Blog – It’s All About Language

GTS is thrilled to announce that we are now a bronze sponsor of Translators Without Borders (TWB). This globally recognised non-profit organisation provides translation services for humanitarian and development organisations across the world.

We are the first Maltese translation agency to become a bronze sponsor and look forward to supporting TWB´s 80,000 linguists as they translate critical information for millions of people worldwide.

Our decision to become a TWB sponsor is part of our mission to use our profession to overcome linguistic barriers and empower less fortunate individuals and communities. Translations play a vital role in crises such as natural disasters, refugee situations and other humanitarian disasters.

Linguistic Barriers

Communication between affected people and aid workers cannot be carried out if words are not translated correctly. Every day linguistic barriers prevent vulnerable people and communities in situations of conflict, poverty and disease from accessing the vital information and services they need. Problems are exacerbated, and distress is heightened when information is incomprehensible or misunderstood because it´s not translated into a local language.

Common linguistic barriers that prevent effective communication include:

• Language differences
• Accents and dialects
• Technical words and jargon
• Words that are easily misinterpreted
• Cultural differences
• Physical impediments such as stuttering or hearing loss

Overcoming Linguistic Barriers

Translation is a continual challenge. The majority of people that humanitarian workers come into contact with don´t speak any other language than their native tongue. Aid agencies are often self-financed, composed mainly of private donations. They´re not always able to give their staff the resources they need to communicate and engage with local communities and first responders.

People experiencing traumatic events need information in their own language. The consequences can be dire when language support is overlooked. Language matters, and everyone has the right to be understood and receive support in their native language.

The benefits of proper language support and communicating the right language include:

• Improving the effectiveness of humanitarians doing their work
• Allowing more effective dialogue with individuals and communities
• Ensuring people have access to the correct health information. It can be the difference between life and death
• Ensuring people have access to information about their rights
• Better identification of marginalised groups so the right action can be taken to help vulnerable people

A clear illustration of how translators have contributed to humanitarian aid was seen in Nepal when a devastating earthquake struck in 2015. It killed almost 9,000 people and injured many more. As soon as news of the disaster came in, TWB mobilised a response team of translators. Among the ways they helped those affected by the natural disaster were:

• Translated First Aid documents from English to Nepali
• Provided translations to the International Committee of the Red Cross to help find missing people
• Monitored local language media and transcribed videos to help aid organisations improve their responses
• Created a text-to-speech tool for Nepali to help first responders

Ensuring Refugees Aren´t Lost In Translation

Closer to home, linguistic barriers leave many refugees in Europe struggling to rebuild their lives. They often rely on information from other refugees because humanitarian aid workers, volunteers and local authorities often don’t speak their language. This can expose refugees and displaced persons to more threats to their lives.

Linguistic barriers also hinder integration and a person´s independence. They prevent successful communication with the local population, limiting access to essential services, support and opportunities. Unfortunately, many European governments provide insufficient language support. Consequently, there is also a lack of access to suitable routes to training and employment.

This is another area where TWB is trying to bridge the linguistic gap to support refugees and migrants arriving in Europe. For example, in recent years, TWB´s Words of Release response programme has provided high-quality translations to help around 100,000 people with issues related to protection, asylum procedures and basic services.

How GTS Can Help

Like TWB, we are stepping up to the plate. We share a common mission to overcome linguistic barriers. While many people think of translation as related to paid work for books and documents, we also see it as a way of helping vulnerable people. We believe that our profession can make a big difference in the world.

To that end, we have ambitious plans for the coming year to help less fortunate communities and populations. We will be working closely with aid agencies and humanitarian organisations to improve communications with communities wherever they are in the world.

Whether translating medical documents or providing a range of other translation and interpreting support services, we want to ensure that people get the information they need when they need it – and in a language they understand.

Final Thought

By addressing and overcoming linguistic barriers, aid organisations are better equipped to help crisis-affected individuals and communities, supporting and empowering those with the greatest needs.


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