Volunteer work: Tips & Hints
Thread poster: Jan Kovačič

Jan Kovačič
Slovenia
Local time: 16:28
English to Slovenian
Feb 18, 2015

Hi

I'm not so busy lately so I was thinking of doing some volunteer translating.
I've been googling a bit in order to find a site where I could do the translating, but nothing good came by. Since my target language is Slovenian, and it's not so common, I might have a problem finding a volunteer work.
I would like to hone my skills and simultaneously do something good.

I would like to ask you for some help finding a place/site where I could do the translating.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,
Jan K.


 

Rosa Paredes  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:28
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TWB Feb 18, 2015

Hi,
I do some volunteer work for Translators Without Borders when I have a rather long break. You get to be informed and give a hand at the same time. Here's the link: http://twb.translationcenter.org/workspace/accounts/view/id/6304

Regards,

Rosa


 

Madeleine Chevassus  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:28
Member (2010)
English to French
some experience Feb 18, 2015

Hi

before I became a professional translator, I volunteered for some translations; my goal was "training".

I chose some web sites which published articles in French, some of which were translated from UK/US press or websites articles.

The subjects were social/economical/international politics. These experiences were very interesting and friendly. I got some experience and I could make a "book".

Once a professional translator - I happened to accept a job a supposed to be for a "charity".

It turned out that the end-client was a company (not a charity) working with charities. There was no reason at all for them not to pay me. I sent an invoice but it was too late because I had accepted the job as Pro Bono..That's how I lost 320 Euros.

I would recommend you to check the quality of the client (NGO or not, "charity"..) and try to understand if you take somebodyelse's job when you volunteer in the context.

Also be careful, because in some countries, volunteer translations might be considered as "travail au noir" i.e. illegal work.

To conclude IMO: for an official translator, it is better to volunteer with Translators without Borders.

You may also work with Proz in case they plan to translate Proz's user interface from English into your mothertongue.

Have a good day (:


[Edited at 2015-02-18 22:46 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-02-18 22:48 GMT]


 

Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:28
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Cafebabel Feb 18, 2015

It's not for a charity, but the topics are interesting, your work is published and the idea behind the magazine is quite interesting and generally positive.

 

Richard Foulkes (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:28
German to English
+ ...
Kiva Feb 19, 2015

This site uses volunteer translation but not sure about the language pair requirements.

 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:28
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
What about... Feb 19, 2015

... the services we also use for free? e.g. Wikipedia or Coursera

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Experience needed Feb 19, 2015

TWB and the bigger NGOs all ask for experience, for a good reason. They don't proofread our work. Neither do they give feedback, apart from a "Thanks".

You need to participate in some cloud activity, for an NPO of course. Wiki is one idea, TED is another. Other translators will read and maybe edit your work, hopefully for the better.


 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:28
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Survey on pro bono translation Feb 19, 2015

A while ago I ran a survey on pro bono translation, and received lots of insightful comments. The 50+-page report is available at http://www.pirothattila.com/PB_Survey.pdf

Madeleine's experience is not unique; we have all heard of non-profits that served as a facade. One is usually quite careful when giving any substantial financial support to charities – and the same should apply to giving away one's work for free. And volunteer work can indeed harm professional interests; LinkedIn's attempt to have its website localized by professionals for bogus compensation received quite a lot of criticism, e.g., from ATA.

If you ponder whether you should provide pro bono translation to Charity X, here is a simple test. Assume the same charity sent you paid work. Once you received the pay check, would you be comfortable with sending them back a check as a donation? If you are not then you should clearly not work them on a pro bono basis.

If you are comfortable with sending them a financial donation, consider this: in most countries there is a tax relief for supporting select non-profit organizations. In those cases it might be financially more interesting for you and the non-profit to do the work on a paid (rather than pro bono) basis and follow up with a donation. Basically, the state will subsidize a great part of the translation in that case.

No government will give such support to non-profits that are not registered in the country in question. Wikipedia and Coursera are therefore not eligible in most countries – whereas the Red Cross, for example, is. It may seem that help knows no borders. But financial support does. And that is why supporting registered and state-recognized non-profits directly may be the most efficient way to help. The government of your country is ready to match your contribution from taxpayers' money (and that includes your own paid taxes), so if you are comfortable with helping any of the eligible non-profits, go with that.

