The Translators without Borders Translator Survey

In the spring, we conducted a comprehensive survey of the Translators without Borders volunteer translators, receiving 440 replies (about 30% of the surveys that were sent out). The results were quite encouraging, and we have used them to make changes and improvements to the Workspace (detailed in our 08 article in this newsletter).


Question 1: How did you first learn about Translators without Borders (TWB)?

  • The majority of repliers (67.5%) found out about TWB through
  • Word of mouth was the second choice (9.6%) followed by the TWB webpage (7.8%).
  • Then came social media (6.9%), industry event/association/magazine (3.2%) and web searches (2.5%).



Question 2: How did you become a translator without borders?

  • 43.8% of respondents were accepted when their sample translation was approved.
  • 38.5% were fast-tracked because they were certified PRO members.
  • The third source of volunteers (14.1%) corresponds to jobs and direct requests posted in
  • The remaining translators were fast-tracked because they were ATA certified (2.0%) or were recommended by a trusted outsourcer (1.6%).


Question 3: How long did your application take to be processed?

  • For 43.8% of respondents the applications were processed in less than a week.
  • This delay was one to two weeks for 24.4% of respondents.
  • It took 3 to 4 weeks for 16.6% of the replies.
  • 6.4% of replies reported a processing time of 5 to 8 weeks, while 8.8% indicated a delay longer than 8 weeks.



Question 4: How long have you been with TWB?

  • About half of respondents (50.6%) reported more than 12 months with TWB.
  • About half of the remaining respondents (23.4%) reported 7 to 12 months.
  • 16.6% had been with TWB for 3 to 6 months.
  • 5.1% answered 1 to 2 months, while 4.4% reported less than a month with TWB.

Question 5: What is the main factor that motivates you to accept a TWB assignment?

  • The top reason reported was availability (58.9%).
  • Next came the organization asking for help (13.0%) and the impact of the project  (13.9%).
  • The subject of the translation  came next with 10.9% of votes.
  • Finally came a generous deadline (0.5%), the format of the files (0.2%) and a combination of the above factors  (2.6%).

Question 6: How many assignments have you completed for Translators without Borders? 

The picture below displays the answers received:

  • None so far (16.1%)
  • One or two (26.4%)
  • Three to five ( 21.8%)
  • Six to ten (16.1%)
  • More than 10 (19.7%)



Question 7: If you answered none so far to question 6, can you please tell us why?

Almost 80% of the translators who did not deliver words so far said that there are few jobs in their language pairs. The replies were:

  • Limited or no opportunities in my language pair (46.9%).
  • Others pick up the jobs quicker than me (32.1%).
  • Limited time to help (21.0%).

Question 8: Do you always feel the work you are asked to do is strictly humanitarian?

  • Yes (92.7%).
  • Subject was Business/Admin/Technical (4.6%).
  • I think some NGOs could pay for the translations (1.7%).
  • I don’t think Wikipedia is humanitarian (1.0%).

Question 9: What changes in the TWB Workspace would motivate you to take more TWB assignments?

A total of 242 replies were received for this question. Since they were sent as free text, they were classified into categories as follows:

  • 40.5%  No changes required.
  • 7.0%    Longer/more flexible deadlines.
  • 7.0%    More opportunities in my language pair.
  • 6.6%    Shorter, more frequent translations.
  • 6.2%    More time to decide/time-zone.
  • 5.8%    I don’t know yet.
  • 5.8%    More assignments related to my fields of expertise.
  • 3.3%    Better format/no tags.
  • 2.9%    Better coordination in multi-translator jobs/TMs and glossaries.
  • 2.9%    Public exposure to help me get jobs/references.
  • 2.5%    Better selected/more visible humanitarian projects/feedback on impact.
  • 2.1%    A better/easier to use translation page/better assistance.
  • 1.7%    Translating for organizations that are transparent, texts that clearly add value to the organizations’ work.
  • 1.2%    Online TMs and glossaries.
  • 1.2%    Receiving tokens of appreciation/advantages/motivational gifts.
  • 0.8%    Indication of language variant.
  • 0.4%    Better quality of the source texts.
  • 0.4%    Disentanglement from ProZ.
  • 0.4%    It is fine now, however, it may contain the translator’s credentials and memberships as well underneath the translator’s name.
  • 0.4%    Monolingual proofreading jobs available.
  • 0.4%    More concrete information about the job poster: how they are organized and financed, do they have other volunteers and what do those volunteers do, why have they chosen to use TWB’s services and to what use will they concretely put the money they’re not spending on paying translators. Also, I would like the screening process of NGOs by TWB to be transparent and explicit, for example what are the criteria to let NGOs use TWB. I haven’t been able to find that on the TWB website.
  • 0.4%    Possibility of applying translations for each segment in a web-based translation memory specific to the translator.

