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Turning pro bono translation on its head

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Turning pro bono translation on its head

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More often than not, inexperienced translators find themselves in a Catch-22 situation: they need to gain experience in order to get started in the industry but clients and/or agencies may be unwilling to allocate work to them as a result of their overall lack of translation expertise.

So how can this cycle be broken? For newly qualified translators, carrying out pro bono translation work could be a good place to start. Organisations such as NGOs, international aid organisations or even local authorities often have this kind of work available for those finding themselves in such a predicament.

Voluntary translation can prove to be extremely rewarding for translators as they are given the opportunity to fly the flag for their chosen charitable organisation or cause whilst honing their translation skills. Similarly, pro bono translation allows aid organisations, both large and small, to tap into other countries’ markets and access a wider audience of potential donors – all at a reduced rate or, in some cases, free of charge.

The Rosetta Foundation is an organisation that will be familiar to all those seeking to kick-start their pro bono translation career. The organisation’s crowdsourcing platform ‘Translation Commons’ (trommons.org) essentially functions as an interface between non-profit organisations and volunteer translators from around the world.

Another globally renowned non-profit organisation, Translators Without Borders, recently approached us at STB to take part in the ‘Simple Words for Health’ terminology project. This task involved several members of staff organising previously existing medical terminology in an English-language database in a way that was clear, functional and user-friendly for anyone wanting to access it a later date. A challenging, but rewarding assignment for those of us here in the office who took part.

Pro bono translation, however, is not without its drawbacks. Despite the good intentions of inexperienced translators wanting to do their bit for their chosen cause, it may prove more trouble than it is worth – both for them and for the organisations employing their services. There are occasions where the text in question requires a vast amount of subject-specific knowledge; for example, specialist medical/pharmaceutical knowledge may be required for translations carried out on behalf of the organisation Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). This may lead generalists to struggle or feel out of their depth. If this is the case, the overall quality and reliability of the translation provided will, of course, be called into question. This is an issue that aid organisations should be made aware of and take into account for future translations as experienced specialist translators may not be prepared to take on large volumes of work for no fee.

If you want to find out more about our work with Translators Without Borders or need more information on pro bono translation, why not give us a call on 01252 733999 please mention Startup Overseas

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