Survey on Global Voices Lingua volunteers activity

Presentation of the survey

For the purposes of my research, I decided to carry out a survey to better understand the experience of the volunteers involved in the Global Voices organisation. I, therefore, created a questionnaire to elicit responses from all the collaborators who every day translate for the community. The aim was to better understand their profile, experience with the organisation, their goals and motivations and the problems that they encountered during their involvement.

To begin with, I created the survey and I decided to divide it into three main sections.

As we said in the first chapter, it is of vital importance in this kind of questionnaires to focus on the profile of the respondents: for this reason, the first section of the study has the goal of understanding the profile of the volunteers and it, therefore, includes questions relating to their background, such as their mother tongue, their country of origins, their level of education, their professional experience in translation, their occupation and whether or not they already participated in the past in other crowdsourcing initiatives.

The second section has to do with the volunteer activity undertaken by the collaborators. This part has the intention of investigating the activity of the volunteers (for how long they have been translating and how many articles they are able to transpose in other languages) and the motivations which drove them to participate. Regarding the motivation, the approach that I chose was based on the model of intrinsic/extrinsic duality already explored in the first chapter, but I gave the possibility to the respondents to answer more freely, so that they could add any other possible motivation.

Lastly, the third section is aimed at exploring the opinion of the respondents on the whole organisation of Global Voices and at asking what should be improved according to them.

Some of the questions solicited closed answers of the kind yes/no or multiple-choice, while others, especially in the third section were more open and the respondent had the possibility to answer freely.

Once the survey was prepared, I asked the Lingua manager Mohamed ElGohary to send it to all the teams of volunteers, in order to receive as much response as possible. I also sent the link on the Global Voices Lingua Slack, to reach a vaster audience.


The survey elicited responses from 155 volunteers in total. Compared to the whole number of volunteers we are talking about a small number of respondents, but I think that it can be anyhow useful to analyse the results, as they can give us interesting insights.

Profile of the volunteers

As already pointed out, the first section of the survey deals with the profile of the volunteers. This is an important part in which it sets out the background of the collaborators and it is very useful to understand their provenance, experience and education.

The first question asked the volunteers to state their country of origin.

The collaborators for Global Voices come from a vast array of countries, spacing from different continents with a predominance of Italians (41 respondents). This is probably due to the fact that I specifically sent the survey to the google group of the Italian volunteers and this elicited many responses from them. Apart from Italy, there was a big response from France, with 21 people, followed by Poland and Russia (9 respondents), India, Argentina and Brazil (5 respondents), Spain, Egypt and Greece (4 respondents), Czechoslovakia, Chile, Cameroon (3 respondents), Germany, UK, USA, Austria, Nigeria, Serbia, Senegal, The Netherlands, Belgium, Kenya (2 respondents), while all the other countries only counted one participant each.

Their mother languages are also many and diverse, as expected. Some of them are well-known languages such as Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, Serbian, Greek, Ukrainian, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Danish, Turkish, Albanian, Chinese, Filipino, Belarusian, Bengali, Indonesian, Swahili while many stated as their primary language a lesser-known one, among which, Malagasy, Assamese, Odia, Fulani, Creole, Igbo, Santali, and Tharu.

The survey also asked the respondents to state their age. The majority of the collaborators are between 25 and 35 years old (38.1%), while 32.3% of the respondents are more than 35 and 29.7% range from 18 to 25 years old. There were no underage people collaborating with Global Voices among the respondents.

Regarding the level of education, most of the respondents are in possession of a master's degree (47.7%), while 44.5% own a bachelor's degree. Only 2.6% of the volunteers attended a PhD program, while 1.9% only has a high-school diploma.

I asked the volunteers their experience in translation and whether or not they received formal training in translation. A bit more than half of the respondents (52.3%) stated that they have some experience, 27.7% have professional experience and 20% have no experience at all. Regarding formal training the respondents are divided: a little more than a half asserted that they received it (51.6%), while a little less declared they didn’t.

I also deemed it interesting to understand if the individuals who participate in the project are mostly professional translators or students looking for experience. The results showed that most of the volunteers are neither students nor professional translators, in which they have another occupation. The students taking part in the project make up 21.9% of the total, while the professional translators are 25.2%.

Lastly, I decided to ask the collaborators if they had already participated with other non-profit organisations before taking part in Global Voices. The majority declared that they did (69.7%).

Volunteer translation activity

The second section of the survey was related to the volunteer activity in the Global Voices project. The first question was intended at asking the respondents how long they have been collaborating with the organisation. The majority of the volunteers (34.20%) have been collaborating in the project for more than one year, 15.50% have been participating for one year, 29% for six months and 21.30% for less than three months.

