1 The Need for Tra nslation in Africa Addressing Information Inequality So thatt Africa May Prosper Preparedd on behalf of: By Nataly Kelly, Donald A. DePalma, and Vijayalaxmi Hegde May 20122
2 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 USA 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: Citations: Citation and permission requests should be addressed to Melissa Gillespie, Common Sense Advisory, Inc., Suite 301, 100 Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA , , 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 Advisory s analysts at the time, and are subject to change.
3 The Need for Translation in Africa i 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 African Translators Report High Levels of Education and Training Translators for African Languages Face Many Challenges Lack of Organization Affects Quality and Bargaining Powers African Language Translators Face Considerable Societal Challenges Political Realities Affect Work Potential and Even Payment African Translators Lack the Necessary Tools and Information Translation to Support Health-Related Information Needs in Africa African Language Translators Are a Highly Charitable Group Summary of Our Findings on the Need for Translation in Africa Implications Demand for Translation in Africa Will Outpace Supply Translation Technology Will Help Break the Cycle Governments, NGOs, and Associations Must Lend a Hand Translation Will Power Africa s Future Socioeconomic Development About Common Sense Advisory Future Research Applied Research and Advisory Services 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 Figure 5: African Translation as a Primary Income Source Figure 6: African Translators Who Also Work as Interpreters Figure 7: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2010 to Figure 8: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2011 to Figure 9: Education Levels of African Language Translators Figure 10: African-Language Translators and Internet Use Figure 11: Spoken Language Is Preferable to Written Language Figure 12: Most African Translators Have Donated Their Services Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
4 ii The Need for Translation in Africa 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 Table 6: Translation Training by African-Language Translators Table 7: Translation Training by African-Language Translators Table 8: Resource-Related Challenges Faced by African Language Translators Table 9: Translation-Related Challenges Faced by African Language Translators Table 10: Information and Technology Barriers Faced by African Translators Table 11: Views of African Language Translators on Health Issues Table 12: Impact of Translation on Collective Health and Quality of Life Table 13: Impact of Translation on Health and Loss of Life Table 14: Impact of Translation on Human Rights and Politics Table 15: Why African Language Translators Volunteer Table 16: Likelihood of Volunteering for Specific Causes and Incentives Table 17: Desirability of Incentives for Volunteering Table 18: Number of Hours per Week Translators Wish to Donate May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
5 The Need for Translation in Africa 1 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 world s wealth. Africa is home to roughly 10% of the world s 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 world s 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 world s 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% ,031 1,107 Oceania 0.66% Latin America 0.32% Africa 0.26% Growth Totals % 29,268 31,438 33,768 36,271 38,960 Table 1: Projected Language Services Market and African Share Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
6 2 The Need for Translation in Africa Figure 1: Major Language Families in Africa 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. May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
7 The Need for Translation in Africa 3 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 Africa s 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 world s 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 Volunteers from Translators without Borders translated it into Arabic, French, and Swahili. We started collecting responses for those languages in mid-december All language variants were open until early February 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 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
8 4 The Need for Translation in Africa 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. May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
9 The Need for Translation in Africa 5 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 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). Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
10 6 The Need for Translation in Africa Figure 2: Places of Residence of African Language Translators 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. May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
11 The Need for Translation in Africa 7 Figure 3: Birthplaces of African Language Translators 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. Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
12 8 The Need for Translation in Africa 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 Yorùbá Amharic Xitsonga Xhosa 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 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. May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
13 The Need for Translation in Africa 9 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 Sesotho into English Zulu into English English into Sesotho Xhosa into English English into Xhosa English into Yoruba Amharic into English Dutch into English English into Sepedi English into Setswana English into Somali 11 Table 4: Top 20 Language Combinations of African Language Translators The fact that English was the reporting language was clearly reflected in the combinations of our respondents. If we had conducted the survey and Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
14 10 The Need for Translation in Africa 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 China s 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 Employment and Income of the Translators Surveyed The majority of our respondents (60.5%) said that they were employed on a fulltime 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). May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
15 The Need for Translation in Africa 11 Figure 4: Employment Status of African Language Translators Figure 5: African Translation as a Primary Income Source Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
16 12 The Need for Translation in Africa Figure 6: African Translators Who Also Work as Interpreters 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 May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
17 The Need for Translation in Africa 13 Figure 7: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2010 to 2011 Figure 8: Expected Changes in Translation Income from 2011 to 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
18 14 The Need for Translation in Africa Figure 9: Education Levels of African Language Translators more likely to adjust their expectations for earning in 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 master s 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 A Times Higher Education ranking notes that many of Africa s best students earn their advanced degrees at universities in Europe, Asia, and North America, but too few return to their homelands. May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
19 The Need for Translation in Africa 15 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 African Language Translators 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. Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
20 16 The Need for Translation in Africa Figure 10: African Language Translators and Internet Use 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 cafés, 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 café 10.3% None of the above 0.6% Other 7.7% Table 7: Translation Training by African Language Translators May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
21 The Need for Translation in Africa 17 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: Resource Related Challenges Faced by African Language Translators 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. Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc. May 2012
22 18 The Need for Translation in Africa 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: Translation Related Challenges Faced by African Language Translators It should be no great surprise that so many translators cited a lack of linguistic equivalence. This is an issue we ve 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 translator s 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 don t 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. May 2012 Copyright 2012 by Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
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