teams up with TM-Town Reply

proz_tmtown_merger_final (2)Since 2014, TM-Town creators Kevin Dias and Nate Hill have sought to provide translators with tools to better manage their linguistic assets and meet clients who are looking for language professionals in their specific areas of expertise. These kinds of services are at the core of’s mission statement to give translators the resources and opportunities to grow their businesses and improve their work. The team is happy to announce that as of April 13th, the site will be joining forces with TM-Town in the hopes of better serving translators. See the announcement »

On behalf of, I want to welcome Kevin and Nate to the community. TM-Town’s platform is constantly being improved and updated with better tools designed with language professionals in mind, and we are excited to see what will come next.

Welcome to the team, Kevin and Nate!

Guest post: Why I volunteer for Translators Without Borders Reply

Pieter Beens is a freelance translator and copywriter working in English to Dutch, and a frequent guest contributor to the Translator T.O. 

In this post, Pieter shares his experience as a volunteer translator for Translators Without Borders.

I just completed a translation for Translators Without Borders, my fourth this year. And I must admit I was touched. This time I translated for a charity that helped orphaned children get back to school after the Ebola outbreak last year. Such a beautiful initiative needs our support. I did my small part by translating their sponsoring letter into Dutch, and hope that the letter will help raise the funds necessary to bring these children back to education. That is why I chose to register as a volunteer for Translators Without Borders a couple of years ago, and why I have already translated more than ten thousand words through this organization for several different charities. And there are many more volunteer translators doing the same, donating their time and effort towards helping various other charity initiatives that deserve support. Through Translators Without Borders, we have already translated 30 million words for a multitude of audiences in almost every country in the world.

About Translators Without Borders

Many of us know Doctors Without Borders, an international organization offering worldwide medical support in the event of humanitarian crises and other urgent situations. In 1993, two pioneers in the translation industry founded a linguistic equivalent of it, Translators Without Borders, aimed to link translators around the world to vetted NGOs that focus on health, nutrition and education. Today the platform is affiliated to and sponsored by many translation agencies worldwide. Translators Without Borders offers them a chance to share their knowledge and resources in order to help the needy, while at the same time sponsoring can show off their social responsibility. The translation agencies do not necessarily offer translations, but they offer funding. Translations are done by professionals who voluntarily sign up to offer their help to organizations in need of translations in their language TWBpairs.

Registering to volunteer your services through Translators Without Borders does not mean you are obligated to accept every project that comes your way through this organization, nor does it necessarily guarantee that projects will be passed to you. As you can imagine, the demand for volunteers varies greatly depending on language pair and pool of available candidates. Indeed, there is a very high demand for professionals working in certain pairs, and less demand in other pairs. There may also be many translators volunteering in some language combinations, and far fewer volunteers available in others.

Why choose Translators Without Borders

Last year I wrote about five reasons to translate for charities and tips for supporting charities as a translator. Translating for Translators Without Borders can be seen as a part of my commitment to offer my professional services to organizations that support those in need. At the same time, Translators Without Borders does not require a huge commitment. In my language pair (English into Dutch) requests are sent irregularly, from organizations like Wikipedia, street newspapers, and the International Red Cross. The nature of translation tasks varies from interviews, to fundraising letters and other important information about diseases like the Zika virus, for which I recently translated a text.

In general, project deadlines can be fairly long; in many cases the deadline for a text with 500 words may be around 10 days, while the deadline for texts with 2000 words can even be 30 days. That enables translators to focus on their important tasks and to do volunteer tasks in their own pace. After having delivered the text many clients often leave gracious feedback, knowing that without our help it would have been much more difficult to reach local audiences in their local languages.

In short, volunteering for Translators Without Borders is a rewarding opportunity that enables freelance translators to use their professionalism and passion for a higher goal. I highly recommend it!

Did you know?

Members of’s Certified PRO Network do not need to undergo any additional screening process to join Translators Without Borders’s team of volunteers.

You can learn more about this initiative and apply for inclusion in the program here:

Post-editing: Blessing or curse for translators? 1

This is the second post in a two-part guest blog series by professional trainer and conference speaker Federico Gaspari. The first post in this series can be found here: “Machine translation: Cause or solution of all evils?”