Question 10: How would you rate the job posting page (the page from which you either accept or decline the job)?

‘I am not familiar with it’ was the answer selected by 8.2% of respondents. Of the translators who are familiar with the platform, the answers were:

  • Adequate (92.6%).
  • Not very clear (4.8%).
  • Should include more information (specify)  (2.6%).

The additional data requested in the last category include more information about the job poster, the subject matter, the language variant, glossaries and translation memories.

Question 11: Do you find the TWB workspace easy to use?

‘I am not familiar with it’ was the answer selected by 11.9% of respondents. Of the translators who are familiar with the platform, the answers were:

  • Very easy (62.9%).
  • Somewhat easy (32.6%).
  • Somewhat difficult (4.5%).
  • Very difficult (0.0 %).


Question 12: What is the main CAT tool you use (if any) to process the TWB jobs?

Trados was the most frequent answer (40.2%) followed by Wordfast (12.9%), MemoQ (5.5%), Deja Vu (2.1%) and Across 7 (1.7%). A third (33.3%) reported using no CAT tool for these assignments and 4.29% reported using other CAT tools.


Question 13: How helpful would it be to have a TM available from TWB when translating a 1,000- 2,500-word text?

  • Very helpful (41.6%).
  • Helpful (27.4%).
  • Somewhat helpful (21.3%).
  • Not helpful (9.7%).


Question 14: Would you be willing to share the translation memories corresponding to your TWB translations?

  • Yes (85.4%).
  • No (14.6%).

Question 15: What changes in the TWB Workspace would contribute to improving the quality of the translations?

We received 178 meaningful suggestions, including:

  • Editing, especially in jobs involving several translators.
  • More information on the target audience.
  • A glossary of preferred terms for each client, including all acronyms used.
  • Availability and sharing of translation memories.
  • Faster and better response from clients to queries from translators.
  • A style guide, general and per client.
  • Rules for the translators to follow, like font, size, spacing, indents, headings, and subheadings, etc. so all parts would be compiled and be in harmony together.
  • Take into account the translators’ specialization when a job is assigned.

Question 16: How would you rate the information provided about the organization that asks for the translation?

  • There is enough information and it’s well displayed (60.5%).
  • There is enough information, but it is poorly displayed (6.0%).
  • It is well-displayed, but there is not enough information (15.7%).
  • There is not enough information and it is also poorly displayed (5.5%).
  • I’m not familiar with the TWB Workspace (12.4%).

Question 17: How would you rate the information provided about each project?

  • There is enough information and it’s well displayed (61.5%).
  • There is enough information, but it is poorly displayed (4.7%).
  • It is well-displayed, but there is not enough information (17.7%).
  • There is not enough information and it is also poorly displayed (3.5%).
  • I’m not familiar with the TWB Workspace (12.5%).

Question 18: How would you rate the Translators without Borders notifications?

  • Adequate (84.2%).
  • Not very clear (3.5%).
  • Should include more information (6.1%).

◦   (the most relevant request was deadline for the job)

  • I have not received any (6.1%).

Question 19: How would you rate the feature for communicating with other translators, the project manager (PM) and the client about the job?

  • Excellent (22.1%).
  • Good (40.9%).
  • Somewhat good (9.3%).
  • Not good (3.1%).
  • I did not use it yet (24.7%).

