A translation worth a million words  

translator
Suzanne Assénat

In 2017, this team of four translators donated over 1.2 million words to the work of Translators without Borders (TWB).

In recognition of their invaluable contribution in mentoring new French translators, the French translation team (Barbara Pissane, Suzanne Assénat, Gladis Audi and Ode Laforge) won the 2018 Translators without Borders Access to Knowledge Award for Empowerment. Their work has allowed TWB to significantly increase language capacity and guarantee translation quality in one of the organization’s most requested language pairs (French to English). You would be hard-pressed to find a group of more deserving and yet modest individuals with such impressive achievements to their names. Having put into words countless life-changing messages, and contributed to the stories of thousands of people in crisis and need, it is inevitable that these women have some tales of their own to tell.

They are Empowerment Award-winning translators, but they are also so much more.

The team is made up of four witty volunteers, translators-interpreters, writers and mothers, each with their own quirks and attributes. Gladis describes herself as a hunger-relief activist and amateur rosarian who likes to explore nuances and innovate solutions; Ode is a teacher and communicator at heart; Barbara has a fondness for early music and tall ships events; Suzanne appreciates her family time and has a keen interest in the music of words and music itself.

translator Gladis
Gladis Audi

 With so many roles, it is a wonder these women smashed the one-million-word mark, but their motivations have been clear from the start.

All four translators acknowledge that their work with TWB allows them to contribute to social change and global awareness. For Gladis, “Spreading knowledge by breaking language barriers is very significant in itself.” Their motivations stem from a desire to feel “closer to people in distress, people living in countries shattered by wars, poverty, climate disasters or disease outbreaks,” says Ode. This work is her way to “express solidarity with them.”

The team tells the most moving anecdotes.

When asked to recount a significant project with TWB, Suzanne proudly remembered a time in which she mentored translation students in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was impressed by the students’ efforts. They did their work with “little computing hardware, connectivity problems, [while living with the threat of] armed conflict,” but they “kept at it and delivered pretty good translations.”

 translator Ode
Ode Laforge

Ode has a favorite memory that is close to her heart. “How could I ever forget this little book I translated for children in Africa, in which the main character, a little girl living with HIV, was talking about her everyday life?” Ode asks, as she reflects on the human connection that volunteering can foster. “She managed to lead a relatively happy life, taking the drugs she needed, eating healthy food prepared by her loving grandma, avoiding everything that could negatively interfere with her health, fighting difficult moments to stay healthy, playing with other children, and expressing her wish to become a scientist when she grew up, to find a cure for this terrible disease. Despite the seriousness of the topic, this little story was heartwarming and optimistic, but I was deeply moved while translating it.”

Not only has their support left a mark on the lives of thousands, but volunteering for TWB has made a difference to them, too.

This volunteer experience provided the backdrop for a new friendship, which began on the translation platform, between Ode and another TWB volunteer translator, Nadia Gabriel. She describes how they built a friendship “exchanging views on how to best render a tricky sentence or a difficult passage.” Since then, they have met in person and have kept in touch ever since. Ode is so grateful that her work with TWB has given her the opportunity to get to know such lovely friends. 

Finally, these productive translators shared some words of advice.

Gladis advocates balance and encourages aspiring volunteer translators to “work extra hard, have lots of fun, believe in yourself and in the team. A little can go a long way.”

Barbara Pissane translator
Barbara Pissane

For Barbara, it is all about the work ethic of keeping going and finding your work gratifying, You will be proud of the help you give to people and you will grow more confident. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to work with people who are always extremely committed!”

Suzanne recognizes the difficulty of finding the balance when translating as a volunteer and doing it for a living. Her advice is never to feel guilty for not doing enough, and never stay away indefinitely. “Come again, however (in)frequently you can! There’s an analogy to make with blood donations: You don’t and can’t do that very often, but every little drop (well, pouch, whatever) helps make a difference.”

