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The Need for Translation in Africa
By Nataly Kelly, Donald A. DePalma, and Vijayalaxmi Hegde
May 2012

Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc., Lowell, Massachusetts,
United States of America.

Published by:
Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
100 Merrimack Street
Suite 301
Lowell, MA 01852-1708 USA
+1.978.275.0500
info@commonsenseadvisory.com
www.commonsenseadvisory.com
Twitter: @CSA_Research

Access: This report is the result of a donation-in-kind of research services to
Translators without Borders from Common Sense Advisory. The full report may
be accessed by the general public for free of charge at:
www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Portals/0/downloads/120508_R_Africa.pdf

Citations: Citation and permission requests should be addressed to Melissa
Gillespie, Common Sense Advisory, Inc., Suite 301, 100 Merrimack Street, Lowell,
MA 01852-1708, +1.760.643.9140, E-mail: melissa@commonsenseadvisory.com.

Trademarks: Common Sense Advisory, Global Watchtower, Global DataSet,
DataPoint, Globa Vista, Quick Take, and Technical Take are trademarks of
Common Sense Advisory, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their
respective owners.

Information is based on the best available resources at the time of analysis.
Opinions reflect the best judgment of Common Sense Advisorys analysts at the
time, and are subject to change.





The Need for Translation in Africa i


Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Table of Contents

Topic ..................................................................................................................................................... 1
Why Translation Is Necessary for Africa ......................................................................... 1
How We Conducted the Research for this Report ......................................................... 3
Project Scope, Data Quality, and Limitations ................................................................. 4
Findings ............................................................................................................................................... 5
Most Respondents Are Professional Translators Living in Africa ............................... 5
Professional Translators Dominated the Sample ...................................................... 5
Heavy Concentrations of Respondents Hail from South Africa ............................. 5
Afrikaans, Swahili, and Arabic Are the Most Common Mother Tongues ............ 8
African Multilingualism Leads to Numerous Language Pairs ..................................... 9
Employment and Income of the Translators Surveyed ............................................... 10
African Translators Report High Levels of Education and Training ......................... 14
Translators for African Languages Face Many Challenges ........................................ 15
Lack of Organization Affects Quality and Bargaining Powers ............................. 18
African Language Translators Face Considerable Societal Challenges ............... 19
Political Realities Affect Work Potential and Even Payment ................................ 20
African Translators Lack the Necessary Tools and Information .......................... 21
Translation to Support Health-Related Information Needs in Africa ....................... 22
African Language Translators Are a Highly Charitable Group ................................. 25
Summary of Our Findings on the Need for Translation in Africa ............................. 28
Implications ..................................................................................................................................... 30
Demand for Translation in Africa Will Outpace Supply ............................................. 30
Translation Technology Will Help Break the Cycle ..................................................... 31
Governments, NGOs, and Associations Must Lend a Hand ...................................... 32
Translation Will Power Africas Future Socioeconomic Development ..................... 33
About Common Sense Advisory .............................................................................. 35
Future Research ........................................................................................................... 35
Applied Research and Advisory Services ............................................................... 35


Figures

Figure 1: Major Language Families in Africa ...................................................................... 2
Figure 2: Places of Residence of African Language Translators ....................................... 6
Figure 3: Birthplaces of African Language Translators ..................................................... 7
Figure 4: Employment Status of African Language Translators ..................................... 11
Figure 5: African Translation as a Primary Income Source ............................................. 11
Figure 6: African Translators Who Also Work as Interpreters ....................................... 12
Figure 7: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2010 to 2011 ......................... 13
Figure 8: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2011 to 2012 ......................... 13
Figure 9: Education Levels of African Language Translators ......................................... 14
Figure 10: African-Language Translators and Internet Use ............................................ 16
Figure 11: Spoken Language Is Preferable to Written Language ................................... 22
Figure 12: Most African Translators Have Donated Their Services ............................... 25
ii The Need for Translation in Africa


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Tables

Table 1: Projected Language Services Market and African Share .................................... 1
Table 2: Survey Respondents Involvement with African Language Translation .......... 5
Table 3: Top 20 Mother Tongue Languages of African Language Translators .............. 8
Table 4: Top 20 Language Combinations of African Language Translators ................... 9
Table 5: Most Common African Language Combination Types for Translation ......... 10
Table 6: Translation Training by African-Language Translators ................................... 15
Table 7: Translation Training by African-Language Translators ................................... 16
Table 8: Resource-Related Challenges Faced by African Language Translators .......... 17
Table 9: Translation-Related Challenges Faced by African Language Translators ...... 18
Table 10: Information and Technology Barriers Faced by African Translators ............ 21
Table 11: Views of African Language Translators on Health Issues .............................. 23
Table 12: Impact of Translation on Collective Health and Quality of Life .................... 23
Table 13: Impact of Translation on Health and Loss of Life ............................................ 24
Table 14: Impact of Translation on Human Rights and Politics ..................................... 24
Table 15: Why African Language Translators Volunteer ................................................ 26
Table 16: Likelihood of Volunteering for Specific Causes and Incentives .................... 26
Table 17: Desirability of Incentives for Volunteering ....................................................... 27
Table 18: Number of Hours per Week Translators Wish to Donate .............................. 28





The Need for Translation in Africa 1



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Topic

Why do we need translation? More than 6,000 languages are spoken throughout
the world. Without translation, there can be no communication, except among
those who share a common language. Unfortunately, many voices simply cannot
be heard without this critical function. In this research, conducted on behalf of
Translators without Borders, we shed light on the need for translation in Africa.

Why Translation Is Necessary for Africa
It has been said that until Africa prospers, the world as a whole cannot prosper.
The richest 2% of people own half of the worlds wealth. Africa is home to
roughly 10% of the worlds population, but all of Africa represents just 2.36% of
world GDP. The African economy is growing. According to a recent UN report,
10 of the worlds 15 fastest-growing economies in 2010 were African. However,
even in spite of this growth, economic inequalities for Africa when compared to
the rest of the world remain clear.

When it comes to information inequality, the disparities are even more striking.
Our most recent study of the global translation market looked at actual reported
revenue data of language service providers throughout the world (see The
Language Services Market: 2011, May11). We found that Africa obtained only
about a quarter of 1% of the worlds total translation revenue (see Table 1).

