In a few of my articles, I’ve extolled the virtues of finding volunteer translation work, but I haven’t really given any advice on how to go about finding some. (Hopefully to be remedied now!)
Translation, like many other professions, requires practice and experience to get the job. But to get practice and experience you need a job in the first place. In some cases this can be provided through internships. Whilst (some) internships offer payment, those that do are competitive and, depending on your location, few and far between. This leaves volunteer translation as the natural solution to getting experience, without being out of pocket.
As I mentioned in my post The price is right! Or is it…? volunteer translation is different than taking on work that should ordinarily be paid. The main difference would be the type of organisation that you would be working for – charities, by their very definition, often require translations, but cannot afford to pay for them. If you are considering bidding for translation work on sites like ProZ and saying that you’ll do them for free in order to get experience – DO NOT DO THIS!! Instead look for volunteer translation agencies or charities who need translations.
The benefit (in addition to experience) to volunteer translation is that often, the work will be shared between several volunteers. Most agencies/charities are aware that you are doing this for free in order to gain experience – some (but not all) will stipulate the amount of hours they would expect you to spend on their work per week – generally pretty low, for example 3 hours a week. Whilst being conscientious is to be applauded, it really is best to stick to roughly the amount of hours they suggest, in order to retain the best work/life balance.
That said, finding volunteer opportunities can be confusing. If you’re completely uncertain of where to start, finding a volunteer translation ‘agency’ might be your best option. For further information about these types of organisations read Volunteering your translation services by Corrine McKay or Where to find volunteer translation work by Maria Chiara Bellodi, who have provided good examples of some starting points.
Here are my 8 places to start looking for volunteer translation opportunities. Some of these are more general language-wise, whilst others are more specific. Hopefully there will be a couple to suit everyone.
- Anja Jones Translation – have just started a Volunteer Translation initiative. Working with a team of experienced translators who will be able to proofread/edit your work will help you to gain confidence and get constructive feedback.
- International Children’s Digital Library – a great variety of languages of offer, whilst offering flexibility in the amount/time you can translate.
- Ted.com – TED is a non-profit organisation who organise talks on a range of issues and ideas. Particularly suited to those who are looking to go into subtitling.
- UN Translation – one of the largest multi-lingual organisations in the word. Opportunities to translate into a wide variety of language combinations.
- Twitter – organisations such as Twitter and Facebook will often require translations, with lots of languages combinations (likely to be FROM ENGLISH).
- Wiener Library – Translation about the Holocaust/Genocide. Mainly from German to English, but also Polish, Hungarian and Hebrew.
- National Holocaust Centre – Again translation of Holocaust documents into English from German. Also likely to be other language combinations that may also need translated.
Looking on the internet is not the only way to find volunteer translation opportunities. Local charities and businesses may want to expand internationally and want a translation. If you feel that your specialism would not be covered by a more generic organisation, then it is definitely worthwhile contacting businesses in that sector to see if they would be willing to work with you. Even if they do not have any work for you straight away, they may remember you for the future.
For more views from translators on the benefits of volunteering, have a look at Initial/Volunteer experience by Capital Translations.
If I come across anything new, or any other organisations, I’ll add them to this post, as well as publish them on my Twitter @amsjcorr. I also re-tweet translation competitions and opportunities.