The power of words to do good
International Translation Day 2022
30 September is International Translation Day. This year, we’re shining a light on the amazing work that translators do in getting vital information to those who need it most.
Planet Languages is a proud supporter of the work of CLEAR Global and Translators Without Borders. We sat down with CLEAR Global CEOs Aimee Ansari and Andrew Bredenkamp to find out how translators make a difference. Read our interview below!
Why did Translators Without Borders evolve to become CLEAR Global?
Over the past five years, TWB has grown as an organisation, expanding our work beyond what the TWB name implies. With CLEAR Global, we want the breadth and depth of our innovative work to be more visible. TWB remains at our core, bringing together our global community of over 100,000 linguists. CLEAR Global complements TWB, highlighting our rigorous and innovative research to make sure people who speak marginalised languages are truly listened to and can get the information they actually need and want. The insights from this work inform a range of programmatic and language technology solutions that are multilingual, scalable, and defined by the context where they’ll be used and the needs of the intended users.
You may not have heard but the CLEAR in CLEAR Global stands for:
This reflects our focus on establishing two-way communication with people so they can have the same kind of access to global and local conversations that those of us who speak better-resourced languages take for granted. The move to CLEAR Global represents a statement of our new, broader remit to address the deep inequalities that exist in access to information and having a voice in the global conversation. Solutions using voice, multilingual conversational AI (beyond chatbots), and machine translation will help us deliver impact at scale.
How much of our donation goes towards humanitarian aid programmes?
All of the sponsorship donation goes towards humanitarian and development programmes. It is important to emphasise, however, that this at times means that it goes towards paying staff members so that we are able to expand our response and be able to impact the life of more people in the different programmes that we have around the world.
What impact does our long-term sponsorship have, as opposed to a one-off donation?
Long-term sponsorships like the support that Planet Languages gives us, offer us a steady and predictable source of funding. As a non-profit organisation, we depend on donation and sponsorship revenue, and one-time donations can fluctuate dramatically from month to month or even year to year. We are fortunate to have great sponsors like Planet Languages that consistently support the work that we are doing so that we can plan ahead and ensure that we are able to help the most vulnerable without hesitation when the need arises.
What have you been working on so far in 2022?
We have been working on various projects around the world, but the biggest ones are Ukraine, our work in Bangladesh supporting Rohingya communities, and our COVID-19 responses.
For our Ukraine appeal, we have translated over 3.1 million words, working with 46 partners in 372 projects around safety information, refugee rights, food security and overall protection for those affected by the current situation.
We have also launched a multilingual glossary to help prevent sexual exploitation and abuse that includes 208 terms and is available in 29 languages. This was an interagency collaboration, and is designed to facilitate better understanding between aid workers and communities on this critical topic, as a basis for more effective action to address it.
In Bangladesh we just published four research reports that you can find here:
- Talking effectively and respectfully about gender-based violence in Rohingya communities
- Bridging community and humanitarian approaches to sexual and reproductive health in Rohingya communities
- Fat and healthy – Rohingya parents’ knowledge of child nutrition
- Hospital cleaner as interpreter: language and cultural awareness in Rohingya access to health care
Last but not least, we continue expanding on our COVID response. We developed a multilingual glossary with key COVID-19 terminology to help distribute clear and consistent public information. We also recently re-launched Shehu, our chatbot to help humanitarian partners ensure two-way communication about COVID-19 and vaccines with people in northeast Nigeria. The chatbot can understand and answer questions in Hausa, Kanuri, and English. We launched Shehu in June 2021, in partnership with Mercy Corps, to share accurate, clear, engaging, and hyperlocal information about COVID-19 and we relaunched it this summer in the hope of increasing our outreach.
Why is the work of translators so vital in your efforts?
Linguistic barriers are a long-standing problem in aid operations. We don’t tend to think about it but language plays a key factor in the provision of services, especially in a humanitarian aid response. In an emergency, one of the most immediate priorities for both relief workers and victims is disseminating and receiving information.
Linguistically appropriate communications can get people the information they need to make the right choices for themselves and their families, enable them to make their needs and concerns heard, and effectively promote behaviour change. The majority of international aid nonprofits are equipped only in major world languages that often do not match those of the affected population. This is where our work and the work of our amazing community of over 100k linguists and translators plays a key role. Having such a large community has enabled us to respond quickly to two-way communication needs all over the world. We translate about 30 million words per year, which basically means that we open up a world of knowledge to millions of people worldwide.
How can our clients help?
They can share a post to show their support for our work. If they are able, they can make a donation at clearglobal.org/donate to help us reach more people in their language. They can also sign their company up to become one of our sponsors!
How can language specialists help?
Anyone who speaks two languages fluently can support our work by joining the TWB community and volunteering their language skills to help others. Besides help with translation and revision projects, we are always looking for help with evaluating MT output and doing subtitles.
Signing up is easy and they can do so by following this link.
At Planet Languages, we constantly find ourselves in awe of our translators and their wide-ranging skills. It’s been truly enlightening and inspiring to find out how translators, interpreters and linguists harness the power of words to do good with CLEAR Global and the TWB Community. We salute you!
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