Working in Tandem to Eliminate Barriers to Accessing Rarer Languages

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"Working with Tandem has allowed us to democratize language access for refugees and immigrants, even for languages that are less widely spoken"

Learning a new language sometimes feels like building a house made of LEGOs. Words become bricks stacking together to construct a manageable sentence. A set of instructions is given to follow along, and finally, with endless hours of dedication and stacking, the house is built. However, for many refugees and asylum seekers, learning a new language feels like building a LEGO home without the instruction booklet. Bricks go missing, and words often get lost in translation. Tarjimly collaborates with Tandem, a language exchange service, to ensure that these words are not lost in translation and that refugees have access to the languages they need whenever they need them. Tandem is a language learning app that attracts language lovers across the globe. It facilitates language exchanges, allowing learners to practice with native speakers. Millions of users come together to share the struggles and triumphs of learning a new language. This congregation of polyglots creates an amazing opportunity for Tarjimly and the Tandem community to collaborate and work together to eliminate language barriers. Thousands of languages are spoken all over the world, with many being tied to a specific location. When refugees flee their countries, they experience a loss of community, language, and culture as they try to adapt to a strange new environment. The instruction book that they were once given to build their LEGO home is now in a new language that they do not understand. Unable to communicate their questions or needs, refugees become voiceless as their words fall on deaf ears. Feelings of ostracism arise for many refugees, damaging basic social needs and their perception of belonging. Language access is necessary to relieve these stressors by communicating information, ideas, emotions, and stories across cultures globally. Human translators have become a crucial resource for refugees facing language barriers. Tarjimly’s translators facilitate communication by delivering an accurate interpretation. Unlike an automated or machine-generated translation, Tarjimly connects users to human translators that can account for culturally specific expressions, emotion, and colloquialisms. However, finding a translator becomes exponentially more difficult for individuals speaking rarer languages such as Karen, a language spoken in southern Myanmar and around the borders of Thailand. Tarjimly continuously strives to ensure that translators are always available to support refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers whenever they need them, even for these languages that are not widely spoken. Over the past year, Tandem has supported Tarjimly immensely by strategically reaching out and recruiting members in their community that speak languages with lower match rates on the Tarjimly app. Currently, over 4,200 Tandem members have signed up as volunteer Tarjimly translators, offering more than 92 languages. Tandem members have been matched with beneficiaries over 2150 times. Members from the Tandem community volunteer to be a translator because of their genuine interest in language and the well-being of others. Refugees benefit from the support of volunteers who go above and beyond to ensure a safe space based on trust and mutual respect. Languages can be powerful, not only for accessing resources but also for human connection. Together with Tandem, Tarjimly hopes to provide the building blocks needed for all humans to be able to successfully build their LEGO homes.


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At Tarjimly, we are proud to support language access for refugees and immigrants, even for languages that are less widely spoken. We constantly strive to bridge that divide, and to provide on-demand translation services for our beneficiaries, whenever and wherever they may be.