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Inttranews Special Report - Translators Without Borders


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As international aid gains strength and speed for the victims of the tsunami that hit southern Asia at the end of 2004, the strategic importance of translators has often been highlighted by the press, but there have been few coordinated responses by the profession.
One of the translators’ organisations that has reacted fastest is Translators Without Borders, set up in 1993 by Paris-based Eurotexte as a non-profit association to provide free translations to humanitarian organizations.
Today the pro-bono group assists organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, winners of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, Aides Organization and Amnesty International, which are then able to use the funds they saved to extend their humanitarian work.
Inttranews decided to find out more about what Translators Without Borders have done, are doing and intend to do:

 

Inttranews: How did the idea for Translators Without Borders come about?
Translators Without Borders began when we (Eurotexte) were offered paid translation work by the organisation that became our namesake, Doctors Without Bordersor Medecins sans frontières as they’re known in France. Our first response to their request was: "If we don’t charge you anything, will you put the money to good use?" They immediately reassured us that the money would go into other important Doctors Without Borders activities, and Translators Without Borders was born. Since that day, Translators Without Borders has provided thousands of pages of pro bono translations to document and assist virtually every major humanitarian intervention by Doctors Without Borders and other organization such as Médecins du Monde, AIDES, UNICEF, Handicap International etc

Inttranews: What are your objectives, and how far have you succeeded in achieving them?
Our main goal is to help NGOs with their operations in the field and to assist them in communicating their efforts internationally.

Inttranews: How many members do you have, and is there any cost involved (other than time)?
We have approximately 150 translators who have been accepted and entered in our database, of whom around 30 volunteer their time to TSF (Traducteurs sans frontières as we usually call ourselves) quite regularly.
Over 95% of the work undertaken is done free of charge. If an NGO does have a budget for a particular project, of course the money is used to pay the translator(s).

Inttranews: Do you only accept interpreters and translators with certain skills or levels of qualification?
All of the translators who work for TSF are experienced professionals.
When a translator volunteers to join TSF, we send her or him a test. This is then corrected and graded by a professional translator and, according to the grade, the application is accepted or refused.

Inttranews: How do members actively contribute?
Members actively contribute by translating a whole range of documents press releases, web sites, annual reports, mission reports, medical guides, guidelines, etc.

Inttranews: How do you organise contributions?
As soon as we receive a translation request from an NGO, we contact by e-mail all the volunteer translators who meet the criteria of the translation (language pairs, specialization, etc.).

Inttranews: Do you have more demand for aid than you can provide?
We are proud to say that, up until now, we have been able to handle all the NGO requests we receive.

Inttranews: What are the most frequent requests for translation help?
See above

Inttranews: Do you have requests for interpreting services as well, and if so, can you answer them?
Yes we do, but not very often. AIDES recently requested a Russian and Romanian interpreters as visitors from those countries were going to be taken on a tour of the French AIDES offices.

Inttranews: Do you restrict free translation services to humanitarian organisations?
Yes, because we feel very strongly that, given the fact that our volunteers are giving up their personal time for pro bono translations, they need to translate for a cause they support.

Inttranews: Do you receive any financial assistance for your work?
No!

Inttranews: What aid have you provided in support for the tidal wave victims in Southern Asia?
This week TSF has translated Handicap International’s guidelines for aid workers in the field on what to do in the event of further earthquakes, press releases on the medical and logistical aid being provided by Médecins du Monde and an interview of MSF’s Managing Director regarding the donations they’ve received.

Inttranews: In one of our recent articles, we suggested the international translation community might set up a fund so that certified medical interpreters could be sent on humanitarian missions. Do you think this is feasible?
This is an excellent idea and highly feasible. As the missions, by definition, may involve interpreting from a widely-spoken language like English or French to a local dialect, then this initiative would necessarily involve local interpreters, which can provide the additional benefit of bringing money into the community.

Inttranews: Do you think the international translation community can do more to help people overcome language and cultural barriers, and if so, do you have any suggestions?
Creating a fund to pay for the deployment of medical interpreters as part of disaster relief in the developing world could truly make a difference. This could also be extended to hospitals in poorer areas of countries which do not already provide interpretation services.


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