Because Translated Words Make a Difference: The 20 Million Word Challenge

Announcement from Translators without Borders:

“We are asking new and renewing sponsors to join us now to help us reach 20 million words by next year. And we are celebrating all of our sponsors at the Welcome Reception of Localization World on 12 June.

Ten million words translated. Words for Syrian refugees, doctors in Haiti, mothers in India and careworkers in Indonesia.

We are translating for humanity. In May we will celebrate 10 million words translated by our volunteers. What do these words represent? More knowledge accessible to more people around the world.

But there is so much more to do. The next 10 million words await translation. Those words include:

• Wikipedia medical articles available in 100 languages
• User manuals for water pumps in Uganda
• The voices of Syrian civilians

…and so much more.

Translators without Borders needs your help to do this vital work. Join us.

The time, know-how and funding from the localization and translation industry has provided the basis for all we have achieved. But we can do more.

How can you help? Join The 20 Million Word Challenge.

Whether you are a new sponsor or a renewing sponsor, we need your help to reach 20 million words for humanity!

Please contact: to learn more about sponsorship.


Interview with… Ildikó Santana

For this second and last interview of March 2013, I interviewed Ildikó Santana, highly dedicated Hungarian/English translator who puts her translation and language skills to the service of worthy causes such as the GoodPlanet project or the FAIRstart program, via Translators without Borders. She’s the winner of Translators without Borders’ Right to Knowledge Award, but also Language lead for Hungarian and global coordinator of the Wikipedia – WikiProject Medicine Translation Task Force. In this interview we discussed her background, her humanitarian projects and many other things…

Related interview: Simon Andriesen in December 2012 about the translator training center in Kenya. Read the interview here.

ildiko2009-144x190Hi Ildikó! Tell us a bit about yourself, your background – what got you where you are now?

I am an English<>Hungarian freelance translator and editor and have lived in California for the past 14 years. The majority of my work comes from agencies, and I have a few long-term corporate clients. I specialize in law (legislation and contracts primarily), business and finance. I am a native of Budapest, Hungary, where I had lived for 35 years. After quickly rejecting to follow either of my parents career path (a mechanical engineer and a radiologist) I decided to pursue a career in arts. My two passions have always been languages and creative arts. I majored in English and graphic arts, I studied Russian and English as diligently as I did watercolor and woodworking. After passing my state language exam in English, I went to art school and did my internship as a store-front window designer. Soon, a unique opportunity of on-the-job training in animation came along.

You started your career as a graphic designer and an Animation Artist for the Hungarian TV. How did you come to the translation profession?

Although animation was great fun, after a few years I realized I needed a “real” job that paid the bills (I was a single mom at the time). I’ve always had an inherent curiosity and insatiable appetite for puzzles and the written word. While working as an office manager for a London-based financial advisory firm, a few great opportunities and amazing professionals helped me to re-train as a translator and to gain hands-on experience in legal and financial translation and interpretation. I also spent 2 years as managing editor for an online magazine. I really enjoy working with people of various nationalities and backgrounds from all over the world, and the Internet has made this possible. Over the past 20 years, translation has become far more than just a job, it is my passion and daily source of satisfaction. Each text, each segment is a challenging puzzle, waiting to be solved. Just like arts, this work also offers plenty of opportunities to be creative and satisfies my appetite for constant learning.

What made you join Translators without Borders (TWB)?

When in 2010 I first read the organization’s core concept, “working to build a world where knowledge doesn’t have borders,” it immediately resonated with me and I volunteered. There was another motivation; I have many others in our profession to thank for everything I know today about translation as an art form and as a business, all the wonderful people who have freely shared their knowledge and experience. I had no way of paying back, but I knew it was time for me to pay forward.

You’re the global Translation Coordinator for the WikiProject Medicine – what is this project exactly?

The Translation Task Force is a collaborative effort that began in 2011, to first improve health care’s most important topics in English, followed by translation into as many other languages as possible. It is an undertaking initiated by WikiProject Medicine, Wikimedia Canada and Translators without Borders, and is expected to carry on for a number of years. Translation of the English source articles is processed by TWB through a platform powered by

What is your role there as a language lead?

As the Language Lead for Hungarian my role is to reassemble translated parts where the source file was split up for team translation, check for consistency and accuracy, and deliver the final target file. Time permitting, I also participate in the editing of source articles and in their translation into Hungarian. Language Leads also coordinate the overall workflow amongst several translators in each language team and, ideally, we facilitate the creation and maintenance of glossaries.

And as the Translation Task Force Coordinator?

