Interview with Translators without Borders
02 March 2011
GALAxy interviews Lori Thicke, the founder of Translators without Borders, a non-profit organization that strives to provide quality humanitarian translations to NGOs serving people worldwide who are in crisis.
Quick stats: The original organization, Traducteurs sans Frontières (TSF), was founded in 1993 by Lexcelera, a language service provider based in Paris, France, and by the provider’s two partners, Lori Thicke and Ros Smith-Thomas.
Last year Translators without Borders (TWB) filed to become an independent non-profit organization based in the U.S. Now TWB and TSF are legally independent from each other, but they share a common mission and infrastructure.
Location: Massachusetts, USA
E-mail: [email protected]
What motivated you to start the Translators without Borders?
The truth is that I'd spent my life intending to give. There were so many things I meant to do. I meant to work on a crisis line, I meant to read books for the blind. But I was always too busy—too busy studying, too busy running my company, too busy raising my son. Then one day Medecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) contacted my company for a translation project, and I thought, "If we do this for free [provide translation services], it will be like a donation to them." Finally, there was something tangible I could do. And the fact that we're using translation to help humanity is a bonus.
What are TWB’s current activities and initiatives?
We have so much happening; it is truly exciting! We are building a community translation platform to better serve our volunteer professional translators and our NGOs. That is certainly one of our main concerns, as we strive to quicken the transfer of knowledge worldwide through humanitarian translations. We also are in the middle of a project in Africa that offers free mentoring for translators in emerging languages. The Emerging Language Mentoring (ELM) program will help develop local capacity for translating, as more and more Africans go online in greater numbers.
Board members attend the first annual board meeting for Translators without Borders at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, USA
How is TWB using new technologies to increase the number of words its translators are able to translate each year?
We’re in the process of creating a worldwide portal on the internet for automatically connecting volunteer translators with the NGOs who need their help. The technology platform we are designing is fully automated and provides infinite scalability for Translators without Borders. With some of the best minds in our industry on board, we are creating a frictionless platform for managing the whole process, from sourcing translators (in our case, volunteer translators) to testing and approval. The platform also seamlessly and automatically posts projects that translators accept and deliver, all without the heavy lifting of human project management. We’re doing this with a platform created for us by ProZ.com.
What will the technology allow TWB to do?
The end goal is a web-based, self-managing community. Here we see the glimmer of the future in which those who require translations, whether NGOs or multinationals, interact directly with their own communities of translators, rather than relying on a middleman to manage the process and take a share for doing so. LSPs can become facilitators of this process, which will happen online and instantaneously, rather than through information being passed from hand to hand to hand.
Does TWB have any paid staff?
At this point, we are a completely volunteer organization. We have a very strong board of 19, and a steering committee within the board. We also have incredible volunteers helping with marketing, fundraising, technological development, website engineering and design, and more. The support we have received from the translation community and from language service providers has been phenomenal.
However, in order to serve more NGOs, provide more translated words worldwide, and support and mentor local language translators, we need a full-time manager. Currently we are fundraising to hire a manager.
How are you fundraising?
We are working through the extensive networks of our board members and the incredibly generous language services community. We also will be writing grants and creating a sponsorship program. Individuals can donate as well by visiting our website at www.translatorswithoutborders.org/ and clicking on “Donate.”
How can people learn more about Translators without Borders?
We are trying to get the word out in many ways. We will have a table with information at GALA 2011 for those attending the conference. We are currently working on a new website, but our old website still has a wealth of information. We also provide a great deal of information via social networks. We are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/translatorswithoutborders, on Twitter, @translatorsWB, and on the Translators without Borders group page on Linked In.