Would you like to share in these life-changing experiences as a TWB volunteer translator? Apply now to get translating.

Written by Danielle Moore, Digital Communications Intern for TWB, with interview responses by Gladis Audi, Ode Laforge, Barbara Pissane and Suzanne Assénat, TWB Volunteer Translators

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 

 

Making sense in difficult times

Happy and carefree.

Two words many of us use to describe our childhood. Sadly, these aren’t universal descriptors of childhood. Children growing up in war-torn countries are more likely to recall early years filled with suffering and unhappiness. This is Najmeh Mojtahedpour’s experience.
Now Najmeh is using her background to help others. We spoke to her to learn more about her role as an online volunteer translator with Translators without Borders (TWB).

Najmeh tell us a little about your childhood

I was born in Esfahan, Iran in 1980. A week later, Iraqi forces invaded, leading to the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. My childhood memories center on bombing and destruction. Sadly, I remember families devastated by hunger and death, homes reduced to rubble, and people living in fear and despair.

What prompted you to seek a volunteer role helping refugees?

My background has given me a strong sense of empathy for the refugees of the 21 st century. When I see those poor people stuck in other countries, I remember my own childhood and I understand how they feel. A three-year-old boy who drowned at sea when his family was fleeing war-torn Syria was my catalyst for change. The image of Ailan Kurdi lying lifeless on a Turkish beach galvanized me into action. I was determined to find a way to help people like Ailan and his family.

How did you come to be a TWB volunteer?

Initially, I wanted to provide more hands-on aid, but as an Iranian citizen, there was no way I could travel to provide on-the-ground assistance. I shared my frustrations with a friend who was working with the Translators without Borders’ Rapid Response Team (RRT). My friend explained that the RRT is a virtual team of volunteer translators that provides translations for refugees so they have information in a language they understand. It didn’t take much to convince me that providing remote translation support was one way I could make a very real difference to the lives of refugees.

“I wish I could do more for them but for now, translation is the only thing I can do”

How do you balance work and volunteering?

One of the benefits of providing assistance online is that there is little disruption to my life. I’m based in Mashhad, Iran, and work in IT administration. By volunteering remotely, I can do my job and translate for TWB in my spare time.

Tell us a bit about what you do for TWB

I translate Rumours information sheets (prepared by TWB’s partner, Internews) into my native Farsi. This gives refugees clarity and certainty on issues that might otherwise be misrepresented through hearsay and misinformation. I also translate general media articles so that refugees have insight into relevant local media stories. Even something as simple as weather forecasts, can provide vital knowledge to refugees.

How would you describe your contribution?

I’m acutely aware of the need for accurate translation and how important it is to supply that. Having lived through a war, I can be frustrated by what I see as a lack of progress in the refugee crisis. The rational solutions to Europe’s refugee crisis have long been laid out. What is lacking is not a script, but its implementation. I need to frequently remind myself that what I’m doing is helping individuals through uncertain situations while they wait for the solutions to be enacted.

Language is essential to every aspect and interaction in our everyday lives so providing information in a language that refugees can readily understand is vital. We use language to inform people of what we feel, what we desire, and to question and understand the world around us. In a stressful situation, it’s especially important for refugees and migrants to have information available in their language, so they can make sense of the situation. My contribution ensures that refugees have access to information that makes their lives easier.

What advice would you give anyone interested in offering support?

I would advise anyone interested in offering assistance from a distance to focus on what they can do to help. Even though you are not working on-the-ground, you are actively contributing and playing an invaluable role during crisis response scenarios.

Would you like to join Najmeh as a rapid response volunteer?

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

By Kate Murphy and Angela Eldering (www.scribinghand.com), Translators without Borders Volunteers

Geospatial analyst by day; Humanitarian at heart

It was the TEDx talk Ebola: a crisis of language given by Rebecca Petras (Deputy Director of Translators without Borders), that first caught Carole Mrad’s attention. The talk highlighted the vital role that language can play in saving lives. Right away this inspired Carole who, being a speaker of Arabic, decided to join the Arabic Rapid Response Translation (RRT) team, a key element of TWB’s response to the European refugee crisis in Greece.

