Guest post: Pro bono translation

Here we are again, with another guest post. Today, Elis Portela talks about pro bono translation and also suggests a couple of serious organizations we can help if we like.

Welcome, Elis!


Translating for a Cause

Being a good translator is a lot of hard work, but it is also a great privilege. It takes a great deal of studying, reading, writing, practicing and learning from mistakes and experience. But afterwards, all of this hard work gives us translators access to an unbelievable amount of information and, very often, a background that allows us to be more understanding of other cultures. Usually, we are avid readers, researchers and communicators, and we are always working towards understanding as best we can someone else’s point of view and sharing it with different audiences.

But maybe after a while working daily with translation, we might start taking for granted the invaluable access we have to information, and we might end up applying our skill sets in a way that is much more restricted than it has to be – after all, such skills can be applied to raising awareness and promoting education about important issues. If we take a good look around, we can identify many causes that are worth spreading information about, but remain restricted to smaller communities or groups due to linguistic barriers. We all know that both language and, in a wider sense, information, are tools that can be used to divide and deprive people or, inversely, to join them around a common cause or belief.

Apart from our paying jobs, translators can choose what kind of information they believe is important spreading, and volunteer to share such information. We can benefit greatly from working around subjects that impact other people’s lives and – why not? – the world we live in; in the very least, we benefit from developing a wider understanding of different themes and communities. There are many charitable and humanitarian associations that rely mainly on donations and don’t have a budget for translation, and that could really use our help. (By the way, an important distinction should be made here: like many professionals of all areas, it really annoys me when big companies call for volunteers to translate or “crowdsource” their materials for free. There is no reason qualified professionals should just give their services to a company that makes profit. And I also find it a little unsettling when big websites use students from English courses to “translate” their content for free and sort of give translation a bad name, but that is just me.)

To give an overview, I selected materials available from the websites of some organizations that rely on volunteer translation-related work to give us some insight on what they do and maybe some inspiration about what we can do:

  • On the website of The Rosetta Foundation (whose mission statement is to “Relieve poverty, support healthcare, develop education and promote justice through equal access to information and knowledge across the languages of the world.”), for instance, we can read inspiring testimonials from translators about their volunteer work and about the projects they feel proud to have worked on. One of such testimonials reads:

Worthwhile and helpful actions in the world should be amplified, not impeded, by language. Non-profit organizations provide often-invaluable services to society and I believe it is important to contribute to their efforts wherever possible. Providing translations is a simple contribution, but one that can make a huge difference.

  • On the website of Translators Without Borders, we can see their count of 15,868,825 translated words donated so far, and on their About Us page, we read:

Knowledge is power. It saves lives, lifts people out of poverty, ensures better health and nutrition, creates and maintains economies.
Access to information is critical. Language barriers cost lives. Aid groups working in crisis-situations face a mission-critical challenge in disseminating knowledge in the language of those who need it.

Global Voices seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard.

Global Voices Online created the Project Lingua, which “amplifies Global Voices stories in languages other than English with the help of volunteer translators.”

These are just a few examples of what we can dedicate our time and expertise to, but, of course, there are many others. Hopefully, each one of us can find a cause that is dear to our hearts and just get involved!

Thanks a lot for your lovely contribution and for raising our awareness, Elis! It was a real pleasure having you on the blog.

Do you do pro bono translation? Do you work with any of these organizations? Would you suggest any other?

About the author
ImageI have a BA in Translation Studies (English and Italian) from  Unesp. Currently, I am getting my Postgraduate degree in Discourse Analysis with emphasis in Marketing from Uniara. I have been working with translation ever since my graduation in 2008, at first in a company and currently at home. I absolutely love being a free-lance translator and – for now – would not trade my job for any other job I can think of.

4 thoughts on “Guest post: Pro bono translation

  1. Adorable post! I especially love the part that we can contribute to making knowledge available to people who, for whatever reason, do not have access to it. I find it so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of our daily work and deadly deadlines (sorry for the pun hihihihi), that the relevance of our profession ends up going unnoticed more often than it should. Thanks for the inspirational words!


  2. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Mar 21-27) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

  3. Pingback: Traduzindo por uma causa | Carol's Adventures in Translation

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