Voluntary NGO Translating
Thread poster: Jennie27

Jennie27
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 9, 2015

Hi there,

I am looking to gain some experience translating within the charity sector and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for NGOs or charities who would accept voluntary translators?

My source languages are French and Spanish and my target language is English.

Many thanks!
Jennie


 

lucyoshea
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:33
French to English
+ ...
Translators without Borders Mar 9, 2015

Hi Jennie,

Have you tried Translators Without Borders? You'd be translating for a good cause, and the texts are varied and interesting...Good luck!

Lucy


 

Alena Trainova  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 12:33
English to Russian
UN volunteering Mar 10, 2015

Hi Jennie,

I have recently discovered this very interesting resource

https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/vol/index.html

which provides volunteering opportunities with many international NGOs and UN agencies and which, hopefully, you will find useful.

Alena


 

LizaJane
France
Local time: 04:33
English to French
+ ...
Translators without borders question Mar 11, 2015

Hi! I'm in the same situation, I'd like to gain some experience, working from French to English. I looked at the Translators without borders application form and they require 2 years experience minimum. I do have some experience from occasional translating over the last 6 years, but not 2 years full time. Do you think it's worth giving it a shot anyway?

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Can you turn in a polished translation every time? Mar 11, 2015

LizaJane wrote:
I'd like to gain some experience, working from French to English. I looked at the Translators without borders application form and they require 2 years experience minimum. I do have some experience from occasional translating over the last 6 years, but not 2 years full time. Do you think it's worth giving it a shot anyway?

It isn't the place to GAIN experience; it's a place to GIVE your experience, on a pro bono basis. The same applies to all voluntary translation, except for those which will be revised by others in the cloud (TED videos, Wikis etc).

Not only do TWB ask for at least two years' experience, they will also test your skills. So I suppose you could have a go if you feel confident of handing in a polished translation every time, with no proofreading.

Remember also that there will be no feedback other than a "Thanks". Don't expect them to tell you what you could have done better etc. Agency clients may well do that, but not NGOs.


 

Nele Van den Broeck  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 04:33
French to Dutch
+ ...
Handicap International Mar 11, 2015

Hi Jennie,

Last year I graduated as a translator. I am working as a secretary now, but would love to become a translator myself, but being independent is financially still too hard for me.

Anyway: to your question: In order to "gain" experience (in fact: in order to maintain my knowledge, to keep on translating different text types, to increase my vocabulary etcetera and especially: to help people) I am translating as a volunteer for two NGOs at the moment: one local which will be completely unknown to you, and then there's the international organisation Handicap International...

You could maybe check if they would appreciate your help at Handicap International?

To Sheila Wilson: I do agree with you that NGOs are a place especially to GIVE your experience (from Handicap International I do get the "thanks" and a bit of feedback, but not that much), but that does not mean that you cannot GAIN experience from it at the same time... You don't even have to get feedback in order to gain experience. For me, gaining experience is "translating", maintaining your knowledge, getting to know other text types, other topics, new vocabulary, improving your own searching methods, developing your own thinking process... and that's something you do learn while translating, and, although I have not been translating as long as you do, I think you will not be able to deny that even if you would have 70 years of experience (I just chose a "high" number), you are still able to learn and to develop...
For me, translating for NGOs is something that benefits both parties, both the NGO as well as the translator (by gaining experience, and by 'helping') and even people who are not really very very experienced yet (but have already a bit of experience) can help.

In Belgium, where I live, everyone can say he/she is a translator. If I would have a Spanish neighboor and he would wake up one day with the feeling 'I am going to start working as translator', he can. There's really a higher risk that people like that would not really be "giving" experience, don't you agree?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
But let's not put NGOs at risk Mar 12, 2015

Nele Van den Broeck wrote:
To Sheila Wilson: I do agree with you that NGOs are a place especially to GIVE your experience (from Handicap International I do get the "thanks" and a bit of feedback, but not that much), but that does not mean that you cannot GAIN experience from it at the same time...

I do indeed agree that nobody can know everything and that you don't have to be in your dotage to help good causes.