The second question wanted to elicit a response on how many articles the volunteers can translate monthly. As we can see from the following graph, 47.7% of the respondents, that is the majority of them, do not have too much time to dedicate to volunteering as they can only translate one article per month. On the other hand, 28% of the volunteers have the possibility of translating around three articles every month, 10.30% around five, 4.50% around ten and only 9% can translate more than ten articles. This is understandable as volunteering is not the primary occupation of the respondents, but more a side activity carried out during their free time.

The next question is one of the most important because it deals with the motivations of the volunteers. I based this question on the intrinsic/extrinsic duality dividing the possible responses into two different groups.

For the intrinsic group I opted for the following possibilities to chose among: to make information available in other languages, to help the cause of the organisation, because I found the project intellectually stimulating, for fun, to feel part of a team, to engage in social and political causes; for the extrinsic group, on the other hand, I wrote the following: to improve my translation skills, to improve my source and target language skills, to attract more clients, to receive recognition from the society, to improve self-esteem.

They had the possibility of choosing more than one option. It is evident how the most answered possibilities are the extrinsic one “to improve my translation skills”, with 124 respondents and the intrinsic one “to make information available in other languages”, with 123 people. The other very popular responses are “because I found the project intellectually stimulating” (104 respondents), “to help the cause of the organisation” (83 respondents), “to engage in social and political causes” (77 respondents), and “to improve my source and target language skills” (74 respondents).

On the other hand, the least motivating factors were “to receive recognition from the society”, with just 15 respondents out of 155, “to attract more clients” (22 respondents), “to improve self-esteem” and “to feel part of a team”, both with 26 respondents.

As expected, the respondents chose a blend of intrinsic and extrinsic causes that drive them to participate in the project, thus confirming the idea that there is not just one motivation for taking part in volunteering activities.

When asked to write any other motivations that may come to mind, some respondents wrote the following: “entrance in curriculum vitae” and “to gain experience” (two very important extrinsic motivations), “to do something to fight misinformation” and “to have a new meaningful hobby” (two different intrinsic motivations). As affirmed in the previous section, I believe that giving the respondents the possibility of adding other reasons for their participation is extremely important to better understand their motives, even though in this particular case I didn’t receive as many additional responses as I expected.

In conclusion, we can perceive that the most important thing for the collaborators of Global Voices is the fact that thanks to their work they have the possibility of improving their ability in translation and at the same time make information available in other languages, thus expanding knowledge in other countries.

Another fundamental question that I inserted in the questionnaire was what would motivate the collaborators in participating more actively in the project. It is interesting to notice how the majority of the respondents chose “feedback from professional translators” over “payment” as the primary motivation. This means that the collaborators are primarily interested in improving and having feedback on their job. This is also in line with the results obtained by the Rosetta Foundation study, where feedback from qualified translators was chosen as the primary way in which the volunteers would like to be motivated. Moreover, as we will see later, many collaborators indicated as one of the main issues of the organisation the fact that there is not enough feedback on the translations. Interestingly enough, the second motivating factor was “payment”. This may be a contradiction, considering that the aim of Global Voices is to collaborate as volunteers, so without any remuneration, but it is understandable since it would be an extremely good motivation to any individual.

Opinion on Global Voices

The last section aims at finding out any opinion, potential issues and advice on the Global Voices organisation.

The first question was intended at understanding whether translating for the organisation is deemed by the participants as gratifying activity. What appeared in the results is that almost the totality (96.8%) of the respondents found the work satisfying and rewarding, and this is extremely interesting since it means that the collaborators are also motivated by the job itself, apart from the external causes that we analysed earlier.

An issue that I investigated in this context is feedback. As previously mentioned feedbacks are seen as a very important motivating factor, that is why I asked whether there is enough feedback on the translations in the participants’ opinion. What emerged is that 68.4% of the total thinks the feedbacks are not enough, compared to the 31.6% who believe there is no need for other comments. This is, in my opinion, very important since remarks on the translations are vital and fundamental to improve and do a better job in the future, so it is something that should not be missed in any organisation. Furthermore, to understand if the comments, corrections and feedbacks of the editors were always considered appropriate when I asked the volunteers. The results showed that there is an important part of the collaborators, 25.2%, who believe that the corrections are not always right and accurate, even though the majority (74.8%) believe they are.

Another problem that I have encountered during my job with Global Voices is the fact that sometimes it is possible to find small mistakes in the source texts. Therefore, I asked the volunteers if they experienced the same problem during their time spent translating articles. What emerged from the survey is that is common to encounter mistakes in the original texts, as 63.9% of the collaborators responded positively to the question, compared to the 36.1% who answered that they never found any mistakes.

