Thread: Research

Integration 2.0: collaborative, social and volunteer translation at the service of immigrants and host society

Barbara Quaranta, Campobasso, Italy

Background and purpose New migration flows to Italy raise old questions on the social aspects of immigration, while current integration policies lack effectiveness. Linguistic competence is central to the implementation of integration policies for both immigrants and host society. Immigrants have difficulties accessing services due to a lack of understanding of the Italian language. Institutional staff involved in the integration process may not be prepared to deal with the wide range of foreign languages spoken and thus cannot respond adequately to the demand for cultural and linguistic mediation. This presentation examines how translation technologies could help foster intercultural communication and aid the implementation of integration policies.

Case analyses Best practices with translation technologies* from two school districts in the USA, serving economically distinct communities, provide easily replicable and customisable solutions to some of the problems highlighted above.

  • In Lake Washington School District (where 4.9% of students are transitional bilinguals from 88 language groups), the Microsoft Translator software is integrated into the school district's webpages and volunteer immigrant parents who speak both English and another language cooperate with other volunteers to post-edit the machine-translated content either in an anonymous mode or via remote access to their personal accounts.
  • In the School District of Philadelphia (where 8% of students are English language learners), the XTM Cloud online translation tool is used to manage translation requests in coordination with a network of professional translators who share translation memories and term bases in a protected collaborative translation environment.

These cases show two main directions for research into translation as an integration tool. First, the use of machine translation followed by volunteer post-editing could provide a low-cost approach to creating multilingual immigration portals and websites. Second, when specialised translation is needed, platforms for collaborative translation could facilitate interactions between professional translators and both immigrants and administrators. Translation technologies may broaden the role of translators by creating new career opportunities such as consultancy for the implementation of linguistic policies and building and managing specialised networks for collaborative, social and volunteer translation.

Conclusions Translation technologies are changing the idea of translation in such a way that anyone who can access the Internet can be a translator. This change can be seen as an opportunity where translators work with immigration stakeholders-”immigrants and host society administrators-”to implement creative solutions for intercultural communication. To test these hypotheses, the use of collaborative, social and volunteer translation to create immigration portals on topics such as education, health and employment should be investigated in small, easily manageable communities of translators and immigrants.

* These case studies were mentioned by Elliot Nedas (XTM International Ltd) in his presentation “Translation technology for the next decade – a view of the future”, at LUSPIO Translation Automation Conference (Rome, 5-6 April 2011).


Barbara Quaranta holds a BA in Translation and Interpretation for specific purposes from the University of Naples -œL'Orientale- and an MA in Translation in Arabic and English from LUSPIO University in Rome. She is a second-year PhD student in Intercultural Relations and Processes at the University of Molise, and she teaches English at the University's Language Centre. Her research interests include the political aspects of translation, intercultural communication, democracy and translation, constructivism and intercultural philosophy.