language barriers are limiting the ability of refugees and immigrants to seek help, and aid workers to provide it. Tarjimly is a new service that connects people who speak one language but need to speak in another, with a person who speaks both — in just a couple minutes. The idea isn’t to guide people through major processes like immigration — dedicated interpreters are still needed for long interviews, technical language and so on — but to handle time-sensitive matters like distribution of food and water or explaining an event or injury.
Tarjimly is on Facebook Messenger only, but an independent, multi-platform app is on the way that will allow cross-platform chats, between Messenger or WhatsApp and SMS, for instance. Using the chat interface, an aid provider or refugee indicates their own language and the language of the person with whom they need to speak. Tarjimly scours its database of volunteers and, using a bit of machine learning, it finds the users most likely to respond quickly. When it finds one, it connects the two through the chat interface; to make things easy and anonymous, the messages are relayed through Tarjimly’s servers, which both obscure the users’ IDs and allow cross-platform chats. Once connected, the user can enter text or send voice messages; the volunteer just translates them and sends them back for the user to share with their interlocutor how they please. Audio and video chat can be requested, and documents and images can also be sent to the translators in case a quick consultation is necessary before signing something or waiting in a line.
Right now the service finds a match in an average of 90 seconds, and these acts of “micro-volunteering” usually only last a few minutes. Sixteen languages are currently supported (plus dialect variations), with a focus on those spoken by major refugee populations: English, Arabic, Persian, Pashto, Urdu, Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Bengali, Turkish, Somali, German, Portuguese, Kurdish and Burmese.
The more than 2,500 translators on the service have already helped over 1,000 refugees in the time leading up to launch.
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-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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