Translation of texts for non-governmental organisations

March 16, 2017 11:32 am

The objective of this work is to highlight the importance of terminology management in the context of non-governmental organisations (NGO) by the means of the presentation of the translation process followed in order to translate a document published by an international NGO.

Translation of texts for NGOs

As Professor of psycholinguistics F. Grosjean said, “it takes more than knowing two languages to be a good translator or interpreter”. We wrote our paper based on this principle because translation is one of the most ancient and important means of culture propagation, as Spanish translator López Fonseca reminds us, and the translator is then a “profesional cuya principal responsabilidad consiste en difundir esta información salvando barreras lingüísticas y culturales” (Mayoral Asensio 1997-1999: 1). As Eco (2003: 208) stated, “una traducción no concierne sólo a un trasvase entre dos lenguas, sino entre dos culturas”.


Because of our interest in the right people have to access comprehensible information, we focused in translation of texts published by institutions working with minority groups, who usually face linguistics and cultural obstacles. In particular, we analysed the translation process of a document published by a NGO that translates its documents into several languages on an international level, so terminology management needs to be accurate and consistent. Besides, we wanted to connect translation with NGOs because “they play an important role in […] world affairs” (Tesseur 2012: 1), so they want their documents to reach the greatest possible number of people. This is possible, among other things, by the means of the correct management of terminology. However, when we talk about NGOs, we may think on the development of activities carried out by volunteers who may not have complete knowledge of the task they are performing. Voluntarism is of course a very valuable service, but the lack of awareness will cause a poor or bad work – a poor or bad translation and terminology management. We have been collaborating as a translator for some NGOs and international institutions since many years now, and we realised that sometimes we do not have access to reliable documentation in order to compare and use the same phraseology and terminology in our translations; in particular, the organization does not usually provide linguistic material. Even so, most of time we have to work with specialised texts, where terminology management need to be accurate. Just like Sauberer (2011: 56) said, “[t]here is no knowledge without terminology”, as the correct information comes through the correct word.

As Eco (2003: 208) stated, “una traducción no concierne sólo a un trasvase entre dos lenguas, sino entre dos culturas”.

Besides, terminology management is not only a matter of bi- or multilingualism. The text we use to write our study needed to be translated into Spanish, an international language susceptible of diatopic marks. Due to the work area of our NGO, we where asked to use a Spanish characterised by being “neutro, global, general, estándar o internacional” (Gómez Font 2013: 9). According to Cabré (2000: 11), terminology “veut surmonter les difficultés de la communication professionnelle” and this is the reason why in specialised languages “la variación dialectal de sus producciones se reduzca a la mínima expresión” (Díaz Muñoz 2002: 83), as this affects terminology uniformity. The text we worked in was indeed a specialised text, but despite of this, the first problem we faced was the lack of a terminology database created by the institution, along with the lack of homogeneity among previous documents published by this organization. Unfortunately, this is a point many NGOs we have been worked/volunteered with share. In order to overcome this obstacle, we had to looked up terms in databases such as UNTERM (The United Nations Terminology Database) or IATE (InterActive Terminology for Europe). In order to avoid inconsistent terminology management, we created a database by using a computer-aided translation (CAT) tool, what highlights the fact that the “competencia traductora” (Hurtado Albir 2001: 30-31) includes more than being “bilingüe y bicultural” (Vázquez Ayora 1977: 388), but being informed on last technological tools. We hope this database we created can be used in the future within the NGO, so they can share it with (volunteer) translators in order to assure terminology consistency.

Finally, we hope the topic of our paper arise your interest. Feel free to comment about any aspect related to our communication, specially about terminology management, both at non-governmental organizations and general level.

Translation of texts for non-governmental organizations key words

Check the whole paper on: La traducción de textos para organizaciones no gubernamentales.

You can check other thesis and papers related to terminology published at TermCoord’s website.

Ana BennasarAna Bennasar

Former Terminology Trainee (April – September 2016) at TermCoord. Ana was born in La Laguna (Tenerife, Spain) and she holds a degree in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, and Arabic as her main working languages. Since 2010, she has been collaborating as a translator for several international organizations and NGOs to improve her professional skills in the field of translation of texts about human rights, immigration, and international cooperation. Ana is interested in finance and law, especially when related with regions such as Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and she recently finished a MA in Institutional Translation and obtained the ECQA certificate in terminology management. In addition, Ana is passionate about every cultural and linguistic feature of her birthplace, the Canary Islands. You can follow her on Twitter at @AnaMBennasar.


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Post prepared by Olga Jeczmyk: Translator-Interpreter, Social Media and Content Manager as well as Communication and Terminology Trainee. Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg.

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  • Mubarak Alkhatnai

    interesting article to read. I believe NGO’s have a different rhetoric to that of GO’s and this may cause some sort of dispute