Region
Market
Share
2010
US$ M
2011
US$ M
2012
US$ M
2013
US$ M
2014
US$ M
North America 49.25% 14,415 15,483 16,631 17,864 19,188
Western Europe 21.13% 6,186 6,644 7,137 7,666 8,234
Northern Europe 12.71% 3,720 3,995 4,292 4,610 4,951
Asia 7.43% 2,175 2,336 2,509 2,695 2,895
Southern Europe 5.39% 1,577 1,694 1,820 1,955 2,100
Eastern Europe 2.84% 832 894 960 1,031 1,107
Oceania 0.66% 192 207 222 238 256
Latin America 0.32% 95 102 110 118 126
Africa 0.26% 77 83 89 96 103
Growth Totals 100.00% 29,268 31,438 33,768 36,271 38,960

Table 1: Projected Language Services Market and African Share
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
2 The Need for Translation in Africa


May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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Figure 1: Major Language Families in Africa
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Africa is home to more than 2,000 languages spread across six major language
families (see Figure 1). According to a UNESCO policy brief on African
languages, the mass media employ at least 242 African languages, the judicial
system uses a minimum of 63, and no fewer than 56 are used in public
administration. Nigeria alone has more than 500 tongues spoken within its
borders. Tens of millions of people converse in Amharic, Berber, Hausa, Igbo,
Oromo, Swahili, and Yoruba.
The Need for Translation in Africa 3



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Multilingualism is extremely common among Africans, which means that there
are likely to be large numbers of individuals bridging language gaps by
translating information for people who do not share a common tongue. Still, our
past research proves that Africas share of the language services market is
disproportionate even when considering its share of global GDP, which is also
considerably out of line with its share of the worlds population. These are the
conditions that prompted us to work with Translators without Borders to carry
out the present study.

How We Conducted the Research for this Report
In November 2011, we set out to learn more about the current state of translation
for African languages. We followed our usual Common Sense Advisory
methodology for quantitative research in developing a survey, recruiting the
appropriate respondents, and analyzing the results. Our study consisted of the
following major phases:

Survey design. The Common Sense Advisory research team developed an
online survey with questions on translator background, compensation,
qualifications, and challenges. In conducting background research, we
noticed a glaring lack of studies on information disparities in Africa, and in
particular, on the potential value of translated materials. We included several
questions about these issues in our survey. Staff from Translators without
Borders supported our team with question review and survey piloting by
translators based in Africa.

Development of non-English questionnaires. We drafted the original
survey in English and launched it in late November 2011. Volunteers from
Translators without Borders translated it into Arabic, French, and Swahili.
We started collecting responses for those languages in mid-December 2011.
All language variants were open until early February 2012. Thus, the data
collection period for the English version was two months, and approximately
one and a half months for the other three languages.

Recruitment and data collection. Our primary target populations were: 1)
individual translators, and 2) organizations that provide translation services
and have two or more employees, which we classify as language service
providers (LSPs). Common Sense Advisory conducted mailings to every
African LSP in our comprehensive directory of translation suppliers, which is
compiled and updated regularly for purposes of our other research studies.
We also developed lists of new contacts, such as professors of African
4 The Need for Translation in Africa


May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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languages at universities, freelance translators based in Africa, and others
involved in translation in Africa who might participate or promote the
survey to others. Translators without Borders and its supporters assisted us
with mailings, and Proz.com carried out two separate mailings to invite the
many African language translators in its network to participate.

Once the survey period ended, we began analyzing the data. We first translated
all of the results from the non-English surveys into English, the language we
used for our analysis. Then we compiled responses into a master database,
cleaned up the results, and normalized the data. For example, we standardized
the diverse spellings of language names for ease of analysis and removed
incomplete responses. With support from our statistician, we computed the
results that appear in this study.

Project Scope, Data Quality, and Limitations
Before presenting the data or our analysis, we must highlight several limitations
regarding the scope of our study and the quality of information we received:

This study covers written translation only. This report was designed to
investigate the need for translating written content. We purposely did not
recruit individuals who provide spoken language interpreting, although the
results do include people who both translate and interpret.

Our results reflect translators with access to technology. Participants
needed to be able to fill out a web-based survey. That means that translators
had to have access to the internet and a computer or other device for
answering the questions. Therefore, individuals who translate without a
computer and/or access to the internet were unable to participate.

The findings are more representative of those who speak English. We
made the survey available in three other languages, but the vast majority of
our respondents answered it in English. Therefore, the results are skewed in
favor of those who read English well enough to answer a web-based survey.

Recruitment was also primarily English-based. The majority of our
recruitment activities took place in English. The mailings we authored were
in English, as was the invitation issued through Proz.com.

The Need for Translation in Africa 5



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Findings

Our surveys yielded responses from 364 individuals in 49 countries who provide
translation services for African languages. In this section, we report the results.

Most Respondents Are Professional Translators Living in Africa
We asked several questions about the demographics of the respondents.
Specifically, we wanted to know where they were born, where they live today,
and how they are involved in African language translation.

Professional Translators Dominated the Sample
We asked respondents how they were involved with the translation of African
languages. More than half (55.2%) described themselves as professional
translators. About one-third (32.0%) have other jobs but translate as part of that
work. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they were academics, and around one in 10
(10.8%) said they were volunteer translators (see Table 2). Because it is common
for individuals to be involved with translation in more than one way, we gave
respondents the option to choose more than one answer. Therefore, the
percentages in this table total more than 100%.

