Translation Glossary Project

About Us

The Translation Glossary Project is a collaboration between people who create grassroots solutions to language problems. We aim to promote good communication between development stakeholders, particularly communities and NGOs. Our group includes community-based organisations, NGOs, local government representatives, translators, students and academics.

The Translation Glossary Project has produced a two-way Chichewa-English glossary designed for development work in Malawi. The translations have been created by local people, who have chosen terms that are important to their vision of development, using language that is understandable to non-specialists. It contains dozens of terms that are not included in published dictionaries.

We want to inspire people across the world to create their own glossaries in different languages. Check out our handbook that explains how you can do it, step-by-step, in partnership with the local community.

This non-profit project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Our Story

The idea for the Translation Glossary emerged from a research project called The Listening Zones of NGOs, led by Professor Hilary Footitt, with Dr Angela Crack, Dr Wine Tesseur and INTRAC. It included case study evidence from Malawi, collected by Angela with the assistance of Dr Michael Chasukwa. The project resulted in a book: Development NGOs and Languages: Listening, Power and Inclusion.

Listening Zones revealed that many NGO workers cannot speak the languages of the communities that they work with. Translation problems often lead to a breakdown of trust between NGO and the community, and the failure of development initiatives. Our research participants suggested that their lives could be made easier by something simple. They wanted a handy translation glossary of development terminology to help NGOs and communities understand one another better. But this did not exist in Malawi, or Peru, or Kyrgyzstan, which were the other case study countries that were investigated by the Listening Zones project.  

Angela, Michael and the Listening Zones participants in Malawi decided to make the idea of the translation glossary a reality. The Chichewa-English glossary was produced through wonderful, creative workshops in Lilongwe and Zomba, as described in our free handbook.

We wanted our Peruvian and Kyrgyz participants to benefit from what we have learned, and so we translated the handbook into Spanish and Russian. However, the handbook is designed to be used in any language context, and in any country. We’d love our glossary to be the first of many!

our team

Glossary Authors

Naomi Awali

Mary Balala

Abraham Danton Banda

MacDonald Chande

Robert Chifundo

Maltrida Chikoko

Cyprian Chimbiya

Peter Chipala

Grace Chipili

Chiliro Gondwe

Cynthia Kachingue

Salome Kalidzinje

Malijani J. Kambauwa

Joseph Kapoto

Wisdom Katola

Brian Kuntindi

Eneles Makalichi

Hope Maluwa

Egreton Masiwa

Hannah Mchenga

Wonderful Mkhutche

Sarah Mngualuko

Leonard Mnjuzi

Happy Mthulula

Chisomo Ndiwo

Evelyne Nkolokosa

Madalitso Nkosi

Victor I. Nyirenda

Harry Phiri

Nyatuwe Phiri

Sellina Phiri

Hastings Saka

Magret Shaibu

Lawrence Tchuka

Milca Tebulo

Dick Upile Thom



Alick Bwanali

Dr Angela Crack

Project Lead

University of Portsmouth (UK).

Dr Michael Chasukwa

Project Consultant

Chancellor College (Malawi).

Advisory Board

Mrs Barbara Banda (Executive Director for the National Association of Business

Miss Mwandida Theu (Programme Coordinator, Youth and Society),

Mr Joseph Njala (Executive Director of NGO Gender Coordination Network),

Mr Dick Thomu (Programme Manager for Communities for Positive Change),

Professor Hilary Footitt (Visiting
Fellow at the Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of
London), and Dr Wine Tesseur (Coordinator External and Internal Communications, Trias).

Our Methods

We have produced the glossary through two 3-day participatory workshops: one in Lilongwe, and one in Zomba. Forty people were invited to these workshops, including several individuals from community-based organisations. They created translations for Chichewa terms that are crucial to local understandings of development, and translations for English terms that are commonly used in development work.


Day 1 of the workshop

This day aimed to build relationships and set expectations. It encouraged reflection about the importance of language and cultural knowledge in development work and asked participants to suggest Chichewa and English terms in need of translation.


Day 2 of the workshop

The whole day is devoted to translation, after helping participants to think through the challenges of the task. Small groups are asked to work together to create translations for key words. Energy and motivation levels are kept high throughout with bonding activities.

Day 3 of the workshop

This day is mainly spent on peer review. Participants are asked to swap their work and give their opinions on the accuracy of the translations. Expect lively debate!

Interested in creating your own translation glossary?

We have produced a handbook that explains the workshop process in detail.

Translation Glossary Project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

This document will download for free after you answer this simple question. .

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