The next question was “do you find that the translations of other people are always adequate and readable?”. The question had the aim of understanding the quality of the translations and to see how the collaborators perceive the target texts of Global Voices. The responses were diverse: the majority of the respondents, that is 63.9% of the participants, believe that the target articles are of good quality, since they are adequate and readable, while only 36.1% consider them to be not always appropriate. This may be due to the fact that there are minor grammatical or stylistic mistakes in the target texts, that make the translation problematic from certain points of view.

The last issue that I wanted to consider was that of the time employed for publication of the translations, since I noticed that sometimes, at least for the Italian team, it may take a while for the target texts to be published and I wanted to investigate the problem more into details. I asked the participants to indicate whether usually their translations are published within one week, two weeks or more than two weeks. What stands out is that 63.2% of the collaborators have their translations published within only one week of completion of the job, while the 21.3% reported that it takes at least two weeks for them to be available in the target languages and just the 15.5% of the collaborators have their work published after more than two weeks. This is not in line with my personal experience, meaning that the delay in publication may be only an issue for the Italian team.

The last two questions of the survey gave the respondents the possibility of answering more freely. The first one was intended at collecting information on the major problems encountered by the participants during their collaboration with Global Voices. Only 77 individuals answered the question, out of 155 respondents. While a small part of the answers (26) stated that there was no problem at all in the organisation and management of Global Voices, the other responses pointed out several issues that can be categorised in different groups. One of the main issue encountered by the participants relate, as we mentioned before, to the long waiting for the articles’ approval. Sometimes the articles are not published at all, as some of the people pointed out. This seems to be a major issue for the collaborators, if we have a look at what they indicated in the comment box:

“Sometimes articles about recent news are translated early on, but published a lot later”, “Long time waiting for article approval”, “Often the articles I translated are not published”, “Sometimes it takes a long time for an article to go through an editor and then published, so if it's ‘breaking news’, your translation sort of loses the sense of urgency”, “Often it takes longer for the translation to be published”, “I translated an article at the end of September and is not on the website yet” “Articles take too much time to be published, decreasing the relevance of the news” and “Sometimes some articles were left unpublished for two months”.

Another common problem was the difficulty in finding available articles and the competition that therefore arise in the booking of texts to translate, in which the number of volunteers is higher compared to the number of articles that need translating. These comments are proof of the problem: “Too much competition to translate new articles (not fitting a volunteer environment in my opinion)”, “There are too many translators on the platform and I find it often difficult to get a new article assigned to me”, “It's very hard and tedious to find an article to translate”, “Too many people interested in translation, so it's difficult to find an article that is not translated yet”, “Sometimes there aren't any articles left to be translated”, “There are many translators and not enough articles for everyone to participate in the project”, “The number of posts we can translate is reduced and limited.”, “No articles available”.

Some of the comments were about the lack of communication or organisation in the management of the workflow and among the collaborators, like the followings: “Most Italian volunteers don't use Slack, so there isn't much communication in the team”, “Some issues with management concerning how they handle internal policies”, “The coordination of certain groups is very fragmented, lacking organization, leadership and communication […]There is an extreme lack of engagement and collaboration among some groups and virtually no way of establishing a network among members”, “Communication gap”.

Some of the collaborators encountered problems in using the platform, as these responses demonstrate: “When I started, I didn’t know how to use the GV translation platform”, “Sometimes it's a bit difficult to work with the WordPress software.”, “[It’s hard to] get familiar with the platform”, “The default text editor is uncomfortable to use”, “You have to have some patience to learn how to use the resources available. Editors are very helpful”.

A minor issue that some of the collaborators face during their work is the lack of editors or coordinators for their language: “Because I translate into Catalan, we don't have a Project Manager and I don't receive any feedback on the quality of my translations”, “Lack of Polish Translation Coordinator”, “No Korean oversights and reviews available”, “There is no manager in my country to correct my translations”. This could be a big problem in which, as the comments illustrate, lack of editors means a lack of corrections and feedback in that specific language, resulting in a superficial job.

Some individuals complained about the length of the articles, such as “Some articles are rather long and I underestimate the time I need to translate them” or “Some posts are too long”. This, however, does not have to do with the Lingua team, but is rather a problem related to the writers of the original articles, aka the Newsroom.

Apart from the problems shared by more than one participant, the survey features also specific additional comments. In a case, one individual highlights the fact that “Sometimes there is disagreement with the proof-readers about a translation and it can create fairly unpleasant arguments”. This can be a problem when more than one editor intervenes in the proofreading process, that is not the case with the Italian team.

A comment that I found specifically noteworthy in the following: “There is a tendency (though maybe less than previously) for translations to be used as source documents for new translations, rather than seeking translators from the original source language to the target new language, which is a bad practice”. This is also an interesting issue related to the organisation: the best thing would be to translate directly the original post in different languages, instead of re-translate them.