Involvement with Translation Response Percent
I am a professional freelance translator. 55.2%
I have another job, and I sometimes translate as part of it. 32.0%
I am a volunteer translator. 10.8%
I am an academic. 23.5%

Table 2: Survey Respondents Involvement with African Language Translation
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Heavy Concentrations of Respondents Hail from South Africa
Within Africa, the biggest contingent of respondents (36.69%) came from South
Africa. We also saw high response rates from Kenya (6.97%), Cameroon (6.46%),
and Nigeria (4.91%). Reflecting the large populations of refugees and immigrants
from Africa in Europe and North America, a significant response of around 10%
came from the United States and about 3% each were from France and the
United Kingdom (see Figure 2).
6 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Figure 2: Places of Residence of African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Due to the large refugee populations that have created a diaspora of African
expatriates throughout the world, the need for translators of languages from that
continent touches every part of the globe. As the map of Elsewhere countries
in Figure 2 shows, African language translators are spread out across all corners
of the map, located throughout Europe and North America, as well as in places
such as Australia, Brazil, and India. Similarly, translation agencies specializing in
African languages have sprung up in many of those locations as well, largely in
response to demand from local refugee and immigrant support agencies.
The Need for Translation in Africa 7



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Figure 3: Birthplaces of African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

We noted a similar trend when we asked African language translators where
they were born (see Figure 3). The largest contingent in our sample came from
South Africa, followed by many of the same countries identified when we asked
about residence. Another large group (14.99%) was born outside of Africa. Most
likely, these individuals obtained proficiency in African languages by either
moving there as children and obtaining education on the continent or by learning
the language from their parents. The latter type is referred to as heritage
speakers, second-generation offspring of foreign-born refugees and immigrants.

8 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Afrikaans, Swahili, and Arabic Are the Most Common Mother Tongues
The translators in our sample reported 85 mother tongues, an impressive number
at first glance, but perhaps not when one considers the huge quantity of
languages used in Africa for purposes of daily communication. Speakers of
Afrikaans made up more than 10% of the total sample, which is consistent with
the countries represented. Other frequently reported languages included English,
French, Swahili, Arabic, and Zulu (see Table 3).

Rank Language Number of
Respondents
1 Afrikaans 39
2 English 26
3 French 25
4 Swahili 22
5 Arabic 19
6 Zulu 14
7 Setswana 13
8 Somali 13
9 Sesotho 12
10 Yorb 11
11 Amharic 10
12 Xitsonga 10
13 Xhosa 10
14 Portuguese 8
15 Zulu 7
16 Hausa 6
17 Kikuyu 6
18 Sepedi 6
19 Kinyarwanda 5
20 Kirundi 5

Table 3: Top 20 Mother Tongue Languages of African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

In addition to the languages listed here, we received a list of 65 others for which
there were fewer than five responses. Of those, approximately 40 had just a
single response.
The Need for Translation in Africa 9



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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African Multilingualism Leads to Numerous Language Pairs
If how many languages spoken natively by our pool of respondents seems
impressive, consider the enormous number of resulting combinations for
translation. We asked each translator to tell us which languages he or she
translated, and in which directions. Translators typically translate into languages
in which they have native-level proficiency. However, because multilingualism
is so common in Africa, many of the individuals surveyed were true polyglots.
The majority of respondents reported at least three combinations, and some
claimed as many as eight. This resulted in 269 distinct language pairs.

The most popular combinations among our respondents were English into and
out of French, Afrikaans, Swahili, and Arabic. After those languages, we see
pairings involving English and Zulu, Sesotho, Xhosa, Yoruba, and Amharic (see
Table 4).

Rank Language Combination Number of
Instances
1 English into French 54
2 French into English 52
3 Afrikaans into English 48
4 English into Afrikaans 45
5 English into Swahili 40
6 Swahili into English 40
7 Arabic into English 27
8 English into Arabic 22
9 English into Zulu 18
10 Sesotho into English 17
11 Zulu into English 16
12 English into Sesotho 15
13 Xhosa into English 14
14 English into Xhosa 13
15 English into Yoruba 13
16 Amharic into English 12
17 Dutch into English 11
18 English into Sepedi 11
19 English into Setswana 11
20 English into Somali 11

Table 4: Top 20 Language Combinations of African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

The fact that English was the reporting language was clearly reflected in the
combinations of our respondents. If we had conducted the survey and
10 The Need for Translation in Africa


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recruitment activities in another tongue, such as Chinese, we would have been
likely to see dozens (if not hundreds) of language combinations involving
Chinese, due to Chinas direct foreign investment presence in Africa. The same
might have been true for Swedish, because Sweden is home to significant
numbers of African refugees and immigrants, many of whom rely on translated
information in their host country. However, although English was the base
language for our survey, respondents cited such pairings as Chichewa into
Finnish, Czech into Swahili, and Sesotho into German.

To provide a clearer categorization of language combinations, we divided the
responses into several types (see Table 5). For this exercise, we treated Arabic
and French separately from all other tongues spoken in Africa. Viewing the data
this way, we see that the most frequent combinations involved English into
African languages, followed by translation from African languages into English.
However, there were also large numbers of pairs reported for translation
between two African languages.

Language Combination Type Total Number of
Instances
English into African languages 301
African languages into English 283
African languages into other African languages 79
English into French 54
French into English 52
French into African languages 47
African languages into French 45
English into all other languages 28
Arabic into English 27
English into Arabic 22
African languages into all other languages 19

Table 5: Most Common African Language Combination Types for Translation
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Employment and Income of the Translators Surveyed
The majority of our respondents (60.5%) said that they were employed on a full-
time basis, while about a quarter (24.4%) had part-time work. Around one in 10
(11.3%) were unemployed, and a small percentage were retired (see Figure 4).
The Need for Translation in Africa 11



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Figure 4: Employment Status of African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.


Figure 5: African Translation as a Primary Income Source
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
12 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Figure 6: African Translators Who Also Work as Interpreters
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

More than half of the respondents (53.7%) said translation was not their primary
source of income (see Figure 5). For the remaining 46.3%, translation was indeed
their main livelihood.

In some cases, especially for less common combinations, translators sometimes
interpret spoken language in addition to providing written translation. When we
asked respondents if they also worked as interpreters, we found that more than
half (59.7%) carried out this work as well (see Figure 6). However, we note that
most people typically view the professions of translation and interpreting as
quite different, as are the skills required for each (see The Interpreting
Marketplace, Jun10).

We also asked the respondents about their current and projected income. The
largest group (44.38%) stated that they had earned or expected to earn more in
2011 than they did in 2010 (see Figure 7). However, when we asked about 2012,
the number of respondents claiming they expected to earn more from translation
in the year ahead was even greater (59.97%) (see Figure 8).