One is unlikely to make many friends among translators talking about machine translation (MT) – unless the conversation is restricted to deriding its stupid mistakes and emphasizing its uselessness. A related topic that is possibly even less popular than MT among translators is post-editing (PE), also because it’s less easy to come up with funny stories of hopeless mistakes. Let’s face it: while pretty much everybody with at least a modest knowledge of two languages can be amused by the sarcastic appreciation of what is lost in (machine) translation, deriving pleasure from blunders occurring when post-editing MT output is a rather more subtle activity, whose enjoyment requires much more effort. This post discusses some issues concerning MT, translation quality and PE, focusing on some current trends in the translation industry of interest to professional translators.

Translators, MT and PE

Surprising though it may seem, there are dozens of threads on MT in’s technical forums, and one finds a mixture of (mildly) positive and (extremely) negative opinions, depending on the experiences of the community members who have posted their views. One of these forum threads, entitled “What’s your opinion on machine translation and quality?” has attracted one of the largest numbers of replies (more than 130) and views (over 16,000) of all the threads in’s technical forums. This incredibly popular thread is particularly close to my heart, because Daniela Zambrini initiated the discussion to announce an invited talk on MT and PE that I was due to give a few weeks later at the 2014 International Conference which she organised in Pisa, Italy.

I’m under no illusion that I was responsible for the amazing popularity of the thread: in fact, Daniela’s well-intentioned post attracted replies which mostly ranged from outraged to exasperated, so much so that I was having second thoughts about whether I should actually go to the conference and give my presentation on MT and PE. Making many new translator friends had not been a consideration in accepting to give a talk at the conference a few months before (I already have quite a few of them, and we normally avoid discussing MT and PE…); but as the event was getting closer, I didn’t fancy the prospect of facing a particularly hostile and aggressive audience of angry professionals. As it turned out, my 45-minute talk at the conference in Pisa was rather well-received (in fairness, I smoothed over some of the contentious points that were likely to get on my listeners’ nerves…), and it was followed by a very civilised and interesting Q&A session at the end.

I even enjoyed some one-to-one conversations with translators who had listened to my talk and approached me during the rest of the conference: on the whole, they were genuinely curious about MT and PE, and I appreciated their honest questions and comments on these inevitably sensitive topics. In addition to a general curiosity to understand how MT works, several delegates at the well-attended 2014 International Conference in Pisa showed a keen interest in learning more about PE. As part of these conversations, some translators reported that they had been approached by LSPs and agencies as well as by direct end clients with requests for quotes for PE. As a result, these professionals were considering whether they should start offering PE services in addition to “standard” translation jobs, but they had no idea of the skills required and of the rates that they should charge. This blog post gives me the opportunity to discuss some issues related to PE that can be of interest to a wider audience of professional translators who are at least open to the prospect of securing PE jobs.

Post-editing MT output is different from translating and revising

At the risk of stating the obvious, it should be made clear that PE is very different from translating and revising translations done by (junior) human translators. The main reason for this is that MT systems make mistakes that are very different from those made by professionals, including relatively inexperienced ones. In addition, MT systems come in many shapes and forms: alongside the traditional rule-based approaches, statistical architectures are now particularly popular; these two basic types can be combined to obtain hybrid systems, and some researchers are now experimenting with neural MT, a new paradigm that seems to hold great potential for substantial improvements in output quality. Each of these types of MT systems is more likely to make certain kinds of mistakes rather than others, calling for different PE interventions.

In addition, different resources are required to develop MT systems with these approaches, and their output varies dramatically depending on the amount and quality of the available resources. A related crucial variable is the language pair involved: in principle, some approaches to MT system design are more promising for certain language pairs than others. However, the technological expertise and resources available for MT system development are unevenly distributed: while abundant human and technical resources can be tapped into for some languages (e.g. English and other widely used European languages as well as, increasingly, a few additional major world languages such as Chinese and Arabic), most languages are not well served at all by MT due to the lack of appropriate resources. There are techniques to deal with these shortcomings, but they are not always very effective.

One case in point are the huge sentence-aligned parallel corpora required for the development of statistical MT systems, whether they belong to the phrase-based or to the syntax-based category; while LSPs and freelance translators possess vast translation memory databases containing high-quality translated texts for certain language pairs, the data sets available for many others are far too small to offer the critical mass needed to kick-start the development of effective statistical MT systems. In practice, this means that the quality offered by MT systems (whatever their design) for several language pairs cannot yet be acceptable. This in turn determines whether PE is a reasonable proposition for the language pair under consideration or not. A closely related variable has to do with the text type in question: for some particularly challenging text types (even within the technical and specialised fields, say medical reports and legally-binding rental contracts) it may still be impossible to develop decent MT systems, e.g. due to the lack of relevant training data such as in-domain sentence-aligned parallel corpora in digital format, which can be very difficult to come by for certain language pairs in highly specialised and sensitive technical domains.

