Technological Solution for Refugees’ Language Barriers​ in Turkey

Gaziantep, Turkey:  “The idea started after many Syrian friends were calling me to translate for them between Turkish and Arabic while they were finishing their papers or dealing in their daily life with Turkish people,” Said Mujahid Akil, the Executive Manager and the founder of Tarjemly Live

Knowing Turkish and being native Arabic speaker, Mujahed Akil, helped his friends through their daily struggles as Syrians in Turkey being exposed to new language and new life and that resulted in the new application idea.

Tarjemly Live, which means in English translate for me, is a mobile based application which assists refugees and Arabic speakers in general through on-call translators in communicating easily and more effectively with the Turkish community.

Connecting the Communities 

Being one of the main barriers to involvement in new societies, Arabs in general and refugees in specific whose number reach almost 3 million in Turkey now, needed some help with it and here comes the importance of such an application.

For a small amount of money, people can buy a certain amount of minutes through the internet or through some outlets in different Turkish cities and to call the translators or send them text messages 24 hours a day to translate for them from Turkish to Arabic and vice versa. “We follow a very long recruitment process, to hire our translators. They have to pass exams in translating different fields before being recruited” explained Akil. “There were phone calls done for translation in hospitals, police stations for robbery incidents and many others” he added

About the confidentiality, Akil confirmed that it is not something to mess with “We guarantee the secrecy and safety of any translated piece or conversation if any translator violated our confidentiality code, s/he is directly fired”, “But so far we got no complaints about this issue” he added.

The project started as an application on both operating systems Apple and Android in February 2016, so far it served 37198 persons 88% of them are Syrians. “Our target audience are Arabs in general but because we are closer to the Syrian community we reach them easier” explains Akil. According to Akil most of the translators are Syrians but there are Turkish translators too, some of them know all Arabic, Turkish and English.

Overcoming Obstacles

It is not easy to get a technology into a society that has been using the traditional means for so long, that is why Tarjemly Live has been facing some problems with reaching even the Syrian community fully.  As explained by Akil there are many people who won’t like to pay for a translation services and prefer to call their friends for help, there are also translators who feel bad about such a new service because it serves faster and cheaper than them “like the new transportation companies in the traditional market” he elaborated,  and there are  people who copied the idea but according to Akil that is normal and they are even closed now  “and we are getting better and reaching more clients now” he said

The growing company, based in Gaziantep and with one more office in Istanbul is trying to reach its target audience but, it is not an easy job “To reach tourists we need to have advertisements in airports, planes and tourist companies but we tried a new thing, we signed a contract with Turk Telekom – a Turkish Communication Network- that with a new service they have, they give a 100 minutes for Tarjemly to the tourists” . Akil said

Concentrating this year on the Arabic-Turkish translation doesn’t mean that the owners of the company are not aiming for serving more people or reaching different language speakers “We aim to have an online based platform that would serve many languages and reach more people around the globe” Akil concluded

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