TWB Kenya addresses translation needs

Katie Botkin
Multilingual Oct/Nov 2013
Region Focus

The translators at TWB Kenya are involved with various projects, and the translators in the center cover around a dozen language combinations, including minority tribal languages such as Dorobo, Njems and Gusii. In Kenya, TWB translator Matthias Kavuttih Kathuke says, “English is very formal, used by the elite, and the majority of the people are not in that class, in the upper class.” Many Kenyans, particularly in the lower class, use Swahili. To reach everyone in Kenya, 42 local languages are required. However, nearly all health information available in Kenya is in English, as well as many important legal documents. “Even the Kenyan constitution is not available in Swahili today,” notes Paul Warambo, TWB Kenya’s center manager. . .

The team in Kenya is involved with several large-scale Swahili translation projects, mostly covering health care. The Health Education and Training project covers half a million words of training materials for community health workers, which is edited for simplicity by vetted TWB volunteers around the globe, and then translated in the Nairobi center. The project is partially subsidized by a grant from the Open University in the United Kingdom. The 100 x 100 Wikipedia Project — originally the 80 x 80 project and now expanded — involves translating the 100 most widely read Wikipedia articles on health care into 100 languages, with more to come in all likelihood. Before translation, the articles are simplified so they are easily understandable by the population at large, and vetted by physicians for accuracy.

Access to health information is still an issue for many people, and something like the Wikipedia 100 x 100 project will only work if Wikipedia’s simplified health and sanitation articles are widely available. As it happens, the Wikipedia Zero project is committed to bringing Wikipedia to people in developing countries free of charge on their cell phones — with no data fees, and text-only to maximize the bandwidth in patchy areas. . .