Why would translators expect to earn more in 2012? Several factors are at play. If
they saw increases in demand for their services throughout 2011, they would be
The Need for Translation in Africa 13



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Figure 7: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2010 to 2011
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.


Figure 8: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2011 to 2012
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
14 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Figure 9: Education Levels of African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

more likely to adjust their expectations for earning in 2012. Local phenomena
such as improvements in the economy might also influence their thinking with
regard to this question. However, our past research shows that translation
providers generally show high degrees of optimism and tend to overestimate
their potential financial performance when compared to actual reported results
(see Language Services and the Real Economy, Jun11).

African Translators Report High Levels of Education and Training
Our respondents were a highly educated group. The vast majority (83.0%) of the
364 translators we surveyed had a college degree, and more than half (52.8%)
had completed masters or doctoral degrees (see Figure 9). When we compare
their academic achievement to the education level of the average sub-Saharan
resident, we find that our respondents represent a very special population.
According to the World Bank, the gross enrollment rate for higher education in
the region is the lowest in the world just 1% in 1965, growing to 5% by 2006. A
Times Higher Education ranking notes that many of Africas best students earn
their advanced degrees at universities in Europe, Asia, and North America, but
too few return to their homelands.

The Need for Translation in Africa 15



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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We asked African language translators about their training in the field of
translation and found that in addition to high levels of general education, most
were well prepared as translators. Nearly a third (32.6%) held university degrees
in the discipline, and more than a quarter (28.7%) had taken courses in
translation. Another large percentage (36.6%) had some other formal training for
this profession (see Table 6).

Training Received in Translation Percentage
I hold a college or university degree in translation. 32.6%
I have taken college or university courses on translation. 28.7%
I have participated in training courses for translation. 36.6%
I have attended conferences on translation. 30.8%
I am self-taught. 35.0%

Table 6: Translation Training by AfricanLanguage Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Translators for African Languages Face Many Challenges
According to the World Energy Outlook, in 2009 there were 587 million people in
Africa living without electricity. Of those, 585 million resided in Sub-Saharan
Africa, while 2 million were in North Africa. Throughout Africa, only 41.8% of
the population had access to electricity. In urban areas, the rate was a bit higher
(68.8%), but in rural areas, only one in four people (25.0%) had electricity.

Some countries face even greater challenges when it comes to electricity. A 2009
article from Scientific America points out that in 11 African countries, more than
90 percent of people have no electricity. In six of these nations Burundi, Chad,
Central African Republic, Liberia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone just three to five
percent of people can readily access electric power. Even those fortunate enough
to have electricity do not always enjoy dependable access, due to rolling power
cuts, which are commonplace in many countries.

Estimates from Internet World showed that in 2011, only about 5.7% of African
population had internet access, and less than one percent of African citizens are
estimated to have broadband connections. To provide a basis for comparison, at
the end of 2007, Finland had more internet hosts than the entire continent of
Africa. Internet access in Africa is also extremely expensive limited in most
countries just to members of the wealthiest social classes who can afford it.


16 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Figure 10: AfricanLanguage Translators and Internet Use
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

In spite of these significant barriers, we found that translators for African
languages (80.06%) were normally connected to the internet when performing
translation work (see Figure 10). It is important to remember that not all
respondents to the survey were based in Africa; however, one requirement was
that respondents had to have access to the internet in order to participate.

We asked respondents to identify all the places in which they carry out
translation work. We found that most translators for African languages work
from home (87.5%), with the next largest group translating in their place of
employment (44.2%). One in 10 (10.3%) labor from internet cafs, and a similar
number (9.9%) work from universities (see Table 7).

Translation Work
Location
Percentage of
Respondents
My home 87.5%
My workplace 44.2%
A university 9.9%
An internet caf 10.3%
None of the above 0.6%
Other 7.7%

Table 7: Translation Training by AfricanLanguage Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
The Need for Translation in Africa 17



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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We found that the top challenges reported by African language translators
included some of the same access issues faced by the African population at large
(see Table 8). Nearly half of the respondents (44.9%) complained of slow internet
speed, and more than a third (36.5%) cited high costs of access. Nearly one in five
(17.9%) respondents said they had limited access to electricity or experienced
frequent power cuts.

Answer Options Response Percent
Slow internet speed 44.9%
Cost of internet access 36.5%
Lack of time 28.2%
Lack of continuing professional education 20.5%
Limited access to electricity / frequent power cuts 17.9%
Lack of basic training in translation 7.1%
Limited opening hours of internet cafes 5.8%
Lack of basic computer training (MS Word, Skype) 3.8%

Table 8: ResourceRelated Challenges Faced by African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

There were also other resource-related issues that emerged. More than a quarter
(28.2%) of African language translators complained of time constraints, and
about one-fifth (20.5%) lacked access to continuing education. Access to basic
computer training was not a problem for these translators, which makes sense
given the high levels of education they reported. Also, given that not many
complained about costs of access (about one in three), we can safely assume that
most of these translators have a higher-than-average socioeconomic status.

When we asked about translation-related challenges, we found that more than
half of the respondents (56.4%) stated that there was not enough work available.
Another large percentage (52.6%) stated that they faced a lack of linguistic
equivalence for the terms they needed to translate. Related to this problem,
translators cited no access to glossaries (41.7%) (see Table 9). Lack of payment
from translation companies (31.4%), an inability to connect with other translators
(24.7%), competition (23.7%), and the lack of prestige associated with the
profession (23.4%) were also commonly cited challenges.




18 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Answer Options Response
Percent
Not enough translation work available 56.4%
Lack of linguistic equivalence for terms 52.6%
Lack of access to glossaries 41.7%
Lack of payment from translation companies 31.4%
Inability to connect with other translators 24.7%
Competition from other translators 23.7%
Lack of prestige associated with translation 23.4%

Table 9: TranslationRelated Challenges Faced by African Language Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

It should be no great surprise that so many translators cited a lack of linguistic
equivalence. This is an issue weve seen translators face again and again. In
many African languages, there is no single word to convey the term cancer
(this is also true of many languages of Native America and Asia). Many African
tongues do not have a term for clinical depression either. Challenges of
linguistic equivalence extend into many areas translating high-tech terms like
cloud computing and social media are similarly problematic. Often, these
terms require extensive explanation and even some of the terms speakers of
language like English or French would commonly use to define such terms might
need to be further explained. Thus, the African language translators job becomes
exponentially more difficult.

