Translators Without Borders

While I was researching during the week, I came across two different translation projects that fit into the traditional model of time donations in that they are for global causes, not for a software project. Both are aimed at translators wanting to do pro bono translations.

Translators Without Borders – a group I should have known existed, but haven’t seen before now. Has references for both NGOs needing translations and translators wanting to donate their time and skills.

As you would expect Médecins Sans Frontières (listed as Doctors Without Borders) and Reporters Without Borders are both listed amongst their partner NGOs.

From the NGOs FAQ:

If you are a humanitarian NGO without political affiliations and you need translations, TWB can help you!

TWB’s mission is to supply voluntary or low budget translation services to pro bono organisations…

Our dynamic network of volunteer translators currently has the capacity to translate up to 80,000 words per month for all the NGOs we work with. This means we can help you with most projects, even very big ones if the deadline is long enough! We also have translators specialised in many fields, including medical, legal and logistical. For the time being, our translating team specialises in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. The most common language combination is French to English, but we are able to offer other languages, so if you have an unusual request, please ask – you never know if we might have someone who can help!

The second project is somewhat more focused in it’s aims, and is backed by Google and the Google translation projects: Health Speaks.

Better health starts with better information!

Accurate, accessible health information has the power to save lives. However, millions of people around the world face a simple yet vexing barrier to getting quality health information: language. Health Speaks is an initiative to help communities overcome this obstacle by translating high-quality health information into their local languages.

A 2004 Lancet article by Godlee et al highlighted the lack of access to health information as a “major barrier to knowledge-based healthcare in developing countries.” Within their recommendations, the authors noted that “…among currently available technologies, only the Internet has the potential to deliver universal access to up-to-date healthcare information.”

We’re currently supporting pilot translation projects in Arabic, Hindi and Swahili.

The Health Speaks Get Involved has more information about what they are doing and how to get involved.

I am currently debating the merits of Health Speaks with a colleague who is concerned that it perpetuates the lack of real value that people give translators – I personally don’t think there is a causative effect in place – and that health translation and interpreting is a difficult and localised experience that requires skills and practice over and above merely being bilingual – which I agree with.  I argue that no one should take the internet’s word on anything, but in this case, sometimes a little bit of information is enough to have an effect on people’s lives – and that’s enough for me.

Both are worthy projects, I will be keeping my eye on developments with them both.