As the Translation Coordinator, I oversee the translation of English Wikipedia articles into the 19 mainstream target languages. This involves maintaining a repository of the source files, posting them for translation to the TWB translation center, overseeing and managing the assignments of the individual tasks, monitoring progress, scheduling deadlines, keeping in touch with the translator teams and, at the end of each job, delivering the translation to the client. I also maintain the table detailing our progress at the Translation Task Force project page on Wikipedia.

What made you join in this project and take over these roles?

Participating in the Translation Task Force, being part of a team of enthusiastic, like-minded colleagues, working toward our common goal is a tremendously rewarding experience. Luckily, whenever I feel I could do more for the project, the opportunities always present themselves. :)

Who are the members of the Wikipedia Project Medicine Translation Task Force? Who can join?

All members of the WikiProject Medicine Translation Task Force are Translators without Borders volunteers with experience in the health care or medical field. TWB translators must have at least 4 years of professional translation experience or 2 years of professional translation experience and a university degree in translation or related subject, pass the translation test or be ATA certified, Certified PROs or Lionbridge translators.

At Grand Canyon

At Grand Canyon

Tell us about the FAIRstart project, which you are also involved in.

The FAIRstart project aims at contributing to the development of stable and care-giving environments for children who were placed outside their natural family because they have lost their parents. FAIRstartGlobal is a non-profit education curriculum online, covering all aspects of quality child care illustrated by texts and videos. Based on the combined knowledge of a global network of researchers and designed by psychologist Niels Rygaard, the program has been tested in a 2-year European Union project in 5 countries by orphanages and foster family organizations. The FAIRstart program has been translated into 5 languages so far and, similarly to the WikiProject Medicine, we are in the process of having it translated into many more languages through the TWB translation center. As a volunteer Project Manager for Translators without Borders, I am currently coordinating the translation of the FAIRstart program into 10 more languages.

You also contributed to the GoodPlanet Project. Can you tell us about it?

The GoodPlanet foundation is working to raise awareness and propose concrete solutions in favor of our planet and its inhabitants. The project involved translating web content and it was my very first opportunity to contribute as a TWB volunteer translator and to work with a team of dedicated colleagues. I haven’t been able to stop ever since. :)

You’re the proof that human translators are necessary and will remain so for a long time, right? What is your take on machine translation – foe or friend?

I would say it is both. Machines replacing human workers is the next logical step in most occupations, why would our industry be different? I personally would never use it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not here, and if my trade slowly degenerates then I might as well take part in the MT development process. Since I am not enough to fight this trend, I have considered joining the ‘other’ side instead, those who work on perfecting MT. There is still a lot to do.

What do you think the future of our profession looks like?

I wish I had the answer! My favorite Joseph Campbell quote comes to mind, “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” I think I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on and, sadly, I won’t be around to see where we are headed. This is true for our profession as well. I can’t predict the future, but what I’m seeing is that we are very eager to replace ourselves by machines. We must be the only species who spare no effort and work so diligently on rendering ourselves useless. Until then, I’ll be happy to be a human translator. :)

In your spare time (if you have any ;)), what do you enjoy doing?

Well, I’ve been trying to figure out for the longest time how to stretch the 24 hours so that I can have at least 34 a day to do everything I want! :) Since I work out of my home office, I am very fortunate to be able to do what I really enjoy doing practically all day (and night), 7 days a week. When I don’t translate OR work for TWB, I help with booking and promoting my blues musician husband’s shows; I love live music, dancing, having a great time with friends. I don’t have a TV but I watch about 5 movies a week on DVD. There’s a lot more to keep me busy: 3 cats, the household, the garden; games like Backgammon, checker variations, Scrabble, jigsaw puzzles; hiking, taking photos, hanging out at antique shops and used bookstores… I’m usually reading 2 or 3 books at a time; mostly science fiction, crime mysteries, linguistics, philosophy, and metaphysics. My secret desire is to write and illustrate a book on sacred geometry.

Ildikó, thank you very much for your time!

TWB – Translators without Borders
Translators without Borders Honors Volunteers, Donors and Non-profit Partners with First Access to Knowledge Awards
Wikipedia – WikiProject Medicine
WikiProject Medicine – Task Force
GoodPlanet Foundation
The FAIRstart Project

People who rock the industry – Simon Andriesen

For this last interview of 2012, I interviewed Simon Andriesen, CEO of Medilingua and Board Member of Translators without Borders, major contributor to the TWB training center for translators in Kenya… and much more. A fascinating and inspiring colleague – discover him now!

