When crisis hits – communication is key

Deployed for the first time in 2015 to respond to the refugee crisis in Greece, the Translators without Borders Arabic Rapid Response Team (RRT) counts over 80 volunteers. From their homes around the world, equipped with an internet connection and a Skype account, the will to help others and language skills, these volunteers bring vital information to thousands of refugees and migrants in Greece, in a language they understand.

‘If people cannot understand each other, there will be a barrier that not only makes it difficult to communicate but also makes it difficult to trust each other’

Muhannad Al-Bayk, a graduate of and now teacher at the University of Aleppo, joined the Arabic RRT in early 2017. Since then, he has been lending his valuable translation skills to TWB partners such as RefuComm, Internews, and the British Red Cross, while juggling his studies and teaching responsibilities.

Having volunteered over 50 translation hours as part of TWB’s response to the refugee crisis in Greece, we were keen to catch up with Muhannad to find out why he decided to join TWB and what motivates him to be involved in this response. Muhannad starts by telling us, ‘I wanted to find a way to give to others who hadn’t been as lucky in life as I have. While researching how to help, I stumbled upon TWB which seemed like a perfect match for my skill set.’

Muhannad’s tasks as an Arabic RRT translator are varied. In addition to translating and editing files using TWB’s translation platform Kató, he also helps develop glossaries, format documents, and other technical tasks. His translation content has also been quite diverse – from translating articles for “News that Moves,” an online information source for refugees and migrants in Greece, to flyers to direct people affected by the Grenfell fires in London, to a helpline. Muhannad believes that these projects are truly helpful ‘because they are timely for the target audience. Being able to read about things as they happen helps people understand what is going on and makes them feel less lost and more involved in their situation.’

‘Working as a volunteer has been an invaluable experience. I’m constantly tackling new issues and learning new things. Meeting a lovely new group of professional people is a bonus. It also taught me to be more committed to timelines, since RRT work relies on fast turnaround times.’

Why language matters in a crisis

The dedicated volunteer wraps up our interview telling us, ‘It is hard to put one’s life in the hands of someone you do not even understand. Therefore, language is key during times of crisis. [Language] connects hearts and minds, it is the primary means of communication’.


Click here to read the stories of other TWB Rapid Response translators.

By Angela Eldering, TWB Volunteer 

 

Volunteer story: Translating rumors and helping refugee children express themselves

A TWB volunteer story

Amina Hadjela is a great TWB volunteer story. She became intrigued by Translators without Borders (TWB) after discovering the organization online. The stories of response to major worldwide crises, such the Ebola epidemic in Africa, fascinated her. The more Amina read about TWB, the more she felt compelled to become involved. She describes the feeling as being like a magnet drawing her to the crisis translation projects. She immediately applied to be a volunteer translator for the Arabic Rapid Response Team (RRT).

Amina is Algerian, with a Bachelor’s degree in translation. Not content with speaking just Arabic, French and English, she has been learning Chinese since 2015. She sees it as a way of enriching her linguistic experience and hopes to eventually become involved in Mandarin translation and subtitling.

The RRT keeps her busy with daily translations of vital content for refugees such as health care information, news updates and the translation of the ‘Rumours’ fact sheet a publication by Internews which aims to correct misinformation with verified facts for those affected by the European refugee crisis.

A memorable experience

One of the most memorable translation experiences for Amina was a piece reflecting the voices of refugee children. ‘Our eyes, our future, our dreams’ was produced as a special issue of ‘In The Loop’, published by Internews (English version here). It emerged from a series of workshops designed to help Syrian and Afghan children living in refugee camps express themselves in creative ways. In it, the children share why they left their countries of origin, their experiences living in organized sites in Greece, and their dreams for the future.

I became really attached to their memories of their homeland and their dreams. I felt their voices in my head,” Amina recalls. “Sometimes, I imagine how I’d feel if I was a refugee. The answer is probably that I would feel lonely, vulnerable and hopeless even if there were some wonderful people and organizations around me.” She points out that the information translated by the RRTs doesn’t only help refugees; it provides updates about the refugee crisis in multiple languages to anyone who is interested.

Amina reminds us that Nelson Mandela once said ’If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in HIS language, that goes to his heart.’ “TWB definitely speaks to the hearts of refugees,” Amina comments.

“If you have language skills and want to help people in need, you’re most welcome in our team and there are teams for other languages too”

TWB’s goal is to provide people with up-to-date information in a language they can understand and in a format they can access. We aim to close the language gaps. So, do not hesitate to join us and help people for whom your skills are vital.”

Amina has Bachelor’s degree in Translation from Mentouri University of Constantine, Algeria. Since graduating she has worked as a freelance translator for official translation offices in Algeria.

want to volunteer?

