Our Story

We believe in the power of language to bring together a vibrant community of volunteers

Our Story


The idea of Translation Commons (TC) was born with the realization that our industry would benefit from having an independent commons, a place to discuss freely and exchange ideas. Such a place could become the heart of our community. So many conversations around what could be done to improve our daily working lives would find a home and gather momentum and advocates until things improve. Since we are a global industry, this home would have to be online. This is how the initial Advisory Board saw the Translation Commons.


After many conversations during 2014 at language conferences, networking events and private meetings, Jeannette Stewart wrote a long-form article on LinkedIn “Can the Language Industry Embrace Collaborative Commons and Survive?” which had an overwhelming response. In December 2014 she created a LinkedIn group called Translation Commons setting out the premise of a community collaboration. Within 20 days, 1,000 members signed up and since then the numbers are constantly increasing. As feasibility studies go, this was a runaway success.

There were many opportunities for community discussions in the LinkedIn group. Many conversations revolved around attracting and maintaining top talent for our future requirements. Others about bridging Academia with Industry and yet others for the technological needs of under-served languages.

In the true spirit of a self-managed community, in 2014, groups started to appear with specific project agendas; the first being the need to create guidelines for freelancers to be able to offer 1-to-1 mentoring to young and inexperienced translators. In true community volunteer mode, a small group was formed, a survey was created, results have been analyzed, conclusions have been drawn and now a group of 90 volunteers has undertaken to research further and start creating the Mentoring Guidelines.


Translation Commons was incorporated in the US by founders Jeannette Stewart and Alan Stewart, in January 2015 and applied for nonprofit exempt status in April 2015. IRS granted TC nonprofit status under Section 501 (c) (3) in Oct 2015 and further classified TC as a public charity under Section 170 (b) (1) (A) (vi).


In the beginning of 2016 and during many conversations, a Founding Advisory Board was created by volunteers within the Language Industry. One of our Advisors and the Mentoring Group Lead, Nancy Matis, suggested to revive the famous eCoLo project, providing useful training materials for both students and teachers in order to help improve skills in different areas of computer-assisted translation: translation memory, software localization, project management, and terminology. The project consists of multilingual material, training kits, training scenarios and full courses on various translation and localization techniques and is now led by a team of the original creators, including Dr. Pascaline Merten and DragoČ™ Ciobanu, and supplemented by other Universities. The entire eCoLo training system now lives on the Translation Commons platform.

Two Advisors, Jean Aurambault and Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja, volunteered to work on the initial website design. They were faced with the problem of how to organize a website for the community of an entire industry. Jean Aurambault solved the problem by creating three modules which encapsulate everything one needs to do in our industry: Translate – Share – Learn. Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja created the color design and style guide which is distinctive of the TC platform. We started working with Dianna Star as a front-end developer and JosĂ© Juan MartĂ­nez from Prompsit as our back-end engineer. Now Prompsit, with Gema RamĂ­rez Sánchez, Sergio Ortiz Rojas and Encarnita GĂłmez Alcaraz, has taken over and donates the maintenance of both front and back end.

After months of conversations with LocWorld we launched a Community Track during their North America conference in Montreal, curating the sessions and advancing community topics. 


During 2017 many initiatives were formed and new groups of people worked together in many community projects. The Technology Think Tank identified interoperability as being an important issue in our industry and partnered with Linport. The project’s team, Mikel Forcada, Andrzej ZydroĹ„ Marc Mittag and Alan K Melby have now also partnered with GALA’s TAPICC Special Interest Group. The Mentoring Think Tank published their Mentoring Guidelines and asked the community for feedback. The Interpreters’ Think Tank created a survey to understand the attitudes of interpreters towards new and emerging technologies and published their analysis and conclusions. The group became so popular that a new LinkedIn group was created so conversations can focus on specific interpreters’ issues. 

In the meantime, the website was being created and responding to the growing requests from members. Masters students from the University of Leeds under the supervision of DragoČ™ Ciobanu, tested the functionality of the Learning Center and students from the University of Texas, under the supervision of Blake Carpenter, tested the functionality of the Translate module and all the tools. The testing was successful and it also showed us that TC actually has filled the gap of providing additional resources to universities. 

We continued hosting and curating the Community Track in LocWorld. In 2017, in Barcelona, LocWorld34 donated to TC an exhibition stand. We presented in numerous sessions: Mikel Forcada and Gema RamĂ­rez Sánchez presented Apertium, Dr Pascaline Merten and Carme Colominas presented eCoLo and Barbara Werderitsch presented Interpreting Tools, Jeannette Stewart presented Translation Commons in a panel of nonprofits and the Language Industry Visibility.

In October, LocWorld35 in Silicon Valley also donated an exhibition stand and invited us to share an update during the Opening Ceremony prior to the Keynote. We hosted and curated the Community Track and we had a Panel Discussion on Interoperability with Mikel Forcada, Marc Mittag and Andrzej ZydroĹ„.


We started the year with an IMUG presentation of Translation Commons by Jean Aurambault and Jeannette Stewart at the LinkedIn premises in Mountain View. The presentation generated more awareness and brought together new volunteers, creating the first TC Community Managers. At the same time we had requests for member-generated groups and we were able to automate their process with the expert help of Gabriella Laszlo, TC Advisor and SuperAdmin of the TC platform.