“Communication is a key and crucial element in any humanitarian crisis. One word in the right language could make a significant difference and save people’s lives.”

Carole’s translation of media roundups, the Rumours fact sheets and guidance on asylum application procedures in Europe, has been a valuable contribution to the response and has likely provided much comfort for those affected by the crisis. One of her favorite assignments as a member of the RRT was to translate a news article on the Love-Europe mobile app. The new app is designed to help refugees navigate and communicate in Europe. “Love-Europe is a positive and innovative application to help refugees in Germany and the Netherlands access assistance in those countries,” Carole explains. “An update is being developed that will connect the community of helpers to refugees.”

As Carole sees it…

… Most refugees come from countries where conflict, fear, and oppression force them to flee for their lives. Being unable to communicate, places an extra burden on them when they are already traumatized and struggling to adapt to their new circumstances. When content is not in the right language, refugees are denied access to vital information about basic but essential services.

Carole believes that a common European approach is urgently needed to enhance local and national efforts to effectively respond to the refugee crisis. In Carole’s view, “European countries are facing immense challenges in responding to requests for humanitarian aid, asylum and integration – in terms of housing, language, work and so on,” she explains.

A little more about Carole

A geologist with degrees from the American University of Beirut and the University of Windsor in Ontario, Carole has worked as a geotechnical engineer but is currently freelancing as a geospatial analyst. She also works as a Spanish translator for Twitter and a translator, transcriber, and reviewer for TEDx conferences. In her free time, Carole practices martial arts and is passionate about gender equity in sports. She also has a keen interest in web design, fundraising, wildlife conservation and earth sciences.

Would you like to volunteer? 

Click here to apply to be a volunteer with the TWB Rapid Response Teams.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer

The TWB translator community survey results are out!

Translators without Borders (TWB) recently carried out a survey of our translator community. The survey received 168 responses, and it gave some valuable insights into the experiences of volunteer translators and what motivates them as a community.

We have highlighted here five of the most interesting findings from the survey.

1. our translators are mostly motivated by helping others.

An overwhelming majority (97%) of translators said they volunteer because they like helping others and contributing to a good cause.

While career development, increased professional visibility, and interesting projects were also mentioned as some of the benefits of volunteering with TWB, our volunteer community is primarily driven by the desire to help people in need and work for humanitarian causes.

“Recognition is always nice. However, I really don’t need any more incentives. I’m motivated by something which has nothing to do with rewards.”

2. our translators are embracing technology.

Nearly 40% of respondents have had the opportunity to work on Kató, the new and improved  TWB translation platform that enables online collaboration and allows translators to use translation memory and glossary tools.

Most of our translators are familiar with Computer-Assisted Translation tools and use them in their work. This has produced some discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of translation technology.

According to our translators, the top advantages of doing work on an online platform are:

  • better quality and consistency
  • easier collaboration and sharing
  • the use of translation memory and glossaries
  • better translation workflow
survey of translator community
The advantages of Computer-Assisted Translation tools according to TWB volunteers

Some of the downsides include translators’ preference to use their own tools while working, specific technical requirements (such as using a particular browser for translation), and the need to have online connectivity to do work.

Generally TWB translators are open to trying new tools and approaches in their work and have also been very generous with providing suggestions and feedback on these tools.

3. our translators are open to collaboration on projects.

Translation is often seen as a solitary endeavor, although modern technology may be changing that. In fact, many of our volunteers expressed interest in online collaboration, citing the following reasons as the top advantages of working together as translators:

survey of translator community
The top advantages of online collaboration

4. TWB volunteers care DEEPLY about translation quality.

Many of the responses from our translators focused on ensuring good translation quality, whether through proofreading, feedback, or consistency checks.