Do you want to create your own volunteer story? Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer 

How To: Use your personal experience for a good cause

Majed Abo dan knows what life is like as a refugee. His story is the story of how personal experience can be used for a good cause.
Majed and his family arrived on Chios island in Greece on 20 March 2016, a day after the EU-Turkey deal took effect. They had traveled as refugees from their home in Aleppo, Syria, seeking safety and security in Europe.

Majed‘s arrival in Greece was chaotic and confusing, especially as people tried to interpret and apply the conditions of the new deal. “The Greek authorities detained us in Vial Camp. There was little information available for us about our legal rights; everything was a total mess,” he recalls.

While on Chios island, Majed showed his compassion for fellow-refugees. He worked with the Norwegian Refugee Council as a food security assistant. “It was the most perfect experience in my life, and it was an honor for me to work with such a respectable NGO.”

In total, Majed and his family lived in Greece for nine months, on the islands of Chios and Leros and later in Athens. He and his family recently arrived in Mainz, Germany, where they plan to settle. He is very happy to be living in Germany, a country that has fascinated him since he was a little boy, describing it as “a dream come true.”

from experience to a good cause

Throughout their time as refugees, Majed was frustrated by the lack of clear information and the abundance of unreliable rumors. He decided to find some answers for himself. “I found a website called News That Moves, which seemed to provide good and true news. I decided to be a part of that team, to help myself and other refugees to find some facts.”

News That Moves is a source of verified information for refugees. It is produced by Internews and translated into three languages by Translators without Borders’ Rapid Response Team (RRT). Majed is now a productive member of the RRT, translating and editing articles almost daily. He is particularly proud to have translated an article on how refugees can obtain a passport or a travel document in Greece. He knows from his own experience how valuable the information in that article is to refugees, and how essential it is to translate it into languages they understand.

“You have to know that information comes from trusted sources, to avoid inaccurate information and rumors”

There have been times when Majed has heard someone relaying information that he or an RRT colleague has translated. When that happens, he confesses, “I feel proud from the deepest part of my heart.” He is convinced that non-governmental organizations, volunteers, and local citizens make a tangible difference in refugees’ lives, noting that “Without them, we would not survive.”

want to volunteer?

Do you want to use your skills for a good cause? Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Majed has some expert advice for anyone thinking of joining the RRT. “Anyone who would like to join us should feel the crisis in their heart and understand the circumstances that led to it. Put yourself in the same position as the victims – then you can translate with your heart not just your words.”

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 

On International Translation Day, we celebrate translators

International translation day

Today we celebrate International Translation Day, a day to recognize the incredible contribution that translators make to connecting worlds and bringing people closer to the information that they need. TWB thanks the thousands of translators who support and collaborate with Translators without Borders every day, helping us build a world where knowledge knows no language barriers.


celebrating one of our many translators

Since TWB started to respond to the European refugee crisis in November 2015, volunteer translators have been supporting our efforts through translation. Based in Nicosia, Cyprus, Maria Roussou is a member of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) for the Greek language, and she translates from English into Greek. Besides Arabic and Farsi, TWB also provides Greek translations of daily news and information on the refugee crisis for residents of Greece.

With Greece at the forefront of the crisis, Maria was strongly motivated to help. In her words, “The refugee crisis is yet another international disaster. I cannot begin to think what all these people are going through, physically and emotionally. Helping the refugees should not be considered as volunteering, but as an obligation.” Maria believes that information in their native language can greatly empower refugees, who are already in such a vulnerable position, and are facing numerous challenges and obstacles.

Joining the TWB translator team

Maria first heard about TWB through a course she took on translation business development. “A tutor mentioned the remarkable work of TWB, both on a humanitarian and on a professional level. I submitted my application
form
the same day!”
 At that time, the refugee crisis had already begun
and Maria immediately received a request to join a Rapid Response Team: “I said yes without hesitating, not even for a second: I was offering to help and they needed my help.”

From that moment, Maria remembers that she was guided through the process of working on an RRT: “I received instant and abundant help from the other volunteers. I felt a member of the team right away.” She and her team mostly translate news articles relating to the refugee crisis such as the situation at the borders and the way each country and the EU are reacting to the crisis. According to Maria, there is excellent collaboration within the team, which works quickly and efficiently. Even so, urgency should not compromise the quality of the translation: “As soon as you pick up a document or a part of it, you are committed to deliver it as soon as possible, with the best possible quality,” she explains.

“Translation is my passion and knowing that it can help people in need, makes it twice the pleasure”

Maria spends about an hour a day volunteering for TWB, depending on the workload of the team: “I try to make myself available… I know that helping even a little goes a long way. Besides, I really enjoy it.” 

Happy International Translation Day to all of our translators around the world!

