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How Translations Impacted Ebola in Kenya


The wonderful charity, Translators without Borders, have recently released a very interesting infographic outlining the correlation between the availability of translated information and the levels of knowledge people have – in this case, the ebola virus.

Firstly, who are Translators without Borders?

Translators without Borders is a charity that provides free translation services for humanitarian causes. Established in 2010, it works with volunteer translators to translate information of any kind needed to help people in crisis. The organisation works mainly for non-governmental organizations and social enterprises that might need data or information translated.

To date some groups it has helped include Doctors Without Borders, Medecins du Monde, UNICEF, Oxfam and Handicap International. Examples of information translated includes translated reports, interviews, and briefings from conflict-torn areas around the world, such as Burundi, Sudan, and Afghanistan. More recently it worked in West Africa and beyond to help stem the spreading ebola virus through the dissemination of health information in indigenous languages.

Which leads us to the infographic!

African language translation and ebola

As you can see, the charity tracked the responses of 197 participants from Kenya to questions relating to ebola. The respondents were drawn from different areas as well as ages. Initially only 8% could answer the questions correctly; once available in English (a second language to many in Kenya) this grew to 16% but amazingly once the information was translated in Swahili (the main shared language for all Kenyans) this grew to a whopping 92%!

This clearly demonstrates the difference in impact there is between giving people information (of any kind – websites, pamphlets, etc) in a language they know as opposed to their own language, which they live and breath.

A further interesting finding was that 82% between seemed to value information delivered orally rather than in writing, which again demonstrates how organisations or businesses might need to adapt the way they do things when working within Africa.

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