Lack of Organization Affects Quality and Bargaining Powers
We asked respondents to tell us in their own words about the other problems
they face. A commonly cited challenge was the lack of organized representation
for the profession within the market, which limits African language translators in
their ability to obtain guidance on quality standards or help in improving their
working conditions:

We dont have a translators union, which makes it easy for the
government to engage in unfair distribution of translation assignments.

There are no official organizations or legal guidelines for creating
translation enterprises or ensuring quality in translation.

The Need for Translation in Africa 19



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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The scarcity of professional translators limits the possibility of meeting
deadlines for bigger volume assignments.

The translation trade is one of the least organized of all trades in Africa.
Contracts are often given to lay people, and even professional translators
often subcontract under the same projects with mere bilinguals.

I see three major problems: 1. The existence of bad payers whom we
cannot sue. 2. Pay from outsourcers that is far too low. 3. End clients
that cannot reach us directly.

African Language Translators Face Considerable Societal Challenges
Translators for African languages face some challenges that are highly unique to
the societies in which they live. Some relate to societal views of their language,
while others relate to lack of literacy, standardization, and technology:

An interpreter in a foreign language is paid more than a person who
speaks African languages.

Afrikaans, as beautiful as it is, is a language with a political history.
Many people are either not teaching their children Afrikaans at home or
it is being read less and publishing houses are not interested in
translating such manuscripts. The result is less work for those who
translate into Afrikaans.

The major challenge with translating into Igbo is the low level of
literacy among native speakers of Igbo. Many are literate in English but
not in Igbo. Some are illiterate in both languages. Hardly anyone is
literate only in Igbo. The best practice is to accompany any work of
translation into Igbo with a spoken (interpreted version). This is the only
way such work will have significant impact on the life of the people.

No spelling checkers on the computer are available for Somali.

20 The Need for Translation in Africa


May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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English is generally a lot more developed and better standardized than
target languages, especially with regard to technical communication.
Lack of standardization in African languages tends to cause undue
clashes between translator and proofreader as each clings to local dialect.
Academics are sluggish to help resolve the dilemmas.

Back translation is always a problem because of lack of standardization
of Sesotho language as there are regional dialects and differences in
terminology between South African Sesotho and Sesotho spoken in
Lesotho. This poses serious conflicts and misunderstandings. The other
problem between South African and Lesotho translation is caused by the
orthography used in the two countries. Also, the South African
Language Board introduces terminology which is not acceptable to the
majority of Sesotho speakers.

Political Realities Affect Work Potential and Even Payment
Many African translators are unable to cash in on the full potential of their work,
either because they do not have access to a reliable means of money transfer or
because of embargoes on their country.

Our local authorities do not allow us to receive money through payment
processing companies such as PayPal or MoneyBookers.

We do not have access to credit or debit cards, as they are not permitted
by the central bank of Sudan. Then there is the American economic
embargo on Sudan, which does not allow us to receive money from
international clients or participate in ecommerce. It even restricts our
access to some free internet tools like Dropbox.

I reside in a country where I feel completely safe in providing linguistic
support. However, I know firsthand that translators in my country of
origin (Ethiopia) are terrified of the consequences of translating materials
the government may find to be offensive. As in the Ottoman Empire
days, translators and interpreters in my country of origin are blamed for
doing their jobs and are asked to compromise their professional duty.

The Need for Translation in Africa 21



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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African Translators Lack the Necessary Tools and Information
For many languages, online dictionaries and glossaries are in bountiful supply.
Not so for African languages respondents were nearly unanimous (91.74%) in
stating that their work would be easier if they had access to such resources (see
Table 10). Large numbers of respondents also pointed to the need to collaborate
online with other translators (88.35%) and the lack of affordable or free
translation memory tools (88.28% and 86.70%).

Many translators (87.85%) also claimed that their work would be easier if they
had access to more source materials, such as medical journals and scientific
papers. This item is linked quite closely to the biggest challenge cited by the
respondents the lack of online glossaries and dictionaries. If the latest advances
in research are limited just to those who can pay to read about them, the majority
of individuals remain unable to benefit from rapidly evolving domain-specific
terminology. As a result, translators cannot develop glossaries to share with
others, making it less likely for those important ideas and findings to reach those
who might need them.

Statement Strongly
Agree
(%)
Agree

(%)
Total
Agree
(%)
Disagree

(%)
Strongly
Disagree
(%)
Total
Disagree
(%)
It would be easier for me to translate if I had access
to more free online dictionaries and glossaries.
61.16 30.58 91.74 7.34 0.92 8.26
It would be easier for me to translate if I had the
ability to collaborate with other translators in an
online environment.
42.64 45.71 88.35 9.82 1.84 11.66
It would be easier for me to translate if I had access
to reasonably priced translation memory tools.
44.14 44.14 88.28 10.49 1.23 11.72
It would be easier for me to translate if more source
materials, such as medical journals and scientific
papers, were available for free on the web.
46.11 41.74 87.85 10.28 1.87 12.15
It would be easier for me to translate if I had access
to free translation memory tools.
48.90 37.80 86.70 11.50 1.86 13.36
It would be easier for me to translate if I had the
ability to collaborate with other translators in
person.
25.93 48.46 74.39 23.46 2.16 25.62
It would be easier for me to translate if I had access
to machine translation for my languages.
33.23 29.81 63.04 26.71 10.25 36.96

Table 10: Information and Technology Barriers Faced by African Translators
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.


22 The Need for Translation in Africa


May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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Translation to Support Health-Related Information Needs in Africa
Given the type of humanitarian and health-related organizations that Translators
without Borders supports, we included several questions related to health care
and information access. One question we sought to answer was whether written
translation alone is sufficient to support the needs of people in Africa, especially
in the area of health information. When we asked respondents how African
language speakers prefer to receive health-related materials, the vast majority
(67.85%) said that a combination of spoken and written information was
preferred (see Figure 11). Between the two, spoken (17.86%) won out over
written language (14.29%).