A small group of volunteers, Brenda McLaughlin, Ziqi Zhou, Cheng Song and Wei Wu created the first TC website development group with hands on mentoring for students. We worked on important projects such as creating the Volunteer Framework, standardizing all Screen Confirmations and Email Notifications and creating How-To videos for helping users. 

We continued our partnership with LocWorld during three conferences. In April in Tokyo, we had an exhibition stand and a session presenting Translation Commons to the APAC audience and interpreted by KUDOS in French, German, Spanish and Japanese. In June in Warsaw, we hosted and curated the Community Track and presented TC in a panel on Transformational Platforms with LinkedIn and Netflix. Later in the year in October in Seattle, LocWorld again donated an exhibition stand and we hosted and curated the Community Track. During the Opening Ceremony we were invited again to share our news in an Announcement by Sabina Jasinska, Brenda McLaughlin and Ziqi Zhou.

The Interpreting Think Tank gained great momentum reaching 600 members and creating a strong inner core team with Barbara Werderitsch, Jan Rausch, Susana Rodriguez and Charlotte Monnier resulting in a re-vamp of the group to Interpreter Commons. Two new groups of Certifications and Professors became very active attracting many new volunteers.

Founder Jeannette Stewart had many opportunities to present TC in various conferences. In October she held a webinar for UTIC on The Business Of Sharing and a conference presentation for ATA59 in NOLA on The Language Industry Visibility, both explaining the benefits of a united language community. She had the chance again to describe the TC community during an Interview for the ATA podcast. Finally she had a presentation of the TC content strategy, Organizing Content the Right Way, during the Information Development World conference in Menlo Park.

During LocWorld in Seattle a new working group was formed; the Professors and Lecturers Group. Within weeks of its formation, it attracted many professors who together envisioned what would be beneficial to work on: Communications, to share information, Webinars to share knowledge and Industry Relations to ensure curriculum relevance.


At the beginning of the year Dave Ruane, Cornelia Sittel and Sabina Jasinska joined the two Founders Alan Stewart and Jeannette Stewart and formed the new Board of Directors. The three new Directors are coming from different corners of the world, they bring vast knowledge, a variety of cultural experiences and different perspectives to represent our global community and provide leadership for 2019. Later in the year, Ludmila Golovine joined the Board and launched the Professors Group with multiple task-forces creating various resources, training programs and guidelines. 

During the year we welcomed new Advisors, Johanna Behm in charge of the Marketing and Social Media volunteers, Craig Cornelius in charge of the Technical Team for the Language Digitization Initiative, Joel Sahleen in charge of Practical Training Courses and Natalia Noland in charge of Professional Training Programs.

In February Jeannette Stewart, Gabriella Laszlo, Ziqi Zhou, Cheng Song presented the  TC platform to the students of MIIS in Monterey. The presentation highlighted projects that the MIIS students could participate and earn academic credit. This increases the value of TC to universities by enabling students to get involved in real-life projects and learn through hands-on experience while guided by professional mentors. TC’s partnership with MIIS now enables MIIS students to work on real-life projects and earn credit towards their courses through TC.

In April 2019, TC became an official social – civil society partner to IYIL2019, International Year of Indigenous Languages, a UNESCO driven initiative. Under the new partnership TC undertook two very important projects for the year. The first project aimed to create awareness amongst academic institutions around the world. TC targeted 750 universities with language programs around the world and urged them to create any type of event, classroom presentations or homework for the students during October 2019. The second project was to create a document to serve as guidelines for digitization of indigenous communities with limited resources and technical knowledge. Both projects attracted a great number of volunteers and were successful. The University Awareness Events project uploaded on the UNESCO-IYIL2019 website over 30 global events. The technical committee created the “Indigenous Languages: Zero to Digital” document , a breakthrough solution for many under-resourced language communities around the world. 

Another great success over 2019 was the growth of our volunteer team and the many contributions they brought to TC. We have created new teams and frameworks (Localization, On-boarding, Marketing, Social Media, etc) and worked extensively on the platform adding valuable resources. The Translate page has now 41 free tools and our Resources Hub has doubled. We updated all the eCoLo material and migrated them into the Learning Center. 

One of the teams with the biggest growth was Marketing; Started with 9 dedicated volunteers in August and trained rapidly to take on the Indigenous Languages Campaign. Our global social media campaign reached 200,000+ with 10% engagement. We gained just in a few months 214 new followers on Facebook and almost 378 new followers on LinkedIn. The team was 15 people strong at the end of the year and recruited our first indigenous advisor (Bivuti from Bangaldesh of the Chakma language) for the marketing group. The team has plans to continue involving more members from indigenous communities in 2020.

There were many opportunities to present Translation Commons and all our programs including IYIL projects; at the GILT Leaders Forum at the Airbnb HQ in March, at NCTA (North California Translators Association)  in April, a WordBee podcast in September, at IMUG in October, at ATA in Palms Spring in October, at Unicode in October, at LocWorld San Jose in November. We were also offered booths by LocWorld at Lisbon in June and San Jose in November. In December a large delegation from TC including Jeannette Stewart, Ludmila Golovine and Craig Cornelius as well as multiple partners and associate organizations, participated at the LT4ALL (Language Technology For All) Conference at the UNESCO HQ in Paris. You can watch the TC address here, where TC pledges to create a multi-stakeholder coalition of organizations to bring as many indigenous languages online and facilitate a  Language Technology Roadmap. The year ended with Jeannette Stewart and Ludmila Golovine attending the High-Level Closing Ceremony of IYIL at the UN HQ in New York.




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