METM22 presentation

Please translate this into five African languages!

Timothy Barton, Oranjemund, ǁKaras, Namibia

Many of the translation requests I’ve received since moving to Namibia have been for translations into several indigenous languages, some with only a few thousand speakers. Is it acceptable for me to take on a project working into a language I do not speak or understand? How do I find suitable translators for very small languages? How can I be sure they are reliable? Do I apply the same requirements I would use for English, Dutch, or Finnish? Or do I have to settle for the best candidate I can find? How can I evaluate the quality of a text in a language I can’t read? How can I help and educate translators who have no training in translation?

Drawing on my experiences from six projects I've managed (to date) that involved translation into Namibian languages, I will answer the above questions. Specifically, I will discuss:
  • how I selected the translators and how I worked with them
  • how my knowledge about the local languages – the dialects, written standards, and scripts used – proved to be vital on some projects
  • how I advised translators and supported them with the translation process
I will conclude by suggesting best practices for project managers looking for and collaborating with translators working into minority languages, especially those who are not full-time professional translators. I will then invite attendees to ask questions or share their own experience of projects involving minority languages.

About the presenter

Timothy Barton ( is a freelance translator and editor based in Namibia. He regularly works in-house or as a freelancer for several international institutions, including the OECD, the UN, WIPO and the WTO. He is a member of four professional associations, including the Association internationale des traducteurs de conférence.