We still live in a world hindered by the consequences of that biblical Tower of Babel where language is a great barrier. But of course, we rebel against such tyrannies creating ways to find and reach each other through translation (or awkward hand gesturing). I found this wonderful video from TED which brings together online volunteers from around the globe who translate the talks to their own respective languages, aiding in TED's mission of spreading ideas worth spreading.
I myself volunteer with Global Voices, an international network of bloggers and citizen journalists who report on issues from around the world, by translating English news pieces to Filipino (Tagalog), along with hundreds of volunteers translating in 29 other languages. Online volunteering and translating has eliminated time and geographical constraints (something I write about in more depth in this TalentEgg piece). Getting involved in this way not only spreads the reach of information and ideas to as many nooks and crannies of the world as possible, but it also gives voice to those who aren't as often heard from in the mainstream media.
So why do I translate? Like many of my fellow volunteer translators, I do so because I'm a big believer of open and shared knowledge. Information and ideas should have no borders, physical or linguistic. And it's not just a selfless act of generosity for me. Translating, especially on a platform like Global Voices, is actually a selfish and active act of taking myself outside of my filter bubble or echo chamber and exposing myself to new ideas and softer, unpopular voices. And it keeps me sharp, giving me an opportunity to practice my mother tongue even when most of my daily communications take place in English.
It's truly a wonderful endeavour and I recommend all you bilingual, trilingual, or multilingual(!) folks to contribute even just a couple hours of your time a week or a month to translate. I leave you with a beautiful quote from anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis...
A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. Language is the flash of the human spirit. It's a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. -- Wade Davis