Migration is nothing new. The Greeks will tell you that.

The beginning of greek migration

It was the ancient Greeks who gave us the word diaspora, meaning “to scatter or disperse.” Since the time of Alexander the Great, Greeks have been spreading themselves throughout the world. Today, the Greek diaspora spans the globe, its people having integrated themselves into numerous countries, most notably the USA, Australia and Canada. The concept of migration is therefore deeply entrenched in Greek culture. Modern Greeks, whether they live at home or abroad, have an acute sense of what it means to be a migrant. Perhaps that is why the Greek people responded so positively to the European migration crisis. Tens of thousands of refugees have arrived in Greece seeking safety, security and a new start.

Breaking down barriers

Anastasia Petyka was one of many Greeks who tried to make the refugees’ journey easier. With a degree in Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting from the Ionian University on Corfu, she set about breaking down communication barriers between the new migrant populations and the local Greeks. The Translators without Borders Rapid Response Translation (RRT) team gave her the opportunity to do that in a structured way.

“It’s important for refugees and locals to have access to the same information in their native languages. That cultivates trust and allows the locals to support the refugees”

Anastasia typically spends one or two hours per day translating and editing different kinds of texts into Greek. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Anastasia, the local population can access the same news articles, regulations or instructions as the aid agencies and the refugees themselves.

She is proud of her country’s efforts to welcome and support refugees, and she thinks this is due to Greek people having such a deep understanding of migration.

At the same time, she is scathing in her criticism of the wider international response to Europe’s refugee crisis. “Refugees have been faced with indifference and abandonment,” she insists. “Europe has shown a cruel face to people in need.” Anastasia is particularly frustrated that her native Greece has been expected to respond while struggling with an economic crisis of its own. “Greeks have experienced migration firsthand, and they know what it means,” she feels. “Unfortunately Greece cannot provide the refugees with the support they need to build their lives again. Ultimately we’ve been left alone to cope with the influx of migrants.”

A memorable experience

Despite the political challenges, Anastasia has channeled her strong sense of justice and her belief in basic human rights to ensure that she contributes as positively as possible to the situation. One of her most memorable experiences was translating a Syrian refugee’s experience traveling to Europe. Anastasia was shocked to learn that this man’s experience had left him feeling that death would have been preferable to making the journey to Europe. “It illustrated reality, but made me feel deeply sad and ashamed of the way the refugee crisis has been handled,” she admits. “To me, facilitating communication to make a difference is what I regard as a ‘high goal,’ and gives me a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.”

Want to volunteer?

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

“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 

“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

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 

5 ways to support TWB on #GivingTuesday

#givingtuesday

 

There are several ways to support TWB on #GivingTuesday. How can you help?

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give” – Maya Angelou 

Donate

Donate today to TWB and be in with a chance to win one of 10 TWB mugs! With our goal to translate 10 million words in 2017 in our sights, we also want to give back – 10 mugs for 10 lucky donors!*

Sharing is caring!

Share this email on #GivingTuesday using a simple post such as: ‘Today is #GivingTuesday. If you believe #LanguageMatters, then #SupportTWB by donating here.’

Organize Fun!

Organize a fundraiser in support of TWB. Our handy Fundraising Pack is full of inspiring ideas. Little or large, online or in the office, fundraisers help raise funds for TWB but also to raise awareness of our work.

Volunteer

Translators without Borders works with all kinds of volunteers. Sign up as a TWB volunteer today!

Amplify!

Some employers will double your fundraising for you by donating a matching amount – ask your employer today!

* We will be giving away 10 TWB mugs to the first 10 #GivingTuesday donors (valid from Monday 28 November 12am EST to Tuesday 29 November 11.59pm EST). Please specify that you are a Giving Tuesday donor in the donation form

TWB merchandise

“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 

Responding to a crisis from home

 Volunteer translatorsSelima ben Chagra

“I think the world has a lot more to offer to refugees than it is currently giving them”

 

With a deep personal interest in human rights, politics and foreign languages, Selima ben Chagra is a freelance translator and interpreter (French-English and Arabic-English) focused on translating and transcreating advertisements and commercials.

When she heard about TWB’s European Refugee Crisis RESPONSE project…

… Selina signed up straight away. “I didn’t really think it through,” she confesses. “I just wanted to help.” “Being a refugee is disorienting enough, but when you add in the feeling of helplessness that comes from an inability to communicate, facilitating understanding becomes even more important,” she told us. 

Selina earned an MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2015. Her experience as a translator and interpreter with the United Nations Development Program’s Regional Bureau for Arab States inspired Selima to work in the humanitarian field.  Since then her career has reflected her strong interest in international development and cooperation, and a passion for communication. Selina has spent the past fourteen years studying and working in the corporate, non-profit and inter-governmental sectors, including as a teacher of English, French and Arabic.


Volunteer translatorRawan Gharib

“Language offers both the charm of communication and the curse of ambiguity”

 

On an almost-daily basis, from her home in Giza in Egypt, Rawan translates media coverage of the European refugee crisis and its consequences into her native Arabic. She also provides people affected by the crisis with information on issues of more immediate relevance. In addition to things like weather forecasts, she translates information sheets that aim to clearly distinguish between truth and hearsay, and helps raise awareness of the risks of abuse by people smugglers, detention, or forced repatriation.

Rawan Gharib is a freelance translator and a creative writer, with a self-described “obsessive” hobby of music archiving. In addition to TWB, she also volunteers with Global Voices’ Lingua Project. While studying Hispanic Language and Literature at Cairo University, Rawan developed a passion for translation, and literature analysis and criticism. Her decision to get involved with TWB was intuitive, and her rationale is simple. “I’m a native Arabic speaker, a translator and a human; I felt it was my role to play.”

Rawan notes, “Language tends to be even more tricky and confusing in situations of fear or pressure. …Successful communication in such situations provides additional security, understanding and acceptance; which any refugee or immigrant needs.” 


VolunteerING

Selima and Rawan have dedicated over 50 hours each of volunteering time to Translators without Borders. If you would like to apply to become a Rapid Response translator, click here.

Africa’s Translation Gap

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