Parlez-vous français? Hablar español? Hui bu hui shuo hanyu? If you answered “oui,” “si,” AND “hui,” you might be a robot. BUT, if you happened to answer “yes” and you are a living, breathing human being, then you are truly a language superstar! Why not take your unique skills set and ability to forge communication between unlikely populations and apply it to a meaningful cause? We hate to be Johnny Obvious, but volunteering abroad as a translator in your language(s) of choice is probably your true calling. If this sounds like a “hao,” “bien,” or “bueno” option for you, read on!
Why Volunteer Abroad in Translation
The world keeps getting smaller and smaller as our societies become more globalized. The value of translation and intercultural communication skills has never been higher. If you’re not quite sure how to begin your future career as a translator, starting off as a volunteer translator abroad is a great way to get your foot in the door.
Volunteering abroad as a translator will allow you to help others communicate in the most efficient, effective way possible. You’ll be on the ground to perfect your speaking skills along with help others communicate. Using your skills and seeing your language abilities in action may inspire you to stick it out and keep learning, even on those frustrating days when it seems no one has any idea what you are saying. You will make international connections that are perfect for securing future translation job opportunities too. While volunteering in translation abroad your language skills will improve up the wazoo, so true fluency will be a pretty sweet perk you can walk away with.
The value of utilizing your target language in a nation that speaks it cannot be extolled enough. This experience, singularly, will make your time volunteering abroad entirely worth it. You will walk away with an improved skill set, a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world, and new lifelong friends and contacts.
With global development rising at a fast pace, communication is a very important component in today’s world, making translators a valuable team member within any organization. Where you go is dependent on what languages you speak, but here are some potential locations!
Spanish speaking countries are among some of the most popular destinations to volunteer abroad in translation. However, being a Spanish translator in places like the United States, where large numbers of Spanish speakers live among a majority of English speakers, can be useful too. Other popular countries for Spanish to English translation volunteer work include Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Regardless of whether you are translating English to Spanish or vice versa, the America’s offer many different translating volunteer opportunities.
French translation goes far beyond the borders of France to other francophone countries like (some parts of) Canada, Haiti, and even countries in Africa, such as Cameroon and Mali. Volunteering as a French translator in these countries will provide you with a cultural experience far beyond France, and allow you to have a positive impact on countries that are in greater need of translators.
Volunteering abroad as a translator in Arabic is becoming increasingly important in today’s global market; hence, there are Arabic translation volunteer opportunities around the world. Some of the most common places for Arabic translators in the Middle East and North Africa include Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. Even Western countries, like the United States, England, and many European countries, need Arabic translators because of current global events taking place involving both English speakers and Arabic speakers who are not bilingual.
Translation Volunteer Work Abroad
Being a volunteer translator abroad is more than just following around stuffy businessmen and women in suits for big international meetings. As a volunteer translator you will have the opportunity to connect communities with necessary resources, bridge intercultural gaps through language, and make a real impact on the lives of others. There are generally a few different types of translation volunteer opportunities abroad.
Healthcare. Translators volunteering in health care services will help translate important documents and during appointments. By translating medical and legal documents, you will help medical professionals and institutions ensure they are exchanging the correct information with patients and other facilities. This is a great way to volunteer abroad in translation because it will help individuals provide and receive effective healthcare services, while also giving you international experience that will look great on a resume.
Nonprofit. Working for a nonprofit or NGO as a volunteer translator can help organizations effectively build international relations and increase the efficiency of their communications. This is a great way to get international exposure and experience that will benefit your future career goals, while also contributing to an organization dedicated to making a difference in the world. The goal of a nonprofit or NGO is to share their mission with the world, and your translation volunteer work will directly support and promote this mission.
Community Development. Having translation assistance in any aspect of community development can be extremely beneficial for the members of local communities and as well as project implementers. Whether translating for a local school, educating the public about the environment or health concerns, or even sharing general information with the community, you can help ensure information is shared and disseminated correctly as well as answer essential questions. Regardless of how you help the community or organization communicate, having a translator on their side will help them develop at an even faster rate and make their programs more successful.
Timing. Translation volunteer placements vary in duration greatly depending on the level of communication required between organizations, companies, and groups of people. While some translating gigs may only last as long as one meeting, there may be a need for documents to be reviewed by a translator regularly or for a more extensive amount of time.
Requirements. Previous experience is only occasionally required to volunteer abroad in translation. Regardless of previous experience, you obviously must be fluent in at least two languages to become a volunteer translator abroad. The application process for translation volunteering tends to be much more detailed, and placements more competitive, than other volunteer opportunities abroad due to the responsibilities given to volunteer translators.
Benefits & Challenges
Tricky Translations. Working as a volunteer translator abroad can be a challenging task, especially when it is being done in the business world. Not only do you have to be fluent in both languages, but you also have to understand terminology that might not be used in other settings. Before volunteering in translation abroad, you may need to review specific vocabulary related to the type of content and information you will be working with.
Analytical Ability. You have to be able to analyze a message quickly and translate it correctly to be a successful translator volunteer abroad. Therefore, translation volunteering is not for the faint of heart, however, it is extremely rewarding for those who succeed. Your brain power will be supercharged and your skills set only short of world domination! Maybe not quite that extreme, but you get the picture.