Figure 11: Spoken Language Is Preferable to Written Language
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

A common misconception is that the most pressing health-related problems in
Africa are infectious diseases. In reality, non-communicable illnesses, such as
heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, are far more common.
Because volunteer translators are more likely to be motivated to participate in
projects that affect them and their loved ones, we included a question about this
issue. Our survey found that nearly half of the African language translators
surveyed (48.7%) had a person in their immediate family who suffers from one of
these non-communicable diseases. A similar number (42.7%) reported that
someone in their immediate family had lost their life as a result of such an illness
(see Table 11).


The Need for Translation in Africa 23



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Answer Options Response Percent
Someone in my immediate family suffers from heart
disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory
disease, or cancer.
48.7%
Someone in my immediate family has passed away
as a result of heart disease, diabetes, high blood
pressure, respiratory disease, or cancer.
42.7%
Someone in my immediate family has been affected
by HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, or other
infectious diseases.
22.8%
Someone in my immediate family has passed away
as a result of HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, or
other infectious diseases.
19.0%

Table 11: Views of African Language Translators on Health Issues
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Rates of translators reporting infectious disease among their loved ones were
also high, with more than one in five (22.8%) stating that someone in their
immediate family had been affected by such diseases. Nearly the same amount
(19.0%) reported that a member of their immediate family had died as a result of
those illnesses.

Translators, especially those who volunteer their services for humanitarian
organizations, are strongly motivated by service to a greater good. Thus, we
inquired about the benefits that translation would bring to African societies as a
whole, including but not limited to health matters. Nearly everyone believed that
greater access to information in their own language would improve the overall
quality of life (95.18%) and the collective health of African countries (94.92%) (see
Table 12).

Statement Strongly
Agree
(%)
Agree

(%)
Total
Agree
(%)
Disagree

(%)
Strongly
Disagree
(%)
Total
Disagree
(%)
Greater access to translated
information would improve the
overall quality of life in my country.
62.70 32.48 95.18 3.22 1.61 4.83
Greater access to translated
information would have a positive
impact on the collective health of
people living in my home country.
66.03 28.89 94.92 3.81 1.27 5.08

Table 12: Impact of Translation on Collective Health and Quality of Life
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.


24 The Need for Translation in Africa


May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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Strikingly, our survey also found that 80.59% of African translators believe that
greater access to translated materials would positively affect one or more of their
own family members, and nearly two-thirds (63.07%) believed that improved
access to such information could have prevented the death of a loved one (see
Table 13).

Statement Strongly
Agree
(%)
Agree

(%)
Total
Agree
(%)
Disagree

(%)
Strongly
Disagree
(%)
Total
Disagree
(%)
Greater access to translated
information would have a positive
impact on the health of one or more
of my family members.
40.78 39.81 80.59 14.89 4.53 19.42
Greater access to translated
information could have prevented the
loss of life of someone in my family
or circle of friends.
31.37 31.70 63.07 27.45 9.48 36.93

Table 13: Impact of Translation on Health and Loss of Life
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Statement Strongly
Agree
(%)
Agree

(%)
Total
Agree
(%)
Disagree

(%)
Strongly
Disagree
(%)
Total
Disagree
(%)
Greater access to translated
information would have a positive
impact on the ability of individuals to
understand their legal rights.
69.21 27.94 97.14 1.59 1.27 2.86
Greater access to translated
information would help people to feel
more empowered.
63.92 32.59 96.52 2.53 0.95 3.48
Greater access to translated
information would help protect
human rights.
63.58 32.27 95.85 2.88 1.28 4.15
Greater access to translated
information would help individuals in
times of emergency or natural
disasters.
59.94 34.94 94.87 4.49 0.64 5.13
Greater access to translated
information would help people
contribute to the political process.
53.38 38.59 91.96 6.75 1.29 8.04
Greater access to translated
information would help prevent
international, civil, ethnic, or
communal conflict.
51.92 36.86 88.78 10.58 0.64 11.22

Table 14: Impact of Translation on Human Rights and Politics
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

The Need for Translation in Africa 25



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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The majority of African language translators also believed that greater access to
translation would improve individuals understanding of their legal rights
(97.14%), make them feel more empowered (96.52%), help protect human rights
(95.87%), and enable them to contribute to the political process (91.96%). The vast
majority of individuals surveyed also believed that more translated information
would help prevent conflicts of various types (88.78%) (see Table 14).

African Language Translators Are a Highly Charitable Group
Even though most of the survey respondents normally derived income from
their translation work, we found that the majority (59.75%) had donated their
translation services in the past (see Figure 12). Their primary motivations for
volunteering their skills were to give back to their communities (68.42%) and to
address the lack of information in their languages (60.52%) (see Table 15).


Figure 12: Most African Translators Have Donated Their Services
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Many translators were also motivated to improve their skills (56.91%), to engage
in an activity they found enjoyable (52.30%), and to help ensure the survival of
their language (44.45%). Fewer translators were motivated to volunteer in order
26 The Need for Translation in Africa


May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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to have contact with people in other countries (36.85%), to connect with other
volunteers (36.50%), or to obtain recognition for themselves (26.32%).

To give back to my community 68.42%
To address the lack of information available in my
language(s)
60.52%
To improve my skills as a translator 56.91%
To engage in an activity that I enjoy 52.30%
To obtain personal satisfaction 51.37%
To help ensure the survival of my language 44.45%
To have contact with people in other countries 36.85%
To become connected to other volunteer translators 36.50%
To obtain recognition, visibility, or status 26.32%

Table 15: Why African Language Translators Volunteer
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

We asked about whether translators would volunteer for specific causes. The
majority said that they would be willing to volunteer their work for emergency
situations (68.13%) and to improve basic health care (61.84%). More than half
(54.60%) said that they would volunteer through Translators without Borders
(see Table 16). Specific causes, such as improving basic health care or helping out
in emergency situations, were the strongest motivations.

