In today’s globalized society, language translation is a crucial element. It makes it possible for people to connect and exchange information with one another throughout the globe. A translator is necessary for communication in all settings, from the United Nations General Assembly to simple travel; today, practically all languages spoken worldwide have active assistance of translators ready to provide translation services for a variety of industries.
Translators without Borders (TWB) is a global network of language volunteers who give their time to enable individuals, regardless of their native tongue, to receive critical information and be heard. The TWB Community provides up to 30 million words of vital information in over 200 languages every year. We’ve worked with hundreds of partner organizations, and only keep growing.
Today, TWB serves as the foundation of CLEAR Global, a US-based NGO that offers technological and linguistic support to affiliated nonprofits. Under the coherent leadership of Aimee Ansari, CEO, the company actively develops language skills and increases awareness of language barriers in order to encourage linguistic inclusion and more fair access to information.
In an interview with Insights Success, Aimee Ansari shared valuable facts that showcase the significance of TWB along with its journey and highlights the vision and mission of the company.
Below are the excerpts from the interview:
What was the initial idea behind the inception of Translators without Borders (TWB)?
TWB, today part of CLEAR Global, is a global community of over 100,000 language volunteers. We were born out of the need to support humanitarian responses globally by providing language support to nonprofits helping people in a crisis. Language barriers often impact humanitarian and development efforts, and we wanted to overcome those barriers.
Our founders ran a language services provider in Paris, just down the street from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In the early 90s, MSF asked them to do some work; our founders decided that they would do the work pro bono. From this, a movement was founded. By 2010, TWB was doing work for several nonprofits.
When the earthquake in Haiti happened, the demand for their work grew exponentially. They realized that real localization—ensuring that information was in the right language – wasn’t something that aid workers understood well. Translation into French wasn’t enough; Haitian Creole was needed. From here, the organization developed to support local, national, and international nonprofits to communicate effectively with marginalized and vulnerable people.
What is the primary objective and philosophy of Translators without Borders?
We’re on a mission to help people get vital information and be heard, whatever language they speak. Our work is grounded in our community and our partnerships. Through language support, communications research, and language technology, we’re working alongside global and local partners to build a more inclusive world.
Our philosophy is that no one should be left behind because of the language they speak. That’s why we started the “Four Billion Conversations” movement. We want to help bridge the digital language divide, and bring more people into the global conversations that matter to them.
What are your top-notch offerings that have a strong foothold in the industry?
- Language support, such as translation, revision, subtitling, plain language editing, and voice-over in over 200 languages, with help from our community of more than 100,000 people;
- Language data and resources, including language maps and glossaries, the Global Language Data Review, language factsheets, information and communication needs reports, advocacy briefs, and more; and
- Language technology, such as multilingual conversational chatbots, information kiosks, information depositories, and more.
What are the roadblocks that Translators without Borders face in the ever-changing landscape of the business world?
What I hear most often is “everyone speaks English” or “60% of the population speaks the (colonial) language.” With our research, we dig a little deeper. The 60% that speak the “colonial” language are probably men, and often men who are already educated and in positions of power. If aid agencies continue to work in these languages, then all they are doing is reinforcing power dynamics and leaving women, who are often less educated, behind.
We can ensure that everyone has access to information with a small investment in language technology development. And that’s what we do. Our biggest roadblock is finding people to invest in it. With more funding, we could maximize our impact in local communities worldwide. We are always looking for sponsors and partners to help us.
How is your company adapting to market orientation?
We’re building advanced language technology solutions based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. This enables us to better respond to the evolving language needs of marginalized communities globally. New technologies are having a huge impact on society, and we’re using them for social good.
We’re also constantly improving our language service delivery so that we can leverage our offerings and collaborate with various entities—all in the name of assisting and reaching out to more people with critical information. We’re adapting wherever we can help in response to changing landscapes. Our nonprofit stands out because we take solutions mostly used for commercial purposes and apply them to make a greater impact in the nonprofit sector.
What is your stance on implementing innovative technologies?
We offer smart, innovative language technology solutions using artificial intelligence and natural language processing to enable two-way communication. We’re using chatbots to drive change. We’re working on an information kiosk and deploying a multilingual depository, aiming to help people affected by the war in Ukraine. We’re also building various apps to support migrants and provide educational resources. There’s great power in innovative language technology solutions that we want to harness.
In what traditions is your company contributing to the communities?
We have offices in Nigeria and Bangladesh, with ongoing programs in northeast Nigeria and Cox’s Bazar. By working with a network of partner organizations, we’re reaching local communities across the world.
Our language support and other solutions help local communities get vital information on a range of topics, from protection against sexual exploitation and abuse to sustainable agriculture, forced displacement, women’s health, and COVID-19. We help people get answers to their questions in their own language.
We help people be heard. When they can speak in their own language and have someone understand their needs, they feel valued, and they have more trust in the system (which is humanitarian in most of our cases) and more confidence to speak about their needs and wants and about their concerns and struggles. Eventually, they will feel more empowered to take action and work toward a better future, for themselves and their families.
What is the next chapter for Translators without Borders?
When we transitioned to CLEAR Global, we started a movement aiming to bridge the digital language divide. “Four billion conversations” is about going the extra step toward diversity and inclusion when it comes to language and communication, both online and offline.
We want to open up the power of the internet to people who speak marginalized languages so they can take part in online conversations around issues and topics that concern them as well.
Whether it be about climate change, public health, women’s health, or forced displacement and migration, we want to help people voice their needs and have their issues addressed so they can also benefit from the digital information, tools, and resources that are all available to people who speak more frequently spoken languages.
We’re looking for supporters and partners who can help. We’re currently running a fundraising campaign, “Meet me in my language”. We want to raise $100,000 to kick-start our 2023 projects. Throughout the campaign, we’ll be featuring stories to demonstrate how language is a key factor in building a better world. So, keep an eye on our social media:
- LinkedIn (TWB and CLEAR Global)
(To be Designed Separately)
The Coherent Leader
Aimee Ansari has over 20 years of experience in executive roles in significant humanitarian and development organizations. She is the CEO of CLEAR Global/TWB. She has participated in numerous humanitarian crises, including the South Sudan conflict, the Syrian refugee crisis, the Balkans conflicts, the Haiti earthquake, and the Tajik civil war. Aimee worked for organizations such as Care, Oxfam, Save the Children, and the United Nations before she joined Translators without Borders in 2016.
“Clearly, information in the right language at the right time in the right format is crucial. Illiteracy means that even if you have access to the internet and the wealth of knowledge available online, you can’t use it. If it’s not in your language, then it’s even less useful. Unless you have good machine translation.”
- Aimee Ansari, CEO