Question 20: How would you rate the support provided by the project managers in the TWB Workspace?

  • Excellent (33.6%).
  • Good (37.4%).
  • Somewhat good (6.9%).
  • Not good (1.7%).
  • I never used the TWB Workspace (20.5%).


Question 21: Do you feel appropriately appreciated for the work you do for humanitarian organizations through TWB?

  • Yes, very much (50.9%).
  • Yes, somewhat appreciated (41.9%).
  • Not properly appreciated (7.2%).

Some comments received from translators who don’t feel properly appreciated:

  • No thank you message received.
  • No proper acknowledgement for reviewers (word count and badge).
  • Lack of feedback and proper replies from clients to queries.
  • Lack of credit for the translated documents.

Question 22: Do you follow Translators without Borders activity on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, blogs, etc.)? Please specify.

  • About half the respondents do not follow TWB on social media.
  • Among those who do, Facebook is the most common channel, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • A few mention TWB’s newsletter and Lori Thicke’s blog.
  • Most translators who follow TWB in social media mention a single channel.

Question 23: Do you use the TWB badge in other webpages besides the TWB Workspace and your profile?

  • Yes (15.1%)
  • No (41.2%)
  • I don’t know about the TWB badge (31.5%)
  • I don’t have a TWB badge (12.2%)

Question 25: Did you know that you can enter your contributions through Translators without Borders in the project history section of your profile and have them validated?

  • Yes, and I have done so (11.1%)
  • Yes, but I have not done so yet (15.6%)
  • No (73.3%)


Question 24: How could TWB provide better recognition to its volunteers?

Many translators report that they don’t need any additional recognition beyond the pleasure of giving, but a few have some interesting suggestions for improvement:

  • The interactive badge is much appreciated. A similar device for the words edited and also for the translation samples reviewed would be very welcome.
  • WWA feedback in the translator’s profile is very appreciated.
  • Endorsed project history in the  translator’s profile is appreciated but most translators did not know about this feature and some find it difficult to enter.
  • The “translator of the week” on Facebook and LinkedIn is much appreciated.
  • TWB certificates of donation, especially monetized, so they can be used as donation certification for tax purposes.
  • A window of “featured volunteer” in the TWB webpage similar to the one displayed on
  • Credit to translators and editors in the final client documents.
  • Special thanks sent to translators when they reach milestones (for instance multiples of 10K words donated).
  • A thank you note from the client who posted the job.
  • By offering references to potential clients, upon request.
  • By reviewing the translation samples more quickly.
  • By linking the projects to the translators’ profiles.
  • For those on Twitter, an automatic tweet to notify jobs and acknowledge receipt of translations.
  • Some token gifts for top contributors.
  • Encouraging virtual meetings among volunteers.


Question 25: Your message for Translators without Borders?

We received 260 messages, most of them telling of the translators’ joy and pride of being part of TWB. Some of them regret that there are not more jobs in their language combinations. A few samples:

  • All contributors to this cause are doing a great job, and I encourage everyone to keep up the good work.
  • Better communication with volunteers, even if there are no jobs, just to let us know we’re still on the books and valued.
  • By volunteering my skills and time, it’s made me feel good about myself and I did not expect anything back.
  • Congratulations for your work. I feel that our contribution can make the difference, and thank you for making it possible.
  • I have been a professional translator since 1997 with no need for further recognition or experience, but TWB could be a great place for young translators to gain some exposure while trying their hand at real-world texts and CAT tools. Maybe you could put in place some kind of mentorship program which could make TWB even more appealing to beginners and guarantee better translations from them.
  • I believe that this is a wonderful initiative. I am very impressed by the number of translators participating in this initiative, and this proves to me that a world based on collaboration rather than competition is possible, especially today because of the internet. TWB is the right model and there is no excuse not to expand it in all directions (tous azimuts).
  • I cannot find words that may express accurately and fairly enough the amazing job you are doing. Creating and managing a team of so many people around the world, giving part of their time sharing their knowledge and skills to help people who they will not even see, just for the pleasure to help is beyond words. Thank you very, very much for letting me be a part of such a wonderful team!