But the only advice I can give has to be on a general basis, since I don't know the posters' backgrounds (and I'm not referring now to individuals here in this thread). What worries me is that I'm seeing more and more cases in this "Getting Established" forum of people who want to START this way, even before they have any training or experience, and with no specialist subject knowledge. At this point in time, they are simply people who speak more than one language and have an interest in translating.

Also, as someone who has been involved in the evaluation of over 120 applications (French to English) for TWB, I'm afraid to say that - far, far too often - applicants have imperfect command of the source language and equally imperfect target writing skills. It's often painfully clear that many are translating into a foreign language, using the source language structure and punctuation, simply substituting target language words, while leaving all those false friends that translators are supposed to avoid.

This is what worries me. If an NGO doesn't have the means to check that the translation is accurate, garbage can be allowed through. In a humanitarian cause this must surely be bad news. Doing a service for the community is one thing; doing a disservice is quite another. If translators wait a couple of years, trying to make a living out of translation, they'll be in a better position to know whether or not they are capable of providing an NGO with adequate quality.


 

Aleksandar T.  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 04:33
Italian to Serbian
+ ...
Translators without borders Aug 30, 2015

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to join TWB, so I applied 2 months ago, but I never got any answer from them, although they claim to respond within 30 days.

I applied again 2 weeks ago, but still no answer. I don’t know what’s the problem, because even if they don’t want me, they could tell me so.

I would like to hear your experiences.
Thank you


 

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:33
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
All in time Aug 30, 2015

Aleksandar T. wrote:

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to join TWB, so I applied 2 months ago, but I never got any answer from them, although they claim to respond within 30 days.

I applied again 2 weeks ago, but still no answer. I don’t know what’s the problem, because even if they don’t want me, they could tell me so.

I would like to hear your experiences.
Thank you


Aleksandar, I received their reply in a very timely manner. Try again, maybe summertime is a busy period for them. Did you specify your languages?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Reviewers not available? Aug 30, 2015

Your translation sample has to be reviewed by several people. I don't know how many but I think it may be three or so minimum, more if there's no consensus. Doesn't excuse silence, but it may explain it.

 

Aleksandar T.  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 04:33
Italian to Serbian
+ ...
Thank you Aug 31, 2015

Dear Inga and Sheila,

thank you for your replies.

Inga: I have already applied 2 times and I have specified my languages. Maybe it’s due to this time of year, as you say.

Sheila: I haven’t done sample translation, because they first have to select me. And I think that I should be selected, because I fulfil their basic requirements: I have experience and a University degree. But, who knows…

Well, I guess I will have to wait and if they want me, they will tell me.

Cheers!


 

Romina Navarro
Argentina
Local time: 23:33
English to Spanish
Several NGOs I suggest Sep 9, 2015

Dear all,
I'm currently a contributor for 3 NGOs on a regular basis: Global Voices Online (in Spanish), UN Volunteers, and The Rosetta Foundation.
They all have a proofreading team and they first provide a sample texts to translate so they can assess your skills.

Global Voices is a network dedicated to digital activism, journalism and advocacy. The texts are usually short and they must be translated on the Wordpress platform for their different language versions. You can be just a translator, or also an author/writer to report local news that could be of interest.
As the volunteer help is usually something that comes and goes, something people do in their spare time, there are times in which they are full of volunteers, and other times when they desperately need additional help, so it is advisable to register and keep in touch with them.
They won't give an explicit feedback (they are not a school, of course) but the editors provide useful tips and remark a recurrent error when they find it necessary, and you can also save a copy of your translation before submitting it to PR, so you can compare your version with the final one they have published.

TRF and UNV work differently, because they connect the specific NGO to the volunteers. You can register in both sites and set the alerts when a project for your language pair is uploaded so you can submit your application. Many of the NGOs can provide a feedback and a certificate of acknowledgement for your contribution to the project. Of course, you can also access the final version of the translation. The topics and length of the projects are always different as well as the requirements of each NGO for its particular project.

I have learned a lot from each of the projects I've been involved with, and I've found these experiences really gratifying. I always advise to work with them.


 


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