Many forms of post-editing

One common, but erroneous, assumption is that there exists only one type of PE; however, this is far from the truth. In fact, various PE levels can be appropriate for different purposes, given specific circumstances: at one extreme, light or minimum PE involves fixing only major errors, e.g. those that make the MT output incomprehensible or misleading (vis-à-vis the input in the source language), whereas stylistic nuances or relatively minor imperfections can be tolerated and do not require any correction – in other words, one is prepared to accept a less-than-perfect final target text, which can be good enough, for instance, for ‘gisting’ or information-gathering purposes; at the opposite extreme, there is complete or maximum PE: in this scenario, on the other hand, every inaccuracy in the raw MT output must be corrected, polishing up all minor details, i.e. the aim of complete PE is to obtain a final target text whose quality is equivalent to that of a professionally translated text. Note that, while professional translation invariably aims at delivering top-quality target texts, (light/minimum) PE can be carried out with the much more modest ambition of providing a final text that is usable in certain circumstances, accepting that it may be (very) far from perfect.

While this division may sound intuitive in theory, applying it in practice is quite complex. First of all, there are many intermediate cases between these two extremes of light/minimum and complete/maximum PE, and one has to determine which level of PE is most appropriate to a specific scenario, depending on the needs and expectations of the translation’s end users. This is a function not only of the time available for the PE job, but also of the initial quality of the raw output that is offered by the available MT system: even obtaining a final post-edited target text of average quality may require extensive PE interventions, if the initial raw MT output is particularly poor – in the end, the effort involved may not be worthwhile, compared to translating everything from scratch. Conversely, there may be cases where the raw output of a particularly effective MT system for a specific language pair in a well-defined textual domain requires only minor PE interventions to be brought to excellent final quality.

In short, the language pair and the text type in question, the design and quality of the MT system, the characteristics of the raw MT output and the intended use(r)s of the final revised target text interact in complex ways to dictate the actual level and effort of PE that are required. But this equation still leaves room for uncertainty from the post-editor’s perspective, as it is quite common for machine-translated texts to display uneven quality: for example, in a 10,000-word translation project, 10% of the raw MT output may be (nearly) perfect with little or no need for improvement, 30% may be impossible to salvage even with extensive PE (i.e. one would be better off re-translating those entire passages from scratch), and the remaining 60% may require different forms of intermediate PE (say, within the same paragraph one preposition must be changed in a sentence, a final ending agreement in another, but a whole dependent clause turns out to be wrongly translated and completely incomprehensible elsewhere). It is easy to see that PE can become a demanding activity, and the effort it requires in terms of skills and time is often difficult to predict and convert into clear rates that can be charged to clients with a transparent pricing scheme.

Factors to be considered when offering post-editing services

Still, with the increasing adoption of MT in professional translation workflows, the demand for PE is rising, so much so that many translators are considering whether they should offer PE services in addition to standard translation jobs. This is more likely, at least in the short term, for in-house translators of large LSPs that have the resources and expertise to develop their own customised MT systems for domains with constant demand from major clients, thus requiring some of their staff to take on PE roles in dedicated projects incorporating MT. But interestingly, some companies specialising in translation technology offer cloud-based “do-it-yourself” or self-service MT solutions that are accessible to freelance translators who are willing to invest in this area: this approach does not require extensive technical skills, because the training and set-up of the MT systems are guided in a step-by-step fashion for users with fee-paying accounts and managed at the back-end by the companies themselves. There are anecdotes of naïve clients looking for easy discounts who generated garbled output with free online MT systems, asking translators to fix the inevitable errors at cheap rates; however, since free web-based MT services are not customised to specific domains, but they are one-size-fits-all systems, this approach is unlikely to be successful: it is rather pointless, if not counter-productive, to carry out PE if the initial quality of the raw MT output is very poor.

