Why We Should Support Translators Without Borders

By Ray S
December 21, 2015
If you’re reading this you probably already understand how important it is to communicate vital knowledge in a language and form that your target market can understand. By breaking the language barrier, you will be able to make information accessible to more people. In addition, it’ll also help save lives during times of crisis. No […]

If you’re reading this you probably already understand how important it is to communicate vital knowledge in a language and form that your target market can understand. By breaking the language barrier, you will be able to make information accessible to more people. In addition, it’ll also help save lives during times of crisis.

No other organization understands this better than Translators Without Borders (TWB). Their vision is to create a world where knowledge knows no boundaries. Translators Without Borders aims to help people gain vital information in a language that they can understand. In order to achieve their mission, they support other non-government organizations and connect them to a community of professional translators.

Mission and Brief History

The volunteer translators at TWB aid in humanitarian projects, crisis translations, NGO operations, and other translation tasks that can support people in need. In 2012, TWB launched their very first translator training centre in Nairobi, Kenya in order to improve knowledge capacity in East Africa. In this facility, trainees acquire useful skills to become professional translators. They focus on building healthcare content in Kiswahili and establishing their Words of Relief crisis relief network. Thanks to their crowdsourced workspace, they manage to produce over 2 million translated words a year.

This non-profit group was established by Lori Thicke and Ros Smith-Thomas in 1993. They started out by vetting NGOs in the health, nutrition, and education sector. Today, TWB assists agencies such as Doctors Without Borders, Médecins du Monde, Action Against Hunger, Oxfam US and Handicap International, among others. However, that’s not enough to meet 1% of the world’s needs. There are still thousands of NGOs out there that require assistance in translating critical documents.

Support from Various Organizations

Because of their efforts in breaking the language barrier, TWB managed to gain the attention of various other organizations, including Asian Absolute. The translation, localisation, and marketing agency offer website updates and maintenance of TWB’s website, including the details of NGOs and donors.

In 2014, TWB received the Technology for Good grant from Microsoft. This was used to create a handy multi-device app called Words of Relief Digital Exchange (WoRDE). The app can improve communications between foreign aid workers and communities affected by a crisis.

Main Activities

Over the years, TWB has greatly contributed to various efforts regarding crisis management. When a devastating earthquake struck Nepal, the organization mobilized a Rapid Response Team (RRT) composed of professional translators and bilinguals from Nepal and around the world. They handled documents from response aid agencies such as the Humanity Road, the ICRC, and the UNOCHA.

In July 2015, TWB also released an impact study regarding Ebola information called Does Translated Health-Related Information Lead to Higher Comprehension? A Study of Rural and Urban Kenyans. They discovered that 92% of locals respond well to Ebola information that’s translated in Swahili. In addition, 82% of the participants prefer to receive health-related information orally, or through leaflets and public gatherings.

If you want to learn more about TWB’s efforts, you can visit their online news portal.

TWB’s Projects

TWB has four main projects:

  • Translators Without Borders Workspace – a virtual portal where their non-profit partners can connect with professional translators from across the globe. The agencies post a job online, and it will be picked up by a translator after a few minutes. It was built in 2011 and is managed by Proz.com. The workspace translates more than 700,000 words a month.
  • 100 x 100 Wikipedia Project – the goal of this project is to translate 100 of the most-read health-related articles in Wikipedia in 100 languages. Its progress can be viewed on Project Wiki. With funding from The Indigo Trust, the project has reached East Africa.
  • The HEAT Project – this endeavour from The Open University was created to train more than 250,000 frontline health care workers living in the rural communities of sub-Saharan Africa. TWB and The Open University are working hand-in-hand to translate the health modules into a language that the community health workers can understand.
  • Translators Without Borders Kenyan Translation Centre – as mentioned earlier, this was established to train new professional translators in Nairobi, Kenya. They are also part of the HEAT Project. Currently, the centre has produced 10 translators and editors.

How Can You Help?

Of course, it’s not just the big corporations that can help TWB with their mission. Each one of us can break the language barrier and help spread knowledge using our own efforts. Here’s how:

  • Send a donation by visiting TWB’s Donors Page.
  • Keep updated with their current activities by signing up for their newsletter.
  • If you are a professional translator, you can fill up this online volunteer form to help other NGOs.
  • Make TWB viral by following their twitter account (@TranslatorsWB) and sharing their posts on your social media pages.