P1040571Hi Simon! Tell us about about you. Who are you?

Hi Anne, I am Simon Andriesen, CEO of MediLingua, a medical translations firm based in the Netherlands, and Board Member of Translators without Borders (TWB).

Your background is quite interesting – how does one go from a masters degree in history to working for the Associated Press and then to medical translation?

Oh well, when I got my degree, journalism was one of the options, or rather: a way out to escape from teaching, which is what I knew I did not want to do. It was great fun for a while, but it was more translation that journalism, and after a while got fed up with it, and started a text bureau, together with Jaap van der Meer, whom I had been friends with since high school. The company (INK International) developed into the first software localization firm in Europe, and to cut a long story short, the company grew rapidly and in the early 90s we had a staff of 200 persons, half of them in our head office in Amsterdam, the rest in offices in 9 different countries across Europe. We then sold the business to RR Donnelley & Sons, the largest printing company in the world, who, just like us, worked for IBM, Microsoft, WordPerfect and so forth. The only thing they did not do, was what we did. To keep the story short, we sold the business to them, and I moved to the US for a few years, with my wife and daughter. After 2 years I came back to Europe and left the company to set up a similar firm, but then dedicated to medical. Donnelley eventually sold the translation division and it became rather well-known as Lionbridge. So you could say that INK, the baby Jaap and I had nurtured for a dozen years, is the core of what Lionbridge now is. But they are in a different league, of course. When we sold INK it was a company with $20 million revenue, and 200 people on the payroll; Lionbridge is by now well over $450 million today, with a few thousand people. MediLingua is focused on high-end medical translations. We provide 50 or so languages to 200 regular customers, with a staff of 15, who are managing around 500 different translators world-wide.

You are also a member of the Advisory Board of the Life Sciences Roundtable during the LocWorld conferences. What is your role there?

The Advisory Board is composed of 6 representatives from companies on the demand side of medical translation (Siemens, Medtronic, and  St Jude) and the supply side of medical translation (Lionbridge ForeignXchange, and MediLingua). The board prepares the Life Sciences preconference day-and-a-half before each Localization World conference. I have been involved with LocWorld since 2004 and enjoy supporting this great event and its 2 conference organizers, Donna Parrish of Multilingual, and Ulrich Henes of the Localization Institute, who are also fellow-directors in Translators without Borders. The Advisory Board puts together the program, invites speakers, moderates the sessions, and so forth. Basically, our aim is to come up with a great program twice a year.

You’re a Translators without Borders  Executive Board Member. How did it all start?

The founder of TWB, Lori Thicke, called me the day after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. TWB had received hundreds of test translations from translators who offered their help. Lori asked for MediLingua’s support in reviewing these translations, as most of these were medical. Several translators/editors started the same day with the reviews. And one thing led to the other. I was invited to join the Board and found myself focusing first on Operations, and when the TWB Translation Workspace, generously donated by ProZ, was up and running, I redirected my focus to Training. The Executive Board and Rebecca Petras, the TWB Program Director, meet every 2 weeks via Skype, and together we basically run the organization. It is a lot of work and every time I am amazed by the dedication of the directors, and by the amount of time that is put into it.

2012-08-10 15.02.42You’re currently working on a program to train translators in Kenya. Tell us about this program.

Within the Board, we decided to help create translation capacity for underserved languages. Our pilot language is Swahili, a language spoken by around 60-80 million people in East Africa. During the course, which is partly based on the MediLingua course Medical-Pharmaceutical Translation, participants get an introduction to translation, as well as basis medical know-how about 20 Africa-relevant health issues, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, my other types of infectious diseases. They do lots of exercises and Paul Warambo, our local course instructor, projects the translations on a screen and discusses the results. This works very well.

In 2012, we gave our short course (4 days) to over a hundred persons, and the longer, advanced course (6 weeks) to a few dozen people, all of them with strong language skills but no translation experience. We currently employ 13 of them, and they work in our translation center in Nairobi, Kenya. The team is specialized in healthcare information. This is crucial in any country with too many patients and not enough doctors, and also in Kenya, where health information is only available in English. Which is the wrong language for the vast majority of the population. We know of too many stories where people suffered or died for lack of information, rather than lack of medication. And for health information to be accessible, it has to be in the right language. During a recent conference in Tanzania, where I was invited to make my point about health information in the right language, I spoke a few sentences in my own language, Dutch, which I knew nobody would understand. I then asked them to imagine how they would feel if they had serious health problems and somebody providing help would talk to them in a language they did not understand…

You regularly go to Kenya – tell us about our Kenyan colleagues.