The last section of the survey is focused on what could be enriched in the organisation and was created to help me and the manager of Lingua understanding what needs improving and how Global Voices can be benefitted. The respondents (72) pointed out different suggestions and advice that in a way reflect the observations they made in the previous section. Again, we can divide the comments into groups, since many of them resemble each other.

The first group of remarks relates to the issue of feedback, that we analysed earlier. Many participants believe there should be more feedback on the translations: “They could give more feedback to translators and publish all the translations”, “I think that feedback from professional translators would help improve the quality of translations”, “Feedback from professional Translators or proof-readers so that volunteer translators can improve their work”, “More feedback/training for translators who are not professional, so the workload of editors is reduced and the results are much better”, “[There should be] systematic feedback on each translation performed” or “Feedback and tips from other, more experienced translators”.

The problem of delay in the publication could be solved by increasing the number of editors, as some collaborators suggest: “I think Global Voices should increase the number of editors so that articles can be published more quickly”, “[They should] have more editors”, “[There should be] more editors to check and post translations faster so that the info is always up-to-date”, and “I would suggest them to enlarge the community so that more people could help the editors with the articles”.

As mentioned above, some of the volunteers are concerned about the number of translators that are much more with respect to the number of articles that need translating. Some collaborators have tried to suggest solutions to this problem: “When there are many more translators than there are articles being published, recruitment of new translators should be temporarily halted. Maybe a waitlist could be used” or “To not allow people to reserve more than an article to translate at a time” or “There should be more articles to translate.  It is sometimes discouraging to find that one article we wish to translate has been already translated”. These could all be solutions to solve the issue.

Regarding the lack of communication problem, some suggestions are also pointed out: “Communication between team members should be encouraged in some way (ex. encouraging the use of Slack, planning online events to meet, etc.)”, “I think that create events or online meetings about topics like human rights, citizen journalism, multiculturalism it can be useful for members of GV in order to improve the ability of translation and writing about them and also to have an exchange of views.

It would be also nice if there were monthly or annual group meetings with GV members of one's country”, “Make Meetings or events that gather the volunteers every year to discuss and exchange experiences”, “More sense of group. In my case, for example, I don't even know who the other translators in Catalan are”, “I would try to be more active on social media and different accounts”. The main trend is the willingness of organising meetings during which the volunteers can finally meet; this can be a great idea but maybe not so easy to realise, since the participants come from very different parts of the world. On the other hand, participation in social media can indeed be improved.

Another common suggestion among the comments regards the idea of creating a sort of glossary for the translators to use during their work. This would help them to give consistency to their translations, since often the topics are similar but the translators are different ones: “Maybe sometimes an up-to-date glossary around a country or a topic (gender, social rights, etc.) would be useful so I don't get mistaken in my words choices”, “Some kind of translation memory system or glossary for the most commonly used terms [should be employed]. Example: I have translated a few articles on gender violence, but there are also translations on this topic from other volunteers. We should be using the same terms”.

Many comments regard the topic of motivation and reward, such as the following:

“[they should] find a way to reward volunteers”, “[There should be] more incentives for the translators”, “[They should] provide some rewards to the long-serving translators”, “Maybe translators could be given some incentives or payments or maybe a free cinema ticket after six or more translations”, “Stipend for volunteers and other benefits will be highly motivating”.

One of the comments points out the problem of management of the new translations saying that “A list of articles that need to be translated in the different languages [should be created], so one doesn't have to keep refreshing the page or waste time searching through all the old articles”. In my experience, this could be very useful, since it is true that find an available article can sometimes take a long time. Another one asks a better control of the target text: “To better proofread the translations to avoid mistakes such as spelling errors, fragments in the source language, punctuation mistakes, etc. that may appear in some translations”.

Lastly, two remarks are made concerning the whole visibility of the site: “[Global Voices] is not well known yet and only read by a small number of people, therefore perhaps more publicity” and “To make every posts readable on social media not only on GV site”.


This survey had the aim of providing an overview of the profile and goals of the volunteers involved in the project. We saw that what drives the volunteer is a complex of internal and external motivations that can greatly vary depending on the profile of the volunteers, as we also discussed in the first chapter.

We furthermore understood that the majority of respondents would feel more motivated if feedbacks would be given by professional experienced translators, as well as payment offered by the organisation.

We analysed the main issues relating to the organisation of Global Voices, which can be summarised as followed: lack of feedback, delay in the publication of the articles, the fact that there are too many volunteers compared to the number of articles to be translated, lack of communication or management, lack of coordinators and editors for certain languages. Moreover, thanks to the last question included in the survey, we collected suggestions on what could be improved to solve the main problems that we mentioned above. The hope is that the questionnaire could be a tool to collect data and ameliorate the aspect that needs improving, so to create a community that can work even better.

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