Dec 7 2016

Did you know: We translate your letters!

A sponsored child in the Philippines writes a letter to her sponsor in Tagalog. The letter is then translated into English.

A sponsored child in the Philippines writes a letter to her sponsor in Tagalog. The letter is then translated into English.


As an international organization, it’s no surprise Unbound comprises diverse communities speaking numerous languages. While countries we work in might share an official language, such as Spanish, it may not be the first language of many of the residents.

There are hundreds of languages spoken across the Unbound community. From Kaqchikel in Guatemala to Tagalog in the Philippines, languages represent the unique cultures that are part of Unbound.

Unless you lived in an area where these languages are spoken or happened to be a language enthusiast in school, you probably don’t speak, (or maybe haven’t even heard of), the languages spoken in the homes of our sponsored friends. These languages are often the ones that sponsored friends use when writing their first drafts of letters to their sponsors.

Unbound knows how important communication is in creating the bond between sponsors and their sponsored friends. And because online translations tools aren’t always accurate and miss the spirit and emotion of the writer, we translate the letters for you.

Staff members, sponsored youths, volunteers and Unbound scholars around the world help translate letters from the various languages into either English or Spanish, depending on the region. Letters that are translated into Spanish are then translated into English, unless the sponsor has notified us that they speak Spanish.

The translation process works the other way, as well. Each letter sent by a sponsor to his or her sponsored friend is translated before being delivered.

When thinking about translations, Maria Garcia, a communications services liaison with Unbound’s Sponsor Services department, asks you to remember these key points:

  • A translator’s first language is typically not English. Sometimes it may be that person’s third language.
  • Translations can vary depending on whether the translator learned English formally or informally. Some translators may have studied it in school, while others may have learned by watching TV, through other media or living in the United States.
  • Different countries have many dialects. If the child is from Guatemala and the translator is from Honduras, it could pose some difficulty when it comes to translating country dialects.
  • The translator normally doesn’t have access to previous letters. If something references previous letters, not having access to the previous letters can makes it difficult for contextual purposes if something in the letter is unclear.
  • Because of the volume of letters translated, mistakes in translation can easily be made.
  • Some countries, like Guatemala, have more than one language, which can make it a challenge for translators who may not know a specific dialect.
  • A lot of the translators are volunteers, which can change the quality of the translation.
  • Sponsor Services is always happy to retranslate a letter if something is unclear or even to clarify something if the sponsor can send in a copy of the letter and its translation.
  • You can let us know if you don’t need Spanish letters translated into English, and it’ll save resources by having one less letter to translate.

If you ever have a question about a translation, feel free to contact Sponsor Services at [email protected] or (800) 875-6564.

Read about the many languages in the Unbound world and the importance they have to culture.

Jordan Kimbrell

Jordan Kimbrell, writer/editor
Jordan joined the Unbound family in 2011, just a few weeks after completing her masters in English: Creative Writing from Kansas State University. Jordan is constantly inspired by the hope and creativity displayed by the sponsored members and their families and loves being able to share their stories with the rest of the world.

2 thoughts on “Did you know: We translate your letters!”

  1. I am already sponsoring a child and am trying to send them a letter. I can’t seem to find the link that would help me do this. What di I need to do?

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