Hence, even before considering the possibility of offering professional PE, one must be sure to have at least a decent-quality MT system available. Although it is very difficult to generalise, all else being equal (e.g. the domain and level of technicality of the source text, the quantity of language resources available for system training and development, etc.), MT into English (from, say, German, Russian or Chinese) tends to give better results than the opposite translation directions, i.e. from English into these target languages. As a result, in principle technical and specialised translation projects into English should be good candidates to explore the potential benefits of combining MT and PE. Although techniques for MT quality estimation are improving, it is still very difficult to accurately predict in advance the quality of raw MT output that will be obtained for a specific source text, and especially if this will be viable for subsequent PE. One must try and see whether PE (at the level required to obtain the expected final quality) is faster and more efficient than translating from scratch, e.g. with translation memories in a standard CAT environment. If they are open to this possibility, translators are well placed (more so than their clients) to gauge whether incorporating MT followed by PE in the translation workflow for specific projects can result in time gains and, potentially, in more competitive rates.

Open issues with PE

Some LSPs and freelance translators (including members!) have started to offer PE services, admittedly of the complete/maximum type, where the explicit goal is to deliver a final revised target text of excellent quality. Their pricing schemes vary depending on the language pairs and technical domains involved, and one open issue is whether PE should be charged pro-rata based on the regular translation fee, or by the hour: a quick survey of the online profiles of professionals offering PE services and of relevant discussion forums on shows huge variation in this regard, and there does not seem to be an industry-wide agreed approach yet. One crucial attraction of PE is that, given substantial volumes of MT-friendly technical material, one can in principle speed up turnaround times without sacrificing quality. With CAT tools and translation memory software increasingly integrating optional MT engines to process null matches, the practice of PE as part of technical translation projects is spreading quickly, and it may not always be easy to distinguish it from the editing of low fuzzy matches retrieved from translation memory databases: this in itself suggests that an honest discussion of the potential benefits of PE is timely and may prove in the interest of professional translators, so that they can offer clear and fair rates for their services, without relinquishing their negotiating power to budget-oriented clients.

Translators of today, post-editors of tomorrow?

Many translators are worried about being forced to become post-editors, falling victims of the seemingly unstoppable process that drives down quality and worsens working conditions to save on increasingly casualised professional services while reducing turnaround times. Now that nobody in professional translation would dream of working in technical and specialised domains without CAT tools, MT and PE are arguably the greatest source of anxiety among professionals. But it is important to recognise that a good translator does not necessarily make a good MT post-editor: PE requires quick thinking and the fast adoption of effective error fixes, and a constant monitoring of the trade-off between effort (i.e. time spent on PE interventions) and benefits (i.e. real, noticeable improvements in the final target text). In addition, with the exception of complete/maximum PE (where a perfect final target text must be delivered), post-editors must often settle for less-than-perfect translations, e.g. if quality is not paramount but must be sufficient for information-gathering purposes – this is something that can turn out to be particularly difficult and uncomfortable for translators, who tend to be perfectionists.

Quite understandably, not all translators are inclined to work as post-editors, e.g. because they feel that their professionalism would not be recognised or that they would not perform optimally having to revise MT output of variable quality; just like some translators are more familiar with certain technical domains, but struggle in others, or they may enjoy working on their own on large projects, but hate revising and editing the work of junior colleagues. Whatever your own strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for PE services seem set to grow in the coming years, especially because one can expect an overall improvement of MT quality in an ever expanding range of language pairs and technical domains. If you are looking forward to continuing your happy career as a language professional, it seems wise to at least consider whether you might benefit from also adding PE to your portfolio of translation services. At t he end of the day, investigating this area before your clients come asking for PE services might put you in good stead to discuss the pros and cons of this activity with them, without having to accept unfair rates imposed on you for a job that you hate or, possibly even worse, losing your clients to less scrupulous competitors.

eventsLearn more about the advantages of using machine translation and performing post-editing  as a service by attending one of Federico’s live or on-demand training sessions on the subject. The full course list is available here:

Federico’s next live session, Maximize Your Productivity with Effective Machine Translation Post-Editing,” will take place on February 8th at 14:00 GMT. You can reserve your seat in the course by visiting the session page and clicking the “Purchase” button in the top right corner under “Course registration”.

Did you know?

It is now possible to declare post-editing as a service you provide in your profile. This also means that outsourcers can search the directory for language professionals who offer this service. See the announcement:

Do you perform machine translation post-editing as a service? Why or why not? Comment below or tweet @ProZcom

Machine translation: Cause or solution of all evils? 2

Federico Gaspari, author of this guest post series

Federico Gaspari, author of this guest post series

Meet Federico Gaspari: professional trainer, conference speaker, and the author of today’s guest post.

