#MessageLibrary Without Borders: now in multiple languages!

Source: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:23 AM
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Update 12/11/2014: We are happy to announce that we will be launching the Indonesian version of the Message Library on Monday at 12:00

In the coming weeks we will be launching more languages! Stay tuned!

With the launch of the new CDAC Network website we are excited to showcase the new Message Library which has been migrated from the infoasaid website. The Message Library is an online searchable database of messages that acts as a reference for those wanting to disseminate critical information to affected populations in an emergency. It is an extremely important asset: having it available in multiple languages will make it even more so.

Following feedback from CDAC Network Members, this fantastic resource was given a ‘facelift’ to improve the search and filter options – making it easier for first-time and field users. The latest user testing results (conducted by CDAC Network Member Thomson Reuters Foundation, who developed the new CDAC Network Website) indicate that the Message Library is ‘extremely quick and easy to use’ (UNOCHA). Even those not previously familiar with the Message Library found the information ‘clear, concise and very practical for use in pretty much any situation’ (field tester, Erbil, Iraq). 

The generic messages, developed during the infoasaid project, are currently available in English. We are now extremely excited that these messages will soon be available in at least seven translated languages. We are starting with Arabic, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin), Bahasa Indonesian and Hindi thanks to the support of CDAC Network Member Translators without Borders (TWB).  

Developed 20 years ago, but formalised in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake, TWB was founded by professionals in the translation and language industry; it provides people with access to vital knowledge in their language and translates millions of words each year. Rebecca Petras, Programme Director at TWB, explains how the organisation is ‘committed to access to knowledge in the right language and to making sure that communication is in a language the aid worker AND the affected population understands’.

As there are well over 6,000 spoken languages in the world – with some estimates closer to 7,000 - the CDAC Network understands the importance of ensuring that the key messages in the Library are widely accessible. The scope of the Message Library is set to expand even further as additional translations continue to be supported by TWB. The Words of Relief network is a project piloted by TWB through its first translator training centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Trainees at the centre focus on healthcare content in Kiswahili and acquire the skills for a career in translation. One of the first goals of the Words of Relief pilot was to translate the Message Library and we hope to upload messages in Kiswahili and Somali shortly. This is in addition to the seven languages mentioned above. Whilst the Words of Relief pilot is currently focussing on Kiswahili and Somali, there are plans for expansion. The project will go on to support 15 languages in total and will include further translations of the Message Library. Other elements of the Words of Relief project include harnessing the knowledge of diaspora networks for translation, and creating a mobile ‘app’ that will connect translators with aid workers who need immediate help in the field. 

Grace Tang from TWB’s Words of Relief describes the programme as ‘exciting and fulfilling as we translate for humanity’. Words of Relief is currently in the process of translating 200,000 words into Kiswahili and 40,000 into Somali with a focus on healthcare and communicable diseases. This information complements the messages included in the Message Library and includes First Aid tips and public service announcements as well as further guidance from IFRC on how to contextualise messages for flood preparedness, tsunamis and landslides.  

The Message Library is not designed as a ‘rip and read’ resource, and the information and alerts require contextualisation. The new User Guide provides tips and resources for contextualisation and pilot-testing to ensure that messages are understandable, acceptable, relevant, and effective in situ. In the future, the CDAC Network intends to update the website to include these contextualised messages and will draw on the identified lessons from the Words of Relief pilot in Kenya, and the wider TWB translation process to inform future contextualisation processes.  

The user testing of the Message Library also identified potential areas for further improvements, and the CDAC Network Secretariat will monitor these over the coming months. These changes, which include possible amendments to the search and filter functions, weren’t made prior to the launch as the recommendations weren’t identified by all test particiants. Further analysis of how Message Library users search and filter for individual messages is required before any potential changes are made. We want to make the Message Library as practical and as user friendly as we can, helping you to reach crisis affected communities with the right message, at the right time AND in the right language.

As one user tester stated: The new Message Library ‘everything is packaged here, just click and see’. We now have the following languages aside from English available:


  • French is second only to English for the number of countries where it has official status – 32 as opposed to 45.
  • Kinshasa is the world’s second largest French speaking city, after Paris, and before Montreal and Brussels.
  • More than 200 million people speak it as a first or second language.


  • More than 236 million people speak Portuguese; it is the official language in nine countries, including Mozambique, Angola and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.
  • By far the majority of speakers reside in Brazil (more than 184 million).


  • Spanish is spoken by 500 million people, and that number is expected to reach 600 million by 2050.
  • It is the official language of 22 countries.
  • The most speakers live in Mexico (110+ million); the next largest number of speakers is in the United States (more than 50 million)


  • Approximately 1 in 5 people in the world speak some form of Chinese
  • Mandarin is the most common form and it is spoken by more than 800 million people just in the People’s Republic of China.
  • Mandarin is considered the oldest written living language in the world with some suggesting written forms date back 6,000 years

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The CDAC Network is a growing platform of more than 30 humanitarian, media development, social innovation, technology, and telecommunication organisations, dedicated to saving lives and making aid more effective through communication, information exchange and community engagement.

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