Translators without Borders is just a step away from starting up a training program for healthcare translators in Kenya. And your help is needed! Please keep reading and you will find some suggestions about how you can contribute to this very important project.
Lack of African Healthcare Translators
Translators without Borders’ core role is to facilitate the work professional translators donate to humanitarian organizations. And for most languages, this works very well. In 2011, we provided around 2.5 million words to more than 70 NGOs. However, for a number of target languages we have found there are not any, or at least very few, translators available. One of these languages is Swahili, spoken (mostly as a lingua franca) by around 100 million people across nine countries in East Africa. This language area ‘covers’ hundreds of smaller languages (there are 42 languages in Kenya alone!). To remedy this problem, especially for healthcare information, we designed a healthcare translators’ training program that we will roll out in Kenya.
Why is translation in African languages important? In our visits to Africa we have discovered that people who don’t speak a European language – 70-80 percent of the population – cannot understand critical knowledge that they need to keep themselves and their families healthy. According to the former head of UNICEF, most of the children who die in Africa die not of diseases, but because of lack of knowledge. We aim to change that by building local capacity to translate critical health information so it can be understood by the people who need this information the most.
Translators without Borders warmly welcomed!
During a recent fact-finding trip we discussed our plans with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. They warmly welcomed the initiative and immediately offered us a 150 square meter training location, walking distance from the Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in East Africa. We also spoke with many local organizations, doctors, and community healthcare workers and learned the following:
- There is indeed a shortage of healthcare translators.
- English documents, brochures and flyers are useless for many people as they don’t speak English.
- Translated materials will definitely save time for overburdened doctors, nurses, and community healthcare workers informing people about their health (or condition), and trying to prevent disease.
We also found out that translation into Swahili alone is not enough; translation training is needed for at least ten of the other Kenyan languages.
The training program
The training program is based on the MediLingua course ‘Medical-Pharmaceutical Translation’, but rewritten for people who do not need to be trained in complex matters such as how to translate extremely technical surgeons’ instructions, and also for people who are mostly new to translation. Starting this spring we will train a variety of people to translate simple but crucial healthcare information on Africa-relevant topics, including infectious diseases, STDs, reproductive health, malaria, family planning, unsafe abortions, and female genital mutilation. The introductory training will include basic modules such as:
- What is translation?
- How to build glossaries
- How to find background information
- How to deal with new terms and write clearly
- Introduction to interpretation
- How to translate and subtitle videos
How can you help?
If you live in Kenya and you feel you can assist us in training people in one of the 42 local languages, please let us know.
If you feel you have an excellent command of Swahili and/or other Kenyan languages, we would appreciate your skills in reviewing the trainees’ work and/or mentoring one or more of the trainees.
Of course, if you can’t do any of this but you want to support us, we desperately need funding. TWB is a volunteer organization, but that does not mean we don’t have expenses running the center. It is not much: we really only need $5,000 (or €4,000) a month to finance the center. Please help us set up this very important center.
Visit the Translators without Borders website to find instructions about how you can donate!
By Simon Andriesen, Board President of Kenya and CEO of MediLingua