What do NGOs look for in a translator?

Non-profit organisations often require quality translations to communicate vital information to at-risk communities. In Asian countries where diverse populations mean diverse languages, it becomes especially imperative for organisations to properly reach communities in a language they understand. This is especially the case when it comes to making information accessible during a global health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you aspire to contribute your translation skills towards meaningful causes, consider these three criteria NGOs look for in a translator:

1. Sensitive Approach

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When working with marginalised and at-risk communities, translators must be sensitive to words and topics that might trigger, misrepresent or exclude these populations.

For example, an NGO working with HIV awareness has to understand that people living with HIV are generally stigmatised in a conservative society, and should not further add to this stigma. Thus, translators bear the responsibility of conveying significant messages from and to organisations with great sensitivity. A wrongly worded sentence can often cause an organisation to lose trust with the community it is supposed to represent.

2. Knowledge of Context

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Context is said to be “the common ground that brings together a speaker and a listener”. Machine Translation has made a lot of progress in recent times, but often a literal translation done by a machine isn’t enough for non-profit work. Context is an important aspect that can often get lost in translation.

The nuances, tone and even humour lost through Machine Translation can be detrimental if it creates misunderstanding amongst a targeted population. It is for this reason that NGOs cannot afford to rely purely on Machine Translations and are always seeking human translators to improve their work.

NGOs are often close-knit and adopt sub-languages or jargons depending on the communities they work with. Authentically speaking this “language” is often key to successfully approaching communities, and this requires a translator that is familiar with the relevant situational context.

For example, sex workers tend to use specific words and terminologies amongst each other when referring to particular activities with clients. An NGO working with sex workers will therefore learn their lingo to create rapport and trust. The translator must also be familiar with such lingoes, to communicate important information through educative infographics and pamphlets.

3. Reliable Work

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Professionals working in a non-profit organisation are very busy, as they often multitask to put out fires within the industry. Even NGO volunteers are regularly juggling three or more projects at a time. This often leads to a delay in tasks completion. Translators who can get the job done and are easy to work with will almost always be kept in mind when non-profits are looking for a partner. Someone who can get it done, simply, is highly sought after.

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For the most part, translations in non-profit work are done by volunteers and in-house staff who multitask across different sectors. With rising popularity of translation services like Jala, it is now simpler for NGOs to engage a translation service to produce professional level translations.

Translators who aspire to make a difference with their language skills should therefore consider work in the non-profit sector.

Written by Nirvin Sidhu

Want to contribute your translations and build a portfolio with meaningful projects? Browse through Jala to translate projects submitted by NGOs or individuals in need.



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