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:

Great feedback from the World Health Organization for two Translators without Borders’ volunteers 11

Some time ago Médecins du Monde posted in Translators without Borderstranslation center the translation request of a Psychological First Aid manual from English into Spanish. The translation was performed by ProZian volunteers Marisa Condurso de Nohara and Certified PRO member Juan Gaviria and it receive the following feedback from Médecins du Monde’s representative Alejandra Garcia Paton:

“Dear all, I am glad to report that the translation of the guide on Psychological first Aid has received congratulations from the experts who reviewed the text and who are currently performing the style correction. The reviews were so positive that the area dealing with emergencies in the World Health Organization, through the Organización Panameña de Salud, has decided to edit it and publish it as an official document. Doctors of the World will be included in the credits and thanks section of the guide and therefore, as we are aware that this was possible only through your collaboration, we have asked the inclusion in the guide of the names of all the volunteer translators who performed this job. ”

Congratulations to Marisa and Juan, and to the many excellent professionals who donated 2.5 millions translated words to humanitarian NGOs through Translators without Borders during 2011. Leaving a positive trace in the world is possible!

Podcast: interview with Paula Góes about Lingua — Global Voices translation project 1

Here’s a new podcast. These podcasts are designed to provide an opportunity to hear the week’s news, highlights of site features, interviews with translators and others in the industry, and to have some fun (see announcement).

In searching translation news on the Internet I came across Global Voices. I noticed that many of the projects were very interesting and I was specially intrigued by its translation project called Lingua so I got in touch with Paula Góez, Global Voices multilingual editor to learn more about Global Voices and the Lingua project.

At the beginning of the interview I asked Paula how she got involved with Global Voices and she explained that she first trained as a journalist and worked as a TV producer. She felt at ease with the written word so she became a translator when se went to London in 2002. Searching for blogs about translation she found out that the Global Voices project in Portuguese had just been launched and after reading the manifesto she knew it was the kind of project with which she wanted to get involved. She started as a volunteer translator in 2007 and then she also started to write. She found that her job was coming in between her volunteering activity so she decided to become a full-time freelancer and was invited to join Global Voices as its multilingual editor. She explained that Global Voices is a community of more than 400 bloggers and translators around the world who work together to bring reports from blogs and citizen media everywhere, with emphasis on voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media. Global Voices was founded in 2005 by former CNN Beijing and Tokyo Bureau Chief, Rebecca MacKinnon and technologist and Africa expert, Ethan Zuckerman while they were both fellows at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The idea for the project grew out of an international bloggers’ meeting held at Harvard in December 2004 and it began as a simple blog.

In addition to the main news room there are a number of projects which are mostly born from the communities. These projects include: Global Voices Advocacy, Rising Voices, and the one Paula finds most exciting — the lingua project, which is the translation project of Global Voices. When Global Voices started in 2005 it was only available in English and the communities felt the need to have it in more languages so in 2007 they started with 5 languages and now they have over 30 active sites with translations coming in every day. There have been 10,200 translations posted since January 2011. She also explains how lingua changed from being a translation project into being a multilingual newsroom and how this process came very naturally as the community grew and there were a lot of people who could both translate and write and create content in other languages. As the majority of bloggers and editors did not speak English as their first language it made sense to have them write in their native languages. They created a decentralized workflow, a multilingual newsroom, where a news is written in a language other than English and then translated into English. This means, for example, that a news can be translated from Spanish straight into French so that English becomes less of a dominant language and other languages take more space. They did this because it is easier for people to write in their own language and stories came out faster. And what is really important now is that, in oder to be a volunteer for global voices, you do not need to know English as you can write in your own language.

To get involved translators only need to get in touch. Global voices does not require a formal qualification but people in charge of translations should know the language they are translating from and should be good writers. There are many professionals performing this task now. It is a great opportunity for aspiring translators as it is a great way to practise and build a portfolio to show off. Those who would like to volunteer only have to get in touch. There is a form you can fill at the bottom of this page.

Listen to the interview with Paula Góes here: podcast, 2011-09-02

Feedback and comments are welcome. You can reach me at romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom .

Those interested in learning more about Global Voices and its Lingua project can check the bottom of the Lingua page and complete the form corresponding to the language of their interest. You can also follow Global Voices on Twitter @globalvoices.

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.


A new badge for translators without borders Reply

Translators without Borders is an independent non-profit association established in 1993, dedicated to helping NGOs extend their humanitarian work by providing free, professional translations. The funds saved through the use of volunteer translations can then be used by the NGOs in the field, enabling them to extend the scope and reach of their humanitarian work.

A platform originally designed by to assist Translators without Borders with screening volunteer translators following the disaster in Haiti last year has evolved into an efficient online translation center in which NGOs served by Translators without Borders can post requests for translation, and willing translators can accept and deliver the work on a pro bono basis.

Use of the new platform– and of course the professionalism and the good will of the volunteers– has enabled Translators without Borders to donate more than a million translated words in the first half of 2011.

In the words of Lori Thicke, Translators without Borders co-founder: “Thanks to the community of professional translators who support Translators without Borders, millions of words of translations are being donated each year to worthy organizations such as Medecins sans frontières, Handicap International, Action Against Hunger, and many many more. This contribution is significant because every dollar saved is another dollar that can be spent caring for people in the field.

Now a badge has been created for the volunteers who act as translators without borders as a form of acknowledgment and appreciation for their generous contributions. This badge is displayed in their translation center profile and it displays the name of the translator and the amount of words delivered so far for Translators without Borders through the platform since January 2011. It is visible only if this amount of words is larger than zero.

Badge owners can also click on their own badge to copy the code for use in other places such as their profile, personal web page, profile in a social network, a discussion forum, etc. The badge will automatically update itself wherever it is placed as the number of words translated changes. There is an option to add a link to your profile, so the badge displayed on other sites will also lead to your profile and thus become a more powerful marketing tool.

The code needed may be different depending where the personal badge will be placed, therefore three versions are offered: HTML code, BB code and a direct URL. Feel free to submit a support request if you need help to display your personal badge in a web page.

If you are interested in volunteering for Translators without Borders you should visit the corresponding registration page and provide all the necessary information in English.

Translators without Borders has a strict screening process. However, since the members of the Certified PRO Network have already been screened against similar criteria, Translators without Borders has agreed to waive this process for members of the CPN. If you are a Certified PRO and want to become a translator without borders, please submit a support request .

Quoting Lori Thicke again:

What I love about the ProZ badge is that it’s a way for the volunteer translators to get recognition for their contribution to humanitarian work around the globe.

We can see the number of words a translator has completed right on the badge, automatically updated in real time. The contributions truly are significant, and are making a big impact. We speak to aid groups every day who share with us how much Translators without Borders helps them in their work.

So I just want to pass on a big thank you to all the ‘translators without borders’!”