To sign up as a volunteer with Translators without Borders, click here.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Border volunteer

The fast-track path into Translators without Borders

Volunteer translators form the very core of Translators without Borders. They donate their time, efforts and expertise to help doctors, nurses and other volunteers working in humanitarian organizations to make the world a better place.

Since translations related to humanitarian emergencies leave no time for reviews or mistakes, there is a strict procedure in place to ensure that all members of our team are experienced and solid translators, able to do it right the first time. Applications from potential volunteers are reviewed and, if approved, a sample translation is requested and then evaluated by at least two editors before a new translator is welcomed onto the team.

There is a second way, called the fast track, opened back in early 2011 when Translators without Borders was contacted by the organization GoodPlanet with the request of translating their new website into as many languages as possible. Since at that time the pool of volunteers was concentrated in the pairs of English to and from French, a decision was made to contact members of ProZ.com’s Certified PRO Network.

With over 3,400 members, the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network is an initiative of the ProZ.com community to provide qualified translators and translation companies with an opportunity to network and collaborate in an environment consisting entirely of screened professionals.

To enter the Certified PRO Network, ProZ.com members must complete an online application and submit it for review to prove they meet or exceed minimum professional standards based on the EN15038 standard for quality in translation and in three screening areas: translation ability, business reliability and online citizenship.

Since the screening of translation ability is essentially the same in both programs (and in both cases done on a platform powered by ProZ.com), a fast track was created whereby any translator who is part of the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network is automatically accepted as a Translator without Borders without the need of any further testing.

The fast track proved very powerful, and currently some 40% of the professionals approved by Translators without Borders were accepted because of their ProZ.com Certified PRO Network status.

The experience led to the decision to extend this approach to other industry certifications that involve active testing of translation abilities. In particular, the fast track benefits are also available to all ATA-certified translators—an opportunity that we would like to advertise better. We are working on identifying similar certification programs and announciProz logong those fast track opportunities to potential volunteers.

There is good room for growth here. Feedback and advice will be very welcome.

blog authorBy Enrique Cavalitto from ProZ.com

Our New Swahili Translators

In this issue we introduce two of our translator trainees from our new Healthcare Translators’ Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Our hard-working team in Kenya, led by Paul Warambo and Simon Andriesen, is translating vital health information and subtitling videos while also learning how to become professional translators. This is an important step in building a professional translation network in Swahili and beyond.

Matthias K. Kathuke

My name is Matthias K. Kathuke. I am 27. I was born and raised in Mananja village, Machakos County in Eastern province of Kenya, about 100km northeast of the capital Nairobi. I was also educated in the local primary and secondary schools and sadly, not much was expected of my education since the schools were low profile. For instance, my secondary school had never sent a student to university in over 40 years of its existence. Paradoxically, I was expected, especially by my father, to make it through with first-class performance. As destiny would have it, I did not disappoint, as I set a record by becoming the first ever to enter university from a village covering about 1000sq. km.

My family is naturally a huge credit for the victories I have achieved so far. My mother is an elementary school teacher, my father an ex-marine. This combination of parentage ‘resource’ has propelled me towards intellectual excellence and operative discipline from my mother and father respectively. Being the firstborn (of 4 sisters and 1 brother), I have had a lot of modeling to do because my siblings look up to me for emulation and inspiration. This has in turn compelled me to become a natural leader.

My family is almost dependent on my mother’s earnings (and now mine) since my father no longer has a formal income. Our eldest sister is volunteering in our local secondary school while the rest are still pursuing their education. Just for the record, we are a very warm team, so I always miss them when I am away (well, almost everyone with a loving family does!).

As implied earlier, I was educated at Mananja Primary and Secondary Schools (both public schools). I look back to those days and feel grateful for coming this far. The experience was scrappy as learning resources (including teachers) were insufficient, and the learning a little harsh for conducive learning. How did I make through? A combination of fortune and determination. So, I qualified for government sponsorship to the University of Nairobi where I pursued a degree in Education: Linguistics major and Literature minor. I graduated with Second Class Honors in 2009 and have been teaching since then until August 2012, when I committed my entire working time to TWB.

Before committing all my working hours to translation, I consulted with Simon Andriesen and Paul Warambo. The implication of my choice was made clear from the onset so that I would make an informed decision. Eventually, I did commit all my time to translation. Well, so far so good, though there is still much ground to cover.

I am motivated by 3 things on my journey to becoming a translator: my love of linguistics (my childhood dream), desire to serve humanity and (frankly) the need to make a living out of my efforts!