This shows that our translators care a lot about the quality of their work and are proactively looking to improve it. In fact, over half of our translators said that receiving translation feedback and corrections from colleagues is important to them.

We recognize that comments from colleagues are particularly valuable to translators. Not only can this be a good source of specific, positive feedback (“Please keep doing what you’re doing, it’s great!”), but it also provides opportunities for growth and improvement (“Here is what you can do even better”).

We are looking for ways to provide regular feedback to our translators and will be sure to incorporate the suggestions of our volunteers about quality and collaboration into our new initiatives.

5. We heard your feedback!

Many of our translators said they appreciate recognition for their work, be it a word of thanks from the partners, visibility of how their translations are benefiting others, or, occasionally, acknowledgment in the form of recommendations or endorsements.

Recognizing this, we encourage our non-profit partners to leave feedback for translators as much as possible, and we are also looking for other ways to recognize the efforts of our volunteer translators, such as through translator appreciation initiatives and by featuring translators in our Volunteer Profiles on the TWB website.

We will continue using the feedback from this survey as we develop our translator community initiatives. It is important to us that our translators feel engaged and appreciated, and that they see Translators without Borders as a source of meaningful, interesting work.

Please stay tuned for more updates about our volunteer translator community. If you are a translator, we would encourage you to join our TWB Translator Volunteers Facebook private group, and if you would like to give us specific feedback or ask a question, you can always write to [email protected]

Until next time!


Apply here to become a TWB volunteer

Marina KhoninaBy Marina Khonina, Translation Quality and Community Manager

 

5 Top Tips: Volunteering for Busy People

Living in London, raising four children and working as an English to French freelance translator can get super busy!  I have always been highly aware that there are people on this earth who are in desperate need of help, so I am determined to contribute as a volunteer even if my personal and work commitments can be demanding. Having translated over six hundred thousand words for Translators without Borders in my spare time, I have picked up a few techniques to successful volunteering while juggling a busy schedule.

Here are my 5 top tips:

1. Consider your skills. When I realized that speaking two languages fluently could help other people improve their health and quality of life, I knew that volunteering as a translator was the most valuable skill I could offer.

2. Plan ahead. I plan my week so that I frequently have a few hours free for volunteer tasks. Setting aside an allocated time, helps volunteering become a routine as any other part of my schedule.

Calendar 3. Think of this as a learning opportunity. I usually translate medical, health, and IT focused texts, as I have a lot of experience of this from my work as a freelance translator. However, translating for a non-profit can be very different, making it an opportunity to learn and to develop your skills as a translator in thematic areas that are new to you.

4. Remember your motivation. Helping others has been my dream from a young age. Volunteering helps me to do that. Keep your motivation fresh in your mind, and you will always have time for volunteering.

5. Prioritize your commitment to volunteering. Volunteering for me is as important a part of my life as earning money or taking care of my family. We all manage to find time to watch a film or to play a game. If being a volunteer is important to you, then put it high on your list of priorities.

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

Volunteer TranslatorBy Lamia Ishak, Translators without Borders volunteer translator

Lamia has been a TWB volunteer since 2013, and in that time, she has translated over 600,000 words for non-profit organizations.

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 

Changing the world while sitting on your sofa

Changing the world through language

Listen to Translator without Borders Executive Director, Aimee Ansari talk about changing the world through language at [email protected] in November 2016.

Victoria Greenwood – giving TWB style

Victoria Greenwood is a professional digital copywriter who has been applying her expertise to the Translators without Borders (TWB) website content and search engine ranking with the goal of boosting our communications and creating awareness of TWB. TWB volunteer writer, Lorena, interviewed Victoria to get to know more about what it is she does to help TWB.

Q: How did you come to volunteer your time for Translators without Borders?

A: I have been writing and editing content for travel, educational and government websites for over ten years, and wanted to venture into helping a charity or non-profit organization. Big companies have plenty of budget for developing and refining their presence in the digital world, and I felt drawn to gift some of my time to an organization with a worthy cause to help improve their online presence.