Would you volunteer your translation services Yes
(%)
No
(%)
Maybe
(%)
...in future emergency situations, such as floods,
droughts, or armed conflict?
68.13 2.33 29.54
to improve basic health care? 61.84 4.62 33.54
through Translators without Borders? 54.60 6.65 38.75
if a non-monetary incentive were offered to you? 47.73 6.64 45.63

Table 16: Likelihood of Volunteering for Specific Causes and Incentives
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

We asked respondents what kinds of non-monetary incentives they might find
desirable. When we totaled the numbers of translators marking the incentives as
either very desirable or desirable, we saw that the top two inducements
were free or discounted computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools (91.84%) and
access to a peer network of translators for help and support (91.84%), with CAT
tools taking priority due to the higher percentage of respondents ranking this
item as very desirable (see Table 17)
The Need for Translation in Africa 27



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Incentive for Volunteer
Translators
Very
Desirable
(%)
Desirable

(%)
Total
Desirable
(%)
Undesirable

(%)
Very
Undesirable
(%)
Total
Undesirable
(%)
Free or discounted
computer-assisted
translation (CAT) tool
59.52 32.31 91.84 5.78 2.38 8.16
Access to peer network
of other translators for
help/support
50.68 41.16 91.84 7.14 1.02 8.16
Recognition on the
volunteer
organizations website
48.25 42.31 90.56 8.39 1.05 9.44
Free or discounted
translation training
48.61 39.58 88.19 9.72 2.08 11.81
Laptop or PC 54.17 33.33 87.50 11.11 1.39 12.50
A logo or badge from
the volunteer
organization to display
on the translators
website or e-mail
41.40 42.46 83.86 14.74 1.40 16.14
Internet connection 51.77 30.14 81.91 15.96 2.13 18.09
Cellphone airtime 41.67 35.87 77.54 19.93 2.54 22.46
Other items from the
volunteer organization,
such as T-shirts,
stickers, or mugs
32.86 38.93 71.79 23.93 4.29 28.21

Table 17: Desirability of Incentives for Volunteering
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Large numbers of translators also wanted recognition on the volunteer
organizations website (90.56%) and free or discounted translation training
(88.19%). Interestingly, a big-ticket item, such as a laptop or PC, was ranked as
very desirable by a large number of translators (54.17%), but on the whole,
more respondents found less costly items, such as CAT tools, peer access, and
recognition on the volunteer organizations website, to be more desirable. The
least wanted incentives were items such as stickers, mugs, and T-shirts.

More than a third of respondents (35.5%) said they were willing to volunteer
between one and two hours per week, while another large group (27.6%) were
willing to donate three to four hours weekly (see Table 18).



28 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Number of Hours Translators
Are Willing to Donate per Week
Response
(%)
None 6.61
1-2 hours 35.42
3-4 hours 27.63
5-6 hours 11.50
7-8 hours 6.31
8-9 hours 2.32
9-10 hours 4.60
More than 10 hours 5.61

Table 18: Number of Hours per Week Translators Wish to Donate
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Summary of Our Findings on the Need for Translation in Africa
Here are the most important findings of our study:

African language translators are a highly educated group. The people who
responded to our survey were mostly professionals with advanced degrees.
Like their counterparts in other places around the globe, they primarily
translate while connected to the internet.

African translators face some barriers that are truly unique. Unlike their
peers in most countries, many of our African survey respondents face
challenges that prevent them from carrying out their work, including: 1)
difficulties with payment processing; 2) political issues; 3) problems related
to language standardization; 4) a lack of tools for the languages they; and 5)
issues that translators around the world must deal with, such as competition
from other translators, a lack of professionalization, and unscrupulous
translation agencies that do not pay them properly.

Translation can address information disparities in Africa. Translators
overwhelmingly agreed that greater access to information in local languages
would improve the overall quality of life, enhance individuals
understanding of their legal rights, prevent conflicts, improve health, and
even prevent the loss of life. These translators do not appear to be selfishly
motivated in their responses, given that more than half of them were willing
to donate their services for free to address these issues.

The Need for Translation in Africa 29



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Translators are personally affected by the lack of information. A surprising
number of African language translators 63% believed that having greater
access to translated information would have prevented the loss of life of a
loved one. This datapoint serves to highlight translators views of the
importance of such materials in their own language, of which their families
and friends are often a subset.

The need for spoken language is an undeniable reality. Written and spoken
language transfer services are often simplistically divided up into translation
and interpreting. However, the need for information in Africa clearly
straddles both of these means of delivery. Perhaps for this reason, a high
percentage of African language translators also provide interpreting services.
The big lesson? Written translation alone is simply not enough.

Translation tools and peer access are of critical importance. The majority of
translators for African languages were motivated by free or reasonably-
priced translation tools or the ability to connect with their translation peers,
most likely in order to obtain greater access to the glossaries and
terminological resources they remarked were so sorely needed.

30 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Implications

In this section, we analyze the findings of our survey and share the implications
of this study not only for stakeholders in Africa, but for those in the language
services industry and anyone interested in eliminating information disparities.

Demand for Translation in Africa Will Outpace Supply
We were not surprised to see African translators state that they expected to earn
more in the future than they earn today, for two main reasons:

South Africa joined BRIC. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and
China) officially added the S (South Africa) to their acronym during the
third BRIC(S) Leaders Meeting, in China. According to the International
Monetary Fund, BRICS will account for as much as 61% of global growth
over the next three years. As we wrote in What Adding an S to BRIC
Means for Language Service Managers, the implications for the market are
clear demand for African language translation will rise as a result of South
Africas inclusion in BRICS.

The translation market in Africa has been steadily growing. As we noted in
our most recent global market study, and as summarized earlier in this
report, Africas share of the global translation market is tiny, but growing.
The interviews we conduct on an ongoing basis with suppliers in Africa
corroborate these findings.