The second reason is more significant, which is inspired by two touching examples from Simon Andriesen and Sue Pearson (of Summer Institute of Linguistics). Sue narrates about a French-speaking mother in Chad who administers to her child a drug meant to induce production of breast milk on her dry breasts; while Simon tells of a mother who stops giving her sick child water since it would immediately come out through the other end. Sadly in both cases, the children end up dying, not because of lack of doctors or treatment, but lack of (correct) medical information. Paul Warambo’s story almost sends me to tears when he narrates how his kid sister was to undergo an unsafe abortion – an exercise that would have denied Paul an opportunity to have a brilliant nephew (Levis Otieno). I came to interact with these moving stories during our translation training that was facilitated by Simon and Paul (these two gentlemen, truth be told, make up a perfect team for TWB).

I am in total agreement with the philosophy of Translators without Borders: that never again should people die of lack of information whilst there is something we could do to avert the situation. I therefore would love to become a professional translator in order to help avail information to the average, less privileged population, which cannot access important medical information because it is encoded in a foreign language (quite literally).

The process of becoming a translator is very demanding – I have found it more mentally exhausting than teaching, especially at the initial stages.

Besides, translation is a new profession in Africa, which is both a merit and a demerit in that we reserve exclusive skills, but also the market does not recognize the need for translators as professionals. Companies may not easily embrace the idea of hiring a professional translator whilst a lay person would take up the job. (And did I just overhear Simon say that translation doesn’t make millionaires?)

I hope to run a non-profit translation agency to serve my village with information on the key aspects of society namely health, education, law and agriculture. I would like to translate the available information from English to Swahili and vernacular. I would also link with other like-minded individuals to run a network of similar agencies so as to avail the same information in diverse vernaculars in Kenya and hopefully East Africa.

I am a soccer fan, specifically FC Barcelona much more because of their philosophy than the football. They train their players from a young age to become humble, respectful and able to function more as a team despite their individual talent. I also love music: I play the guitar, participate and watch live concerts and dash to the studio occasionally to record.

Appreciation:
It would be an almost unforgivable sin not to express my sincere gratitude to Translators without Borders for the opportunity to become a health translator. I thank the TWB board members for coming up with this great idea. I whole heartedly thank Simon Andriesen for his insightful lectures during our training. I must also thank Paul Warambo for giving us instructions with his Swahili knowledge – Paul is always with us, guiding us and helping us with Swahili terminologies and grammar. Indeed we don’t know what we would do without Paul and Simon in this training. Thanks a million!

Anne Njeri Mwangi

My name is Anne Njeri Mwangi, aged 38 years, born and brought up in Kenya in a town called Nyeri and working in the capital city, Nairobi.

I am the fourth born in a family of seven siblings: five girls and two boys. All my siblings are adults with families; my parents are alive and well. I am married to Simon, and we have a lovely son, Victor, who is 11 years old.

I received my primary and secondary education from the nearby schools in the village. After secondary school, I joined medical training college in Mombasa where I pursued a diploma in community health nursing for 3½ years (1993-1997). Later, I pursued a course in reproductive health for six months in 2007. In 2011/2012, I went back to Kenya Medical Training College in Nairobi and pursued a Higher National Diploma in Health Education and Promotion, which I completed in July this year.

After qualifying in 1997, I was employed by the government of Kenya and have worked as a Nursing Officer in various hospitals. In the course of that time, I have practiced offering curative services and came to realize that many of the patients I was attending to were suffering due to lack of information. I consequently felt the need to promote health by educating and giving the correct information to people, thus deciding to take a course in health education and promotion to get the relevant skills. Translators without Borders came in handy at a time when I had just completed my training and ripe for health promotion, and as a Health Promoter, I felt it would be quite prudent to give information in a language that is well understood by the majority in my country. Therefore when I got the chance to be part of the translators at the Translators without Borders Healthcare Translators’ Training Center, I totally embraced it because it is a positive engagement that would enable me to promote health through a language that the majority would understand.

In all these I wish to thank Simon Andriesen – the director of the Healthcare Translators’ Training Center for being available to give me the much needed translation skills. I would also like to thank Paul Warambo who has been our course instructor during the course; his incredible brilliance in Swahili language and translation skills has made us see the light in the field of translation. I also extend my gratitude to the translation team for their spirit of unity.

Being a translator will enable me to ensure that society receives information in a language that people understand best. I am glad to have become a translator, especially of healthcare materials, because I will be promoting health when people receive and understand information. Health promotion is my passion.
Becoming a translator requires a lot of dedication, determination and commitment. It’s hard to be a translator if one does not have these qualities.

Once I gain experience in translation which is currently from English to Swahili, I would like to move my translation skills into another level of translating the healthcare materials to my native language (Kikuyu) so that those who understand neither English nor Swahili may also get access to information.

My interests are traveling, walking and traversing social media.


If you would like to help support the effort to increase language capacity into Swahili and other critical languages, please consider sponsoring a translator this holiday season through our Fund-a-Translator program. Details by emailing [email protected]