Federico is an associate professor of English linguistics and translation studies at the University for Foreigners ‘Dante Alighieri’ of Reggio Calabria, Italy. After graduating in translation studies from the University of Bologna at Forlì, he completed an MSc and a PhD in machine translation at the University of Manchester, and has held lecturing and research positions at the Universities of Manchester, Salford, Bologna at Forlì and Macerata. His teaching and research interests include translation technologies, especially those related to machine translation, post-editing and translation quality evaluation, as well as technical and specialized translation, translation theory, corpus linguistics, corpus-based translation studies and English linguistics.

This is the first post in a two-part guest blog series by Federico on machine translation and post-editing. The second post can be found here: “Post-editing: Blessing or curse for translators?

It is no surprise that machine translation (MT) is a hot topic that polarizes opinions, especially in online communities of translators, interpreters and language professionals such as However, the way in which the debate on MT has developed, especially on the Internet, is quite surprising and interesting: in the last decade or so, the discussion has moved from the feasibility and viability of translation technology to its potential applications in everyday scenarios, as a tool to address real multilingual communication needs. This in itself shows that MT is making progress and perhaps it is now time for mature reflection, leaving aside prejudice and misconceptions, primarily for translators and language specialists, who certainly are more directly affected by MT than anyone else. As an MT researcher and trainer, I take a special interest in the public debate on translation technology: here I would like to comment on a selection of recent online news stories and blog posts on the topic, discussing their relevance to professional translators.

The ever-present MT howlers

One constant in the media seems to be the regular coverage of (bizarrely often sex-related) MT ‘howlers’, whereby innocent food festivals, decent bank transactions and respectable research projects fall prey to embarrassing failures in multilingual communication, invariably featuring surreal sexual imagery: prudery may be the ultimate weapon of staunch MT opponents. No language pair or text type seem to be immune from suggestive innuendos and dirty references that are unwittingly gained in machine translation.

Whatever one’s view of MT may be, and without disputing the entertainment value of these news stories, it seems legitimate to wonder how common such spectacularly saucy mistakes must actually be to make the headlines of well-established newspapers and widely read blogs, particularly vis-à-vis more dignified and reasonable (if still imperfect) uses of translation technology. If one were to uncritically accept the implied message of these recurrent news reports, then MT would appear to be the cause of (nearly) all evils; and perhaps also the reason for impossible interlingual communication and for the lack of intercultural understanding, due to the abundant porn references randomly cropping up in MT output. This negative bias is reminiscent of the die-hard criticism that has consistently denied the feasibility of MT since the 1950s, focusing attention on (often apocryphal) stupid mistakes.

Not all doom and gloom

quotes2At the opposite extreme of the public debate on MT one finds a deterministic and almost messianic view of translation technology, typically held by those who present it as the solution to (nearly) all evils of today’s interlingual communication in an increasingly globalised world – not surprisingly, this rosy picture is often painted by those who have a vested interest in translation technology being funded, or sold, or both. These MT enthusiasts stand in the long, and mostly noble, tradition of visionaries, researchers, developers and entrepreneurs who have contributed to the improvement of translation technology in small incremental steps over the last 6 decades, through many ups and downs. In my view, the current online public debate on MT is more a testimony to the gradual successes of the exponents of this pro-MT camp, than to the farsightedness of MT’s intransigent detractors.

While I certainly do not subscribe to the rather simplistic view that MT can bring an end to all evils, and I even have my own doubts that it will ever, rather more modestly, enable faultless communication across all language barriers and cultural borders, I find it quite interesting that translation technology is increasingly discussed in unprecedented contexts – one doesn’t have to scour the Internet far and wide to come across recent blog posts written by authors with various backgrounds (computer scientists, linguists, lexicographers, language teachers, industry analysts and all-round know-it-alls), where it is claimed, for example, that: MT undermines the dominance of English as the world’s lingua franca; MT makes language learning obsolete; MT is detrimental to the preservation and survival of minority languages. To my mind, these arguments concerning the sociolinguistic, educational and cultural impact of MT suggest that, for better or for worse, translation technology is playing a far-reaching role that hardly anybody would have predicted before the turn of the millennium.