Best,
Attila


 

Thomas Seligmann  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
Local time: 16:28
French to English
+ ...
Harder to get voluntary work than paid work Feb 19, 2015

Oddly, when I was freelancing (am now full-time in-house), I have found it a lot harder to find voluntary work than paid work, in terms of passing/failing preliminary translation tests. Even as a complete beginner.

I didn't fail any translation tests for paying clients/agencies, but I tried several well-known, apparently non-profit translation organisations, and I failed the tests with 90% of them. I found it strange that those willing to give me their money for my work on a regular basis were happy with me, but those wanting the occasional voluntary translation at no cost to them, for a good or urgent cause, were not happy with my quality.

The volunteering tests I did were mainly relatively straightforward, certainly not technical, mostly news articles or similar. The paid tests I did had much more difficult, technical content and I was less confident that I would pass them, yet I passed them and failed the volunteering ones. You know how sometimes you "know" or "feel" that a particular test you did was good or bad? Well I felt good about most of the volunteering ones and tentative/bad about some of the agency ones, but the results were the reverse.

It may sound like sour grapes (and maybe it is, I'll admit) to draw the conclusion, from my experience, that volunteer organisations are too fussy, or that the help they need isn't as important as they claim. If I'd also been rejected regularly as a paid freelancer, I would be prepared to ask myself questions about my quality, but in my case I never had any problems passing tests for paid work but drew almost a complete blank when I tried to do some pro bono translation.

It would be interesting to know if anyone else, when they were a beginner, tried the voluntary route to get some experience but actually found it easier to get paid work than voluntary work.


 

Usch Pilz
Local time: 16:28
English to German
+ ...
@ Attila Feb 19, 2015

Your contribution is very helpful for me!
Thanks!


 

Jan Kovačič
Slovenia
Local time: 16:28
English to Slovenian
TOPIC STARTER
Time will tell Feb 20, 2015

I would love to contribute to work that TWB are doing. I might just wait for the opportunity to join.
Unfortunately there are language restrictions on many pages I tried to voluntarily translate for.

You all provided me with many great answers.
Thank you to everyone for giving a thought on this matter.

Best regards,
Jan K.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:28
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Possible reasons for rejection Feb 20, 2015

Thomas Seligmann wrote:
I didn't fail any translation tests for paying clients/agencies, but I tried several well-known, apparently non-profit translation organisations, and I failed the tests with 90% of them. I found it strange that those willing to give me their money for my work on a regular basis were happy with me, but those wanting the occasional voluntary translation at no cost to them, for a good or urgent cause, were not happy with my quality.

(snip)

It may sound like sour grapes (and maybe it is, I'll admit) to draw the conclusion, from my experience, that volunteer organisations are too fussy, or that the help they need isn't as important as they claim. If I'd also been rejected regularly as a paid freelancer, I would be prepared to ask myself questions about my quality, but in my case I never had any problems passing tests for paid work but drew almost a complete blank when I tried to do some pro bono translation.

I do know a little about how it works with TWB, and it might help to explain this here. Translator samples there are first sent to pro bono reviewers, who have strict instructions about how to review them. These reviewers are both native target speakers AND subject specialists. And the sample isn't just reviewed by one person - I don't know how many people are involved but I suspect it depends a little on what the results of each review are (perhaps if the first two agree that it's fantastic or dire then that's it, otherwise maybe more reviews are asked for). Then it's reviewed again by TWB staff, taking into account all the comments (which are copious).

The single reviewer in an agency will be looking for specific things: if the correct technical terms have been used, and the text seems to read OK (remember the reviewer may well not be a native speaker), then you'll pass. After all, they'll be invoicing their clients for a proofreading of each translation, hopefully. TWB (and most other NGOs, AFAIK) don't use proofreaders, so they have to be very choosy.


 

Sophie Cherel  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:28
Member (2013)
French to English
+ ...
@ Attila Feb 20, 2015

Thanks for that!

 


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