Friday, January 15, 2010

What the translation industry can do for Haiti

Modified reposting of entry by Tammi Coles in the Milengo Blog. Tammi is our Geeky Marketing Diva, and has a lot of experience in nonprofit advocacy. In her words, "coalitions and collaborations = conservation of effort = victory."

Like you, Milengo staff worldwide heard the news about the earthquake in Haiti. As the reports and photographs poured in, the extent of the devastation became clear: full neighborhoods have been destroyed, government offices and services have crumbled, and basic access to food and potable water has degraded.

We have also witnessed an amazing public rally for support, including reports of initiatives from leading technology companies to mobilize their customers and employees in the efforts.

These reports started a conversation between Milengo CEO Renato Beninatto and Lexcelera CEO Lori Thicke about just what translators and localization service providers could provide to the effort.

We don’t have to look too far for ideas.

Pledge the efforts of your company
The folks at One Hour Translation put out a press release earlier today offering a simple, free translation of up to 250 words per each organization and individual affected by the earthquake. One document may not seem like much, but in an industry of over 40,000 companies, the potential impact on medical aid documentation and charity websites is enormous.

Offer your services as an individual translator
The French-based Translators Without Borders (founded by Lori) take it a step farther by offering translators the chance to answer the call of the humanitarian groups that need their time and effort. Their largest partner, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders is already on the ground in Haiti, with over 1,000 patients already in their care and an inflatable hospital on its way. Whether the need is for training materials for volunteers or media announcements in multiple languages, your talents are welcome.

Spread the word one SMS and Tweet at a time
Messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have made a considerable impact on Haitian relief efforts. @RenatoBeninatto sent out a message on Twitter regarding the efforts of Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean to get donations for the work of his nonprofit,, from U.S. residents. And CNet News reported that a similar SMS donation campaign driven by Verizon and the Red Cross raised $4 million USD within days, with each SMS a donation of just $10. The effort to both make a donation and spread the news virally is too simple to ignore.

Help Coordinate the Efforts
Doug Green from Translation Source, in Houston, TX, wants to make sure that our joint efforts are not so diluted. So, in order to make sure that language assistance has been properly mobilized, and that the language industry puts its best foot forward. He has created a Facebook group, a Twitter account, and an e-mail address to concentrate information:

Facebook: Interpreters and Translators for Haiti
Twitter: @IT4H

Doug also tells us that Pacific Interpreters has already stepped forward and begun to donate all over the phone interpreting assistance for Haiti.

We hope to hear more on Twitter and on this blog more about what you, our colleagues in the translation industry, are doing to help. Add your comments, ideas, feedback and more below.


  1. Sorry to say that I was not able to find the Twitter user @IT4H, but I am spreading the word about the Facebook group.

  2. Rennato,

    Thank you for starting this discussion on our industry helping the victims in Haiti. Language Line Services announced yesterday that for the next month we will provide free Haitian language over the phone interpretation to our customers and others who are providing direct help to Haiti. We're all in this together and must help where and when we can. Thanks again.

  3. It just struck me that we as an industry have an opportunity to make a contribution to reduce human suffering and contribute to the suffering in Haiti.

    This is a real potential leadership moment in my opinion for GALA, LISA, ELIA, ATA etc... One that would raise the profile of the Association and link it to worldwide attention worthy contributions.

    I just read Don DePalma's blog on Haiti Relief work and the language issues that are making it difficult. He also outlines some of the contributions and technology that ease this burden somewhat.

    I was particularly struck by this excerpt:

    The language services industry is rallying to support the efforts of relief workers from all over the globe as they try to deliver help to Haiti, but we cannot emphasize the point enough — the ability to say, “If you can hear me, knock three times” in a victim’s native language can mean the difference between life and death.

    Earlier I had a conversation with Jeff Allen who had worked for 10 years on developing an English-Creole MT engine which was killed by the crash and which he is trying to revive. He pointed out to me that the terminology related to helping get people out from under rubble will only have value for a few more days. After that maybe things like water filtration terms become more important,or terms related to diarrhea.

    I wonder if this could be an opportunity for leadership, for the industry to get together the key terms. phrases needed to make a difference NOW and make them freely available in 10-20 languages to all those who are on the ground.

    It will take leadership and coordination to QUICKLY decide what to do AND GET IT DONE and widely distributed could actually save a few lives. Even if there is no PR value in this, this is worth doing, isn't it?

    We have Brazilians, French, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Indians all trying to help - we could help them, right?

  4. I should correct the fact that the CSA blog article was writen by Nataly Kelly and she was responsible for highlighting the impact that a single phrase could have.

  5. Hi Renato,

    It's great that you are raising the issue of translation industry contribution in Haiti.
    As you said, 250 words doesn't sound too much but it can definitely make a difference.
    I must say that I was surprised by the huge number of translators contacted me following the PR offering to help in translations for Haiti aid organizations.

    Lior Libman COO One Hour Translation

  6. This seems to be a great article for anyone who is looking for Phone Interpretation Services . There is a lot of information about the Phone Interpretation Services , location, and so on…

    Phone Interpretation


  7. This is really a good work done for the phone interpreting assistance and I have already kept my first step in twittering it.