What do translators think?

quotes3Online news stories and blog posts discussing these topics attract a wide range of comments, reflecting a variety of opinions. I find it striking that people from all walks of life have strong views on these issues, which are relatively new in the public debate on technological progress, and have to date received scarce attention even in the relevant scholarly literature: while a few of the authors and commentators are experts with proven credentials in the field, lay members of the public represent the majority of those who exchange views on such exciting new topics surrounding MT on the Internet. And their opinions are hardly ever balanced or nuanced, but almost invariably polarised between contemptuous criticism and idealist enthusiasm: there is very little room to critically review different points of view, let alone to discuss doubts.

Translators are becoming more involved in discussing MT-related issues, and I for one welcome their growing engagement with these topics that capture the public’s attention. While it is perfectly understandable that professional translators are among the most vocal critics of MT, they are also the ones who would benefit the most from a thorough understanding and a reasoned discussion of the pros and cons, potential and limitations of translation technology, steering clear of sensationalist drivel. The community has always been at the forefront of technological developments in the translation profession, offering a platform where practitioners and trainers can openly exchange their views on relevant, if at times controversial, topics. I would argue that keeping abreast of the latest trends in MT is vital not only for today’s translator training, but also, and perhaps more crucially, for professional translators’ lifelong learning and continuing professional development going forward. The community can play a vital role in sustaining an informed debate on the impact of MT on professional translators and in providing them with valuable training opportunities in this area.

eventsInterested in learning about the benefits of using machine translation in your work? Federico offers several training courses on the subject, including two upcoming live sessions:

Turn Machine Translation from Foe to Ally on January 25th at 14:00 GMT

Maximize Your Productivity with Effective Machine Translation Post-Editing on February 8th at 14:00 GMT

Stay tuned for the second part of this guest post series, “Post-editing: Blessing or curse for translators?”, to be featured soon.

Do you use machine translation professionally? Why or why not? Add a comment below or tweet your response to @ProZcom

Best wishes for the new year from the site team! 2

Thank you for following this blog and for supporting in 2015! On behalf of the team, I’d like to wish you all a very happy and successful new year.

A year-end video greeting featuring members of site staff and the community can be found below. Enjoy!

Advocating for translators and interpreters worldwide: An interview with Maya Hess of Red T Reply

“The world cannot function without translators and interpreters.” This is the opening statement of a petition created in part by Red T, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that lobbies on behalf of translators and interpreters working in conflict zones. The objective of this initiative is to draw attention to the plight of linguists who work in high-risk settings, and to urge the United Nations to take measures to ensure that these individuals receive a certain degree of protection in their duties.

In this interview I had the opportunity to speak with Maya Hess, CEO and founder of Red T, about the goal of this petition, the organization behind this project, the risks associated with working as a linguist in conflict zones, and what can be done to help lobby on behalf of translators and interpreters worldwide.

MK: First of all, congratulations on this initiative. The petition has reached almost 35,000 supporters. Can you tell me about Red T, the organization behind this project?

MH: Thank you for your kind words and the opportunity to introduce Red T to your platform.

The goal of the petition is to urge the UN to protect translators and interpreters worldwide

Red T is a nonprofit organization advocating for translators and interpreters (T/Is) in high-risk settings, whether these are conflict zones, sites of political unrest, detention camps, prisons housing violent extremists, or even terrorism trials. Having worked in the terrorism arena for many years, I experienced firsthand how vulnerable T/Is can be and founded Red T to draw the attention of the public, governments, and other bodies to the often terrible fate they suffer. Ultimately, Red T’s vision is a world in which members of our profession can work free from fear of persecution, prosecution, imprisonment, abduction, torture, and assassination. To achieve this, we engage in various activities championing policies that support and safeguard linguists. In our latest project, the petition you referred to, we are seeking protected-person status for T/Is in conflict situations. Together with the five major international language associations – the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), the International Federation of Translators (FIT), the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), Critical Link International (CLI), and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) – we are calling on the United Nations to issue a resolution along the lines of those adopted for journalists. As it stands now, T/Is are not specifically protected as a professional category, and obtaining such a resolution would constitute an important first step in remedying this omission.

MK: What can language professionals who are interested in supporting Red T do? How can they get involved?

MH: Right now, we are looking to gather at least 100,000 signatures for the petition. To reach that goal, we hope your readers will sign (either by going to or and disseminate it to everyone they know via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. To get the UN to listen, we need critical mass. Also, by circling the world with this petition we can raise awareness about what T/Is do and how important our work is. As we say in its introduction, “The world cannot function without translators and interpreters.”

