya (TWB already has translators in 11 Kenyan languages). If TWB can develop a larger cadre of local language translators, then more information can be translated into languages that people actually speak and can understand. And, combined with some other projects, including Facebook’s Free Basics, more information can get to more people in a way that they can access themselves.

That’s the crux. Can Jane get the information she wants and needs in her own language? Or can she only get what information “aid agencies” and governments give her – what “we” decide is important to translate? The answer, sadly, is that vital information is mostly in English and what is translated may not be what Jane wants or needs. For TWB, our challenge is to turn that system on its head so that Jane can get whatever information she wants in her language, when she wants it.

The future of information exchange

After a week in Kenya – seeing it not just as a country with a huge refugee population, beautiful beaches and wonderful game parks – I am convinced. Nairobi is a vibrant regional hub where non-traditional business practices are developing rapidly to suit a population of 46 million people, 75% of whom live in rural areas, with 12 main languages and dozens of smaller languages. Kenya really can be the future of information exchange.

As I’m writing this in Istanbul airport, the electricity goes out. I can feel the tension rise. The electricity doesn’t go out in airports. And the last time it went out in Istanbul there was a bomb. The security presence around me is palpable. It reminds me that there is also a lot of tension in Kenya because of recent attacks; there are security checks everywhere. You go through security to get into shopping centers and sometimes within them; security forces are on the streets; you walk through metal detectors to go into hotels and cars are searched for bombs before going into parking lots. The country borders on two unstable and insecure countries; bombings and other acts of violence are, sadly, not uncommon and make people nervous. Graft and corruption are ubiquitous. Kenya and Kenyans have a lot to overcome; but, if any country can do it, Kenya can.

The language of technology

Mobile savvy Kenyans aren’t nervous about technology; new technologies pop-up every day and Kenyans (mostly) accept them – from Uber to M-Kopa to Ushahidi. Ordinary Kenyans, even low income Kenyans, have a sense of what the world outside of Kenya can offer; they know that information is there and that it can help pull the country out of some of difficulties people are mired in now.

I think Kenyans can lead the way in making the world available to Kenyans and, hopefully, the rest of East Africa – and they can make Kenyan ideas and thoughts accessible to the millions of others who can benefit from some of the models that they are developing. It’s super-inspiring; I am excited about working with Kenyan language professors, NGOs, and tech companies to help transform how development happens – so that people themselves have the information they want and can make informed decisions about their futures.

Blog AuthorBy Aimee Ansari, Translators without Borders Executive Director