After some digging around on Google, I came across Translators without Borders and sent over my CV.

Q: How would you describe your role with TWB?

A: Since July last year, I’ve been working on ad-hoc projects for TWB, with a particular focus on improving the usability of content. I’ve been involved with this newsletter as well but also reworking some of the most popular pages on the website to improve the calls to action and give them a good position in search engines. I occasionally do some proofreading too.

Q: How do you manage your work for TWB with the rest of your lifestyle?

A: Having spent most of the past few years traveling in Australia and South East Asia, I have quite a varied lifestyle. My plans revolve around my freelancing projects, but I also do other voluntary work and occasionally take on house or pet-sitting assignments. No month is the same! I do try to dedicate a few days a month to TWB. Fortunately, the team understands about other commitments, which means I can prioritize and move non-urgent content changes to another day.

Q: What do you see as the challenges ahead for TWB?

A: Online, a reader’s attention span lasts for only a few seconds, which makes it all the more important for messages to be concise and crystal clear. The big brands spend thousands on developing a consistent style and tone of voice and then applying that throughout their digital content. I’d like TWB to compete with those brands to share the good work of the organization and encourage even more people to get involved.

Q: You mentioned you have been traveling. Can you describe an interesting or fun thing you did last year? 

A: That would have to be volunteering with the dolphins at Monkey Mia in Western Australia. Preparing the fish for the dolphins’ daily feeds wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs, but later I could stand in the water with them while they waited for their treats. Being so close to them each day was quite a magical experience.

Visit Victoria’s LinkedIn page to see what other work she has been doing or to hear more about her work with creating awareness online for TWB.

Blog AuthorBy Lorena Baudo, Translators without Borders volunteer 

The written word can be the difference between hope and despair

Today Zahlé is home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. They have fled the violence of civil war, and now they live in refugee camps and squalid accommodation throughout the city. For many refugees, the written word can be the difference between life and death, hope, and despair. They are desperate for information that will help them understand their options for creating a better future for themselves and their families.

Providing vital information

Zahlé is also home to Alain Alameddine, a volunteer for Translators without Borders (TWB). As a translator, Alain understands, perhaps more than most people, that the written word can be particularly powerful and beautiful for refugees. As a member of the TWB Rapid Response Team, he works with aid agencies to translate content from English into Arabic on a weekly (and sometimes even daily) basis, to provide vital information to refugees in languages they can understand.

Most Syrian refugees only speak Arabic, and so they are often at a loss as to what to do with the information that is available to them, for the simple reason that it is in a language they do not understand,” he explains.

“A quick translation can make a huge difference”

In addition to Alain’s work as a translator, he is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Through his voluntary ministry, he has brought a listening ear and words of comfort to refugees since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. “We’ve noticed first-hand that a listening ear is no less important than food and shelter,” Alain says. He often shares the Old Testament words of Isaiah with refugees he visits, Alain quotes ’we are pained, God is pained’.

One of Alain’s most frequently shared Bible quotes is one written on the Isaiah Wall near the United Nations in New York. It refers to a day when “nation will not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. We can only begin to imagine what those words mean to people who have fled violent conflict and persecution.

Giving new hope

In his work with refugees, Alain sees that words like these give refugees hope that things will change for the better. He has also gained new insights into himself and the world. “I am now more aware of the trials refugees face, the doubts and fears they might have, and the ways they can react to them,” he tells us. “As a translator, I am also now more aware of the importance of talking, writing and translating in a style that is easy to understand rather than using technical or pompous language.”

It seems that in Alain Alameddine, the city of Zahlé has produced yet another man who understands the power and beauty of the written word, and who is willing to use it to help people in need.

Are you a translator? Sign up to volunteer for the Translators without Borders Rapid Response team today.

Blog AuthorBy Kate Murphy, Translators without Borders volunteer