Another way to support Red T is by donating, which can mean making a contribution or volunteering your time. For instance, we have a great demand for writers to do research and draft copy and would be grateful for any assistance in that regard. We are also looking for translators for the Conflict Zone Field Guide for Civilian T/Is, which we issued jointly with AIIC and FIT. It still has to be translated into a number of languages, so if you are able to help, please email us at

MK: Has Red T encountered resistance in certain sectors while seeking to protect linguists at risk?

MH: It depends. Some of our projects have been embraced: For example, our coalition’s UN Resolution proposal has been taken up by Baroness Jean Coussins in the British Parliament’s House of Lords and has received the support of H.E. Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, who committed to promoting it before the UN Security Council once it is scheduled for debate. Additionally, the Conflict Zone Field Guide has been used as a reference in the British Ministry of Defence’s publication “Linguistic Support to Operations” and in a Danish think-tank’s policy recommendations to the Danish government. Other efforts, such as our Open Letters, in which we urge governments across the world to do the right thing vis-à-vis T/Is, are not always that welcome. We imagine that’s because it is uncomfortable to be reminded of a moral imperative.

Overall, though, once people learn about the current state of affairs for T/Is in conflict situations, the most common reaction we encounter is shock at how unprotected linguists are in this day and age.

MK: What advice would you give to someone thinking about going into this line of work?

Red T’s mission is to protect linguists who work in high-risk settings

MH: I would encourage T/Is who are planning to work in high-risk settings to professionalize as much as possible. As is common in these settings, the individuals drawn upon to serve as linguists have little or no translation/interpreting experience. So, it is very important that they learn the basic skills of the profession and familiarize themselves with their rights and responsibilities. The latter is critical, since employers frequently ask for help with tasks that go beyond the job description and T/Is need to know they can decline any request that makes them uncomfortable. In fact, clearly defined expectations on both sides go a long way, and consulting our Conflict Zone Field Guide ( – a primer that lays out best practices, standards, and ethics for T/Is and their employers – is a good starting point. Overall, we believe that adhering to the parameters of the profession serves a protective function, and the more professionalized a T/I is, the safer he or she will be.

MK: You talked in the past about the need for a paradigm shift in how translators and interpreters are perceived. Could you elaborate?

MH: In high-risk settings, especially conflict zones and terrorism-related contexts, T/Is are too often and too quickly perceived as traitors. The results of this perception, or what I call the translator-traitor mentality, are catastrophic and include criminalization of our profession under the cover of due process, wrongful incarcerations, rashes of kidnappings, incidents of unspeakable torture, and brutal murders, not seldom in the form of beheadings. In other words, T/Is may get persecuted for simply doing their job. This must stop. And that is why we need a paradigm shift to change the way we are perceived and treated. I hope your readers will join me in bringing this about by signing and circulating our petition. Together we can make this happen!

About Maya

Maya Hess is the CEO and founder of Red T

Maya Hess is the founder and CEO of Red T, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that advocates worldwide on behalf of translators and interpreters in conflict zones and other high-risk settings. As a forensic linguist, Maya provided language support and expert witness services in many high-profile terrorism trials, among them those related to the simultaneous US embassy attacks in East Africa, the World Trade Center bombing, and the New York City landmarks conspiracy. She holds an M.A. in Journalism from New York University, a Graduate Certificate in Terrorism Studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as well as an M. Phil. and Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the City University of New York.

You can find Red T on the web at, and on Twitter @TheRedT

Guest post: Expanding the translation industry through crowdfunding with the Win-Win Project Reply

Today’s guest post author is Reginaldo Francisco, a professional translator working in English and Italian into Portuguese, working primarily in the literary field as well as with texts pertaining to quality management, compliance, people management and technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in translation from the São Paulo State University (UNESP) and a master’s in translation studies from the Federal University at Santa Catarina (UFSC), in Brazil. As a professional trainer, Reginaldo teaches courses and gives lectures on the translation industry, mainly on the use CAT tools. He is, in conjunction with Claudia Zavaglia, co-author of the book Parece mas não é: as armadilhas da tradução do italiano para o português (in English: It seems to be but isn’t: Traps in Italian-to-Portuguese translation).

Reginaldo Francisco, founder of the Win-Win Project

Back in October, Pieter Beens published a post here in’s blog about five examples of crowdfunding initiatives related to the translation industry. Now I am going to talk about a project he did not mention — indeed, he could hardly have known about it as it had been launched only a few days earlier — which has everything to do with crowdfunding and translation: the Win-Win Project.

