The UN Mappers of the month - April 2024

Our Mappers of the Month for April 2024 are the extraordinary team of Chinese translators who translated our Learning Hub courses. Composed by twenty passionate members with different backgrounds, but with a common experience in OpenStreetMap, their meticulous dedication made it possible to overcome language barriers and ensure accurate translations. We interviewed the coordinators, who highlighted their commendable teamwork. Dive into the interviews to discover their inspiring story.

Coordinators: Linbing Zhuang, Nianhua Liu, Gongmingyue Tang
Featured team members: Zonghe Ma, Yilin Lyu, Mengying Chen

How did you know about UN Mappers?

: My awareness of the UN Mappers was sparked during an exploration of how the United Nations employs mapping in its various initiatives. This inquiry led me to discover the organization and its efforts to create detailed, actionable maps for humanitarian and development purposes.

Nianhua: I learned about UN Mappers when I did my master's study under the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree - Copernicus Master in Digital Earth. My specialized track is GeoVisualization and GeoCommunication. And I did some research about emergency response in mapping, such as the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. Throughout my studies, I realized the importance of organizations like UN Mappers in such initiatives. Driven by a strong passion for humanitarian efforts, I reached out to the UN Mappers team, eager to contribute and learn. It was encouraging to find that UN Maps Learning Hub was also interested in collaborating. And that marked the beginning of our journey together.

Gongmingyue: I studied in the Erasmus Master Cartography program where we had the opportunity to attend a workshop conducted by colleagues from the UN Geospatial Section. It was during this workshop that I became familiar with the crucial role of geodata mapping within the United Nations. Since then, I've actively followed updates from the UN GIS section and became aware of a job announcement for an intern position in the UN Mapper project. I then looked into the UN Mapper initiative through media posts and the program website, and I was truly impressed by the motivation. I'm glad to have the opportunity to take on the internship for 6 months and contribute to the translation work of the OSM tutorial.

You were involved in translating the Learning Hub into Chinese. What challenges did you face?

Linbing: The translation process generally went well. Yes but I did face some challenges. Maintaining volunteer translators' engagement was difficult due to the large, periodic nature of the materials. It was challenging to find volunteers who could consistently contribute or be available when new materials needed translation. Motivating long-term commitment was complex.
The Chinese language's nuances and the diverse translation styles of volunteers added another layer of difficulty. Achieving a uniform standard was challenging with the vast amount of materials, affecting the translations' coherence and integrity. This inconsistency in style and approach among translators and reviewers made it hard to maintain a consistent quality and tone throughout the project, impacting the materials' effectiveness and coherence.

Nianhua: Translating the Learning Hub into Chinese brought three main challenges. First, finding volunteers was tough. Most were students who liked the idea but didn't stay motivated. We learned they wanted things like certificates or a chance at an internship with the UN. They got more excited about helping after we provided them with more support on this.
The second big issue was keeping the team going. Some students joined but didn't do much. Others needed a lot of help to get started. We set up workshops and Q&A sessions to support them.
The third problem was making sure everyone translated things the same way. Since we're not professional translators, everyone had their own way of doing it. We had to agree on how to use certain words to keep things consistent.

Gongmingyue: As I undertake the task of validation, the primary goal is to ensure the selection of proper nouns. Our translator and reviewers have already laid a solid foundation, but some terms in OpenStreetMap (OSM) may not be commonly used in typical Chinese-speaking contexts. Therefore, the initial challenge is to examine the documentation to ensure that the chosen words align with those in existing Chinese user interfaces. While OpenStreetMap has already a relatively large Chinese-speaking user community, there is still no official simplified Chinese interface for tools like the HOT Tasking Manager and certain validation tools. Consequently, terms must be selected with greater caution. Another challenge for me might be striking the right balance between precise translation and maintaining the meaning, while also structuring sentences in a way that is easily understandable.

When did you participate in the translation? (Weekends, free time, during working hours?)

: In my free time.

Nianhua: Mainly on weekends.

Gongmingyue: Mostly in my free time.

Why do you like translating? What are your motivations?

Linbing: To me, translation is crucial for spreading knowledge and information. I'm driven by the desire to use my linguistic abilities and expertise in cartography to help launch the Chinese version of the UN Mapper's OpenStreetMap (OSM) courses. This effort aligns with my passion for making valuable educational resources accessible to a broader audience, thereby amplifying their impact and utility. My involvement in this project is an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the global community by breaking down language barriers and facilitating easier access to important geographic knowledge and mapping skills.

Nianhua: I'm not really into translation itself. But as a map lover and a cartographer, I love encouraging others to help with humanitarian work and to get into mapping. I believe that by translating these tutorials in more languages, we can get more people to learn about OpenStreetMap and how to map for good causes. That's why I do it—to help spread the word and get more people involved.

Gongmingyue: I work closely with geospatial data in my studies and work, so I understand the importance of data availability and accessibility. OpenStreetMap is the largest open map project and is now used as the data source for non-profit projects. I believe that reducing language barriers will encourage more active mappers to engage and will help with bridging data gaps in less-mapped regions. Data quality and reliability are always critical factors for OpenStreetMap data. I feel that providing a comprehensive tutorial that integrates essential learning materials in multiple languages can promote more qualified edits. These are the two main motivations behind my participation in translating. Additionally, I take this opportunity to also enhance my knowledge of OSM. In the translation process, I have also learned many practical tips for mapping.

Have you participated in other volunteer translation activities?

: No, I hadn't participated in other translation projects before this one. The opportunity presented by UN Mappers was my initial foray into such endeavors. It was an appealing chance to engage in work that matched my interests, aligning with my values of knowledge sharing and community support. Working with UN Mappers opened a new avenue for me to apply my abilities for a noble purpose, making educational resources more accessible to more Chinese speakers and fostering a more inclusive global community.

Nianhua: Yes, I've been involved in volunteer translation work before. During my bachelor's studies, I volunteered with Mapbox, translating developer tutorials into Chinese. This experience not only helped local developers but also led me to be recognized as a top developer by Mapbox China. After completing my master's degree, I was an intern at the United Nations - International Fund for Agricultural Development. My role was primarily in GIS research, focusing on Social, Environmental, and Climate Assessment Procedures. While my main task was development, understanding and translating the guidelines was crucial to our work's success.
Now, as a doctoral researcher at the Technical University of Munich, I've taken my passion further by founding a YouthMappers chapter here. My goal is to inspire more students to dive into mapping and humanitarian service, leveraging my background to make mapping services more accessible and engaging for everyone.

Gongmingyue: Yes, I have helped translating freshwater conservation measures and programs in the US and Europe for The Nature Conservancy.


Chinese translators