This morning, the World Health Organization declared Ebola, the deadly virus, “the modern era’s worst health emergency.” But are you aware that there’s a “global translation crisis,” too?
Google Translate may be quick, and it may even offer Swahili, Yoruba and Zulu, but no machine translation is going to help stop Ebola like the dedicated volunteers working with Translators Without Borders (TWB).
TWB, a non-profit comprising international volunteer translators, has a mission to “increase access to knowledge through humanitarian translations.“ TWB volunteers have been assisting the American Center for Disease Control with the translation of important educational materials targeted at urban and rural populations in West Africa.
To paraphrase TWB´s co-founder Lori Thicke in a recent interview with BBC, we would not go into rural France and do a public health campaign in English, so why should we go into any of these rural West African countries with materials in colonial languages and not the local tribal ones? (To keep the challenge in perspective: there are more than 500 languages in Nigeria alone, a country infected with Ebola in July that has been fighting its spread ever since).
The CDC printed fact sheets that are being translated by TWB volunteers to educate people on the symptoms, spread, and treatment of the Ebola virus. These fact sheets are one component of a growing global effort to raise awareness about Ebola.
These types of communication materials used in the field, along with high-level situation reports and donor appeals, all contribute to the coordination needed in international development work.
Of course, with the first Ebola patient dead in the USA, an infected nurse in Spain and a newly suspected Ebola-infected teenager in Salzburg, Austria this week, international development may no longer just be thought of as being needed in “developing” nations — English, Spanish, and German may be next on the list of crucial languages needed in TWB´s proposed „global translation crisis relief network.“
In order to help, head over to TWB’s website and fill out a volunteer translator form.