Pieter explains that “crowdfunding websites act as a platform where innovators meet ‘backers’ – people who have the money and will to invest in innovations.” To talk about Win-Win, however, I would rather quote the definition found at Wikipedia: “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people […]. Crowdfunding is a form of alternative finance, which has emerged outside of the traditional financial system.”

In fact, the Win-Win Project is all about crowdfunding and translation, since its aim is precisely to create a crowdfunding platform specifically for translations. The motivation behind it is to be an alternative solution to some unpleasant — often unfair — aspects of the existing translation industry. As I already discussed here, individuals in general can’t afford professional translation services on their own, so they are stuck with options like machine or amateur translations. Professional translators, in turn, can only work for those who can pay their price, i.e., mostly companies, often translating materials that are not that interesting (manuals, contracts and the like) and often under pressure from their clients to do more in less time for lower pay.

If we think about the huge amount of information available nowadays on the Internet, it is easy to conclude that most of this content remains available only in one language and thus inaccessible to those who don’t understand it. Thousands of people would like to gain access to articles, papers, blog posts, news items, reports and other texts in their own language, but they can’t afford to pay for quality, professional translations. So everybody loses — professional translators included.

What Win-Win Project highlights, however, is that, even if people can’t afford translations individually, together they can! And that’s what we want to make possible through Win-Win: a crowdfunding platform to enable people to easily join together to pay for the kind of quality translations that only professional, human translators can provide. The process is simple, explained in four steps in our introductory video:

  1. A translation project for a text available online is created on the Win-Win site by someone who would like to see it translated. The project creator gives the website address of the text and indicates the amount he/she can contribute to pay for the translation. Win-Win then contacts the content owner for consent; if approved, the project is announced, indicating the contribution from the project creator and calling for other people to contribute.
  2. Those interested in getting the content translated can contribute to its funding with any amount they choose. The content owner, the project creator and the contributors can all promote the project through social media or other means to find more potential contributors, and the website where the original text is located can also provide a link to the project at Win-Win.
  3. When the amount raised is enough to fairly compensate his/her work, an experienced, professional translator takes on the project and produces a high-quality translation of the text. Win-Win will maintain a directory of professional translators with experience and proven competence who will be allowed to take on projects involving their language pairs.
  4. Once the translation is completed, it is published on Win-Win site, along with a link to the original content in the source language. The translator receives the amount raised from contributions, and the content owner can put a link on the original site pointing to the translation.

So does this mean that people pay only what they can afford to, and yet translators are well-paid? Exactly! It harnesses the kind of magic that Internet connecting power has made possible through crowdfunding. It’s a real win-win situation for everybody:

  • translators are well-paid for their service and have the freedom to select projects of their interest, according to their availability and specialties;
  • the broader translator community gains more visibility as Win-Win projects highlight the value of human, professional translation;
  • contributors get precise, high-quality translations while paying much less than if each of them had to pay the total sum of a professional translator’s service;
  • the owner of the original content has it published in other languages, and the Win-Win translation project promotion can attract more visitors to his/her site;
  • Internet users in general gain access to more content in their languages, which helps spread ideas and knowledge through a more multilingual web.

But the Win-Win Project is about crowdfunding in another sense as well: to become a reality, setting up the Win-Win platform also depends on the success of this crowdfunding campaign. We need to raise the amount necessary to pay for the system development, website design and other expenses to get Win-Win up and running, and no other funding strategy could better match the project spirit than crowdfunding. But we now have very little time left, until December 15, to achieve our campaign goal (BRL 65,000 — roughly USD 17,500); otherwise, Win-Win will remain only an idea, at least for the time being.

Since translators are the ones who will benefit most from the new market niche that Win-Win proposes, I hope many of you reading this now will be interested in learning more about it and contributing to make it real. It is possible to contribute from anywhere in the world using PayPal. In addition, you can also help by spreading the word about Win-Win to all your contacts — the campaign, including the videos in it, are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, so you can share it with anyone who can understand one of those languages!

The stakes are high — expanding the translation market, democratizing access to quality translation, building a more multilingual Internet. But together we’re a crowd! Help make it all possible!


I hope you enjoyed this post, and thanks to Reginaldo for sharing it with us! See a related guest post on crowdfunding initiatives in the translation industry here: 5 exciting examples of crowdfunding for translation

Questions? Comments? Feedback can be posted in the comments section below or via Twitter @ProZcom