Twenty-seven million words donated, and counting!


Between 2011 (when the Translators without Borders Workspace powered by started running) and September 2015, TWB delivered 27 million translated words to humanitarian organizations.

In the 12 month period to July 2015 TWB delivered more than 7.4 million words, an average of almost 620,000 words per month. This represents a 10.4% reduction with respect to the previous 12 month period.

When the monthly variations are “smoothed” by graphing six month averages over a longer term, we can detect a sustained period of growth peaking in mid-2014 followed by a gradual downward trend (Figure 1).

Trends last 12 months
Figure 1: Trends last 12 months


2,839  translators had been approved by TWB by July 2015, a 7.5percent increase over the number reported in our December 2014 newsletter.

Interestingly, only 62 percent of this pool has delivered translated words. The remainder are either inactive or work on language pairs with low or no demand. Our top five volunteers, representing only 0.1 percent of the pool, have donated around 5 percent of our total translation output (a total of one and a half million translated words in the past 12 months.

They are Eric Ragu (360,655 words), ishaklamia (355,808 words), Ashutosh Mitra (283,212 words), Raquel Bentué (256,447 words) and Carine Toucand (256,151 words). One explanation for lower translator engagement is that individual language pairs show imbalances between translator availability and demand. This means that some translators have few opportunities while others are over-burdened; some pairs also show a high level of cancelled requests.

We are currently evaluating a revised recruiting procedure, to help us increase the average output of individual translators and focus on language pairs where we have the most work. This will increase the proportion of approved translators who are actively engaged in TWB’s translation work.

Language pairs

During the last 12 months our translators accepted volunteer assignments in 128 language pairs. The top language pair was English to French, representing 23 percent of the operation, followed by English to Spanish (16 percent), French to English (11 percent), English to Portuguese (6 percent) and Spanish to English (6 percent). Overall, the top three pairs represented 50 percent of the words posted for translation in the last 12 months, up from 48 percent in December 2014.


Words per language pair
Figure 2: Words per language pair

TWB strives to deliver translations in many languages, including hard to source languages of Africa and India. In reality our operation tends to concentrate on a few Eurocentric languages. In particular our top language pair is English to French, where demand tends to be stronger than our resources can deliver. French is a language of under-resourced countries and a major humanitarian language, so it is not surprising that it is our top language pair.

Additionally, the TWB board is re-evaluating the focus on quantity of output, instead considering more carefully how we can measure the type of content we are translating. For example, translating a short disease prevention poster into many Indian languages may not contribute to a high word count, but it does significantly increase access to information.

Figure 3 shows the monthly evolution of the top language pairs. The top pair shows moderate fluctuations around its average value of 23 percent. The top three and top five pairs average 48 percent and 61 percent respectively, but the most relevant factor is their clear upward trend. During the 12-month period reported, the top five language pairs went from 50 percent to 76 percent of total delivered words.


Language pairs trends
Figure 3: Language pairs trends


Partner non-profits

A record 188 humanitarian organizations requested our services during the last 12 months, a 17.5 percent increase with respect to the 160 reported in our last newsletter.

Top partners during that period were Médicos Sin Fronteras de España (775,221 words delivered), Wikipedia (571,925 words), The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) (361,411 words), Acción contra el Hambre de España (313,931 words) and Centre for Access to Football in Europe (228,469 words). In other words, 30 percent of the words TWB translated last year were submitted by 3 percent of partners.