The economic picture looks quite promising at first glance. However, the
historical lack of demand for African languages has created sub-optimal
conditions for translation suppliers. We have witnessed the following scenario
play out in other markets, such as China and India:

When demand soars, so does the number of suppliers. A spike in demand
can appear to be a good thing. Unfortunately, it often prompts anyone who
can say a few words in two languages to call him- or herself a translator, and
anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit to start up a translation business. When
this happens, the market suffers from a wave of unqualified translators. In
such early stages of market development, its very rare for anyone to vet or
screen them for quality.
The Need for Translation in Africa 31



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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Immature buyers purchase from the lowest bidder. Much to the misfortune
of the organizations that buy translation services in such markets, all
suppliers look much the same to them. They are unable to distinguish a high-
quality provider from one that just set up shop yesterday. Thus, the only
distinction they typically see at this stage is price. As a result, many of the
qualified providers suffer, because their work costs more.
If work is poorly compensated, top talent moves elsewhere. We have seen a
brain drain happen again and again in developing markets. Translation is
viewed, for the most part, as menial or secretarial-type work. Why would a
perfectly bilingual person with an advanced degree settle for poor wages?
The best language talent often ends up moving into lines of work that are
better compensated, such as international business.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some language service companies in developing
markets have broken this negative cycle. However, for the most part, we see this
trajectory repeated in various parts of the world.

Translation Technology Will Help Break the Cycle
We would like to see the African translation sector follow the lead of more
developed markets. Here is what we think should happen to take the African
translation industry to the next level:
Basic technology needs must be addressed. The most productive
professional translators in more developed markets often use computer-
assisted translation tools and have access to a translation memory and
terminology database from their clients or LSPs. The translators we surveyed
know about these tools, but many dont have access to them. Furthermore,
most CAT tool vendors do not offer user interfaces in African languages, so
the beneficiaries of todays CAT tools will be those who can work in English
or French.
Technology vendors need a pricing model for Africa. Who will provide
African translators with these sorely needed tools? Many translators are
willing to pay for them if they are reasonably priced. We have long
advocated a lower price point for such technology (see A gmail Model for
Translation Memory, Dec07). While we dont anticipate that for-profit
software companies will give away their tools, we can offer one important
piece of advice: The first CAT tool vendor to achieve widespread adoption in
32 The Need for Translation in Africa


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Africa will likely be the dominant player in that market for a long time to
come, and it is a market that is experiencing significant growth.
Language service providers must change their practices. If LSPs provide
African language translators with the technology they need, they will attract
and retain talent that they can use for other projects. Many LSPs require
freelancers to use a certain translation tool, but ask them to pay for it. Forcing
translators to buy tools means they will receive a net lower rate for their
work. This practice will ultimately shrink the pool of qualified translators.
This is true elsewhere, but in a developing market such as Africa, LSPs will
feel the effects in their vendor database more quickly and acutely.
Those with technology know-how should also participate. If and when
African language translators receive greater access to tools, they will need
training in order to learn how to make the best use of them. Providers of such
training should consider making these services more broadly available in
Africa. Associations could offer free or discounted training for translators of
African languages. Universities in Europe and North America, two of the
largest markets for translation, could seek educational partners in Africa in
order to share access to course materials and perhaps staff.
Machine translation also must be on the table. Our research shows that the
supply of translation services cannot keep pace with the demand for
translated content unless machine translation is used. As weve noted, this
scenario may actually prove beneficial for human translators and have the
effect of raising prices and developing a greater appreciation for human
translation (see Translation Future Shock, Apr12). Translators of African
languages may benefit greatly from machine translation advances if they
view it as an additional productivity tool to add to their arsenal.
Governments, NGOs, and Associations Must Lend a Hand
Technology wont solve everything. Translators must band together and work
with a variety of institutions to address the issues that we found in our survey:
Translators must professionalize their occupation. African translators need
to organize. While some professional associations such as the South African
Translators Institute (SATI) do exist, practitioners in many countries lack a
national body to represent them. The diversity of countries and languages
makes a pan-African body unlikely. A better solution is to match would-be
organizers in African countries with leaders of organizations that could
The Need for Translation in Africa 33



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
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mentor them in the skills of developing professional trade groups for
translators and interpreters, advance quality, and propagate standards for the
language services industry.
African governments have a huge stake in translations future. With their
populations speaking so many languages, many countries on the continent
have medical, judicial, public safety, and commercial needs for supporting
multilingual communication. It will always be in the best interests of the
national governments to support secondary schools and institutes of higher
education in teaching languages, sponsoring students of language at any
level of education, and encouraging the commercialization of the trade in
their countries.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need to be involved. Multilateral
groups such as the International Monetary Fund, United Nations and World
Bank are already present in the region. They have a strong interest in
international communication, and may also have some funds available for
market development and language education. At the very least, they could
introduce an Africa First policy whenever they procure language services
for this region.
Charitable organizations and philanthropists can lend a hand. Faith-based
and secular charities are already on the ground in Africa, but probably not
doing much to support translation in the health, legal, and political domains
of the societies in which theyre active. As with NGOs, they could provide
donations and work to local translators. Schools and universities could
benefit from their largesse.
Translation Will Power Africas Future Socioeconomic Development
So far in this section, weve discussed ways in which the need for translation in
Africa can be addressed. However, the primary goal of this report was to shed
light on the need itself. Let us reiterate some of the most important findings:
97.14% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
help individuals in Africa understand their legal rights.
96.52% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
help people in Africa to feel more empowered.
34 The Need for Translation in Africa


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95.85% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
help protect human rights in Africa.
95.18% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
improve the overall quality of life in African countries.
94.92% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
have a positive impact on the collective health of people in Africa.
94.87% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
help Africans in times of emergency or natural disasters.
91.96% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
help people in Africa contribute to the political process.
88.78% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
help prevent international, civil, ethnic, or communal conflict in Africa.
80.59% of respondents said greater access to translated information would
have a positive impact on the health of one or more of their family members
in Africa.
And, we wish to highlight one extremely important finding:
63.07% of translators for African languages said that greater access to
translated information could have prevented the death of someone in
their family or circle of friends.

The need for translation in Africa is strikingly obvious. The results of our survey
show that translation has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of human
rights, safety, and wellbeing for citizens of Africa. As we noted earlier, its been
said that until Africa prospers, the world as a whole cannot prosper. We would
also argue that until Africa has equal access to information, the world as a whole
will not have entered the global information age, but merely an age in which
wealthy countries feast on information while many nations experience famine. It
is only through translation that this disparity can eventually be eliminated.
Likewise, it is only through translation that the voices of Africa in the
continents many languages can be heard by the rest of the world too.
The Need for Translation in Africa 35



Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
Unauthorized Reproduction & Distribution Prohibited
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