Yes, since late 2011 I have been in Kenya for a few weeks every few months. Our center is located on the campus of the Bible Translation and Literacy, who focus on Bible translations into ‘small’ African languages. Also on this campus is SIL, the developers of Ethnologue, the database that lists details of all 6,900 living languages. Together with our TWB health translation team this campus is the place in Africa with the most people involved in translation.

What other countries have similar needs for healthcare information in local languages? What can be done?

Africa counts around 2,000 different languages. If health information is available in English, French or Portuguese, this is not helping people who do not or not sufficiently speak these languages. We as TWB can help by providing training and by supporting translators. The translation world can help TWB by helping us finance our work.  Our sponsor program is rather successful, with many LSPs listed as Silver sponsors, some Gold and a few Platinum!

P1040566Many young translators are considering specializing in medicine. Based on your experience, what would you recommend them to achieve this?

Young translators aspiring to go into medical need to build translation routine first, and at the same time invest in medical know-how. As a medical translator you must be able to understand what you translate, and you only get that by studying medical info, for example from med school books, or you can read all medical articles on Wikipedia. That way you become familiar with the medical language. It is a difficult mix, but in my experience it is less difficult for a talented translator to become a medical translator than for a doctor who has no feeling for language.

In your opinion, what is the current state of the medical translation market? And its future?

It seems that every Tom, Dick & Harry is now providing medical translations and not in all cases with acceptable results. As medical translation specialists we do a lot third-party review work, and far too often, we have to conclude that the quality is simply not good enough. Big companies hope they will get the best price-quality mix by organizing tenders and even auctions. We actually decline most of these invitations; it is a lot of work and as it seems that only the price is taken into account, and not the price/performance mix, we find it hard to win. Too often the focus is on the word rate. We know what it takes to generate safe, high-quality medical translations and we use that expertise for our calculations. Many others charge less. But what if the work is rejected by the authorities? What if a product has to be taken off the market due to poor patient information? What if a patient dies because it was not clear whether to take 4 tablets per hour or 1 tablet every 4 hours.

In your free time (do you have any? ;)), what do you do to take a break?

I spend whatever free time I have with my wife and with our daughter, when she is around. To take a real break from work I run a few times per week. My best accomplishment is the half marathon in 2 hours 12 minutes, but most of the time I do 10 km, which I usually complete within 55 minutes. I play the cello in our local symphony orchestra, and this takes me one evening plus a few hours per week.


First “Access to Knowledge Awards”

translators-without-bordersTranslators without Borders honors volunteers, donors and partners with first “Access to Knowledge Awards”

(DANBURY, CT USA –21 December) Global translation charity, Translators without Borders (TWB) today announced the launch of its annual Translators without Borders Access to Knowledge Awards. The awards, honoring six individuals or organizations who exemplify the mission to translate for humanity, are chosen and given by the non-profit’s board of directors.

“We have had an exceptional year of progress and success,” said Lori Thicke, president and founder of Translators without Borders. “Reaching 6.5 million words translated through our workspace, opening our first training center in Nairobi, working with Wikipedia on critical health information—none of this would be possible without the generous support of our donors, the dedication of our volunteers, and the commitment of our non-profit partners.”

The organization created the Access to Knowledge Awards to honor volunteers, donors, and non-profit partners. The awards are given within each of the Translators without Borders’ six ‘pillars’, identified earlier this year as part of the organization’s strategic framework. These pillars—Organizational Excellence, Translator Community and Workspace, Training, Nonprofit Partnerships, Financial Sustainability, Awareness and Communications—work together to deliver the mission.

The organization’s executive committee, the management body of board members and the program director, created criteria for each award. Board members and staff members were not eligible. Board members nominated recipients and the executive committee made final decisions on the winners. In addition to six winners, a number of honorable mentions were also awarded.

The Translators without Borders’ Access to Knowledge recipients will receive a Translators without Borders T-Shirt, a lapel pen and a certificate of gratitude.

“I wish we could recognize by name every single person who has contributed to Translators without Borders this year –there are so very many people who make it work,” said Rebecca Petras, program director. “And the real winners are the people who can better understand vital information because of the hard work of ALL our volunteers and support from ALL our donors. Thank you very much to everyone!”

See the list of winners on The Translators without Borders website

Translators Without Borders reached 5 million words donated

Translators Without Borders announced today that the bar of 5 million words donated to NGOs has been passed! Congrats guys for your amazing work – we are proud to be a small part of this amazing volunteers team!

Translators Without Borders Newsletter II

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