The IBBlog

By: Mira Jundi

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, "The limit of my language means the limits of my world." Many people think of language as a mere tool of communication, but I beg to differ. Language entails ideas, literature, culture, inventions and so much more. It is simply at the center of it all, and we wouldn’t have created things of much value if it weren’t for language.

Think of the different and diverse civilizations we know today, and look deeply into their societies, regulations, and relationships. Now imagine our tragic loss of cultural individuality and uniqueness if we all spoke the same language – a universal one! Fortunately, humans held on to their singular and diverse identities. However, the rise of hundreds of unique civilizations and cultures led to the emergence of more than 7000 spoken languages, something that could have resulted in many wars and conflicts across the world due to the lack of communication and the impossibility of understanding. Luckily, great thinkers said "let there be peace and harmony", and there was a translation – ready to save our lives!

Although translation first gained its importance after the interpretation of literary texts, it has grown into a multidimensional field to encompass the economic, political, martial, and, most importantly, scientific fields. Fast-forward our history to the present day, and you shall see how translation paved our way and made our lives much easier. Think of the cultural heritage, the wide variety of knowledge, and the captivating ideas we possess today by the exceptional profession of translation.

Influential, operative and history-changing as it's always been, translation is still badly needed to fulfill its duties towards many widely spoken languages. A huge example of such languages is Arabic. With an estimated number of speakers that surpasses 300 million; it’s considered the 5th most spoken language worldwide. Nevertheless, it only represents, as of today, 1.1% of the online content. If I try, for example, looking up information about the first translated text in the history of the world using Wikipedia, I wouldn’t find it written in Arabic. So what about millions of Arabic-speaking students and learners who simply don’t know other languages, especially English? Who can help those people in their quest for knowledge? The answer is Bayt Al Hikma 2.0!

My name is Mera Jundi. I studied English language and literature in college, and have always been interested in the translation field. I spent my undergraduate years trying to help others using what I know: language. I joined Bayt Al Hikma 2.0 – a project by Ideas Beyond Borders, knowing that this project will change the lives of many Arab students and knowledge-seekers, and I saw the dream of a FREE Arabic online content coming, finally, true.

Bayt Al Hikma 2.0's role isn’t limited to offering free translated articles on Wikipedia. Exposing young learners to accurate and crucial information in countries flooded with false and pseudo-information, helping in triggering their critical thinking, is also a main concern of the project.

If Bayt Al Hikma 2.0 manages to challenge the condition of one person, I would consider that a big success. However, our articles have been read not by hundreds or thousands, but by MILLIONS of people! Can you imagine the future of young learners exposed to Arabic articles in the fields of hard sciences, philosophy, economics, psychology, literature, and feminism? We can! This is what keeps us motivated as a team, and what keeps ME going forward as a human being ∕ woman ∕ translator living in a dark side of the world.

By Abdullah Arfa (Translator and Editor at Bayt Al Hikma 2)

Humans have been around for 200,000 years. Generations went by. Clans and tribes rose and went. Events that we can only imagine happened repeatedly. Today, we know nothing whatsoever about any of this. Then, 5000 years ago, humans embarked upon an invention that surpasses every other invention: Writing.

Writing is a form of rendering a language into a form that can be reconstructed by other humans separated by time and/or space. This means that I, a 21st-century young man, can listen to what Plato 2500 years ago said. I can listen to what an Egyptian peasant hymned some 4000 years ago, only in my voice. We cannot overestimate how writing defined our history as a species.

But the ability to transform these symbols into language, i.e. reading, requires prior knowledge. Languages evolving in different places at different times led to different writing systems. You cannot read what Plato wrote unless you know Ancient Greek. Here comes a new invention: translation.

In translation, you communicate the meaning from a source language to another target language. Translation removed a big flaw in languages that prevented full communication, which is the very goal of languages in the first place.

Now we back up from this Anthropology lesson to the present. My name is Abdullah Arafa and I live in the Middle East and that’s where the story begins to complicate. For decades now, the Middle East has been a source of all bad news in broadcasts around the world: wars, civil wars, hunger, terrorism and social crisis all happened/happens here. But I believe all of this is not only politics. I believe you don’t need to be a politician, a president, or a senator to make a contribution.

Today, we have a very powerful tool that can go around any censorship. We have the internet and the media. I can read about humanist values and what Hobbes thought without attending college. I can see how people in a village in northern Finland live without sweating. But with power comes responsibility.

On the media, and while hundreds of thousands of articles are published daily, it becomes a challenge to get the right information. It becomes a challenge to get around all the scams and all the pseudoscience. It gets really difficult to get around what tyrannical regimes want you to believe. Here comes Ideas Beyond Borders.

I work at Ideas Beyond Borders as a translator and chief editor at Bayt Alhikma 2.0 project. The core goal of the organization is to battle all these challenges. As an Arabic speaker, only 0.6% of the content online is available for you. You are literally blind to all the history, physics, chemistry and enlightenment values, etc. that English speakers for example have. So he/she becomes an easy target for propaganda, deceit, and pseudoscience. Hatred toward others can also prevail because they can’t get to know other cultures. In brief, it becomes the Middle East as we know it today.

So you can imagine how crucial it is to have a project like this. A project that translates all this into Arabic. A project that gives a man in the middle of the Arabian Desert, a woman in northern Iraq, or a boy and a girl in southern Egypt the opportunity to have the power of knowledge. We translate books and articles about civil rights, science, reason, critical thinking, and tackling extremism and I think you know why this matters the most to this region at this point in time

. I work as a doctor and I feel accomplished whenever a patient thanks me or tells me how much I changed his/her life or made him/her feel better. I feel the accomplishment because I made a difference in a person’s life. You can imagine my feeling whenever an article against propaganda is read by 5 million! The Middle East needs change and change Ideas Beyond Borders does!

Spirit Rosenberg from interviewed Ideas Beyond Borders as part of their ' Talks With...' podcast. This series is an antidote to negative news stories that aims to shed light on organizations and experts whose work is making a positive impact on the world.

A growing movement in the Middle East rejects authoritarianism in favor of free and critical thinking. Faisal Saeed Al Mutar discussed the struggle to access reliable Arabic language information in the digital age.

Only 0.6 percent of online content is written or spoken in Arabic, and most of it is tightly controlled by violent demagogues. Faisal set up Ideas Beyond Borders in 2017 to provide monolingual Arabic speakers with content that was free of government censorship. He now has a team of translators working on House of Wisdom 2.0, IBB’s online content library.

Listen to the whole interview to learn how an encounter with armed militia in his native Iraq inspired Faisal to speak out against the sectarian conflict. You can also read more about the House of Wisdom and donate. A more connected and media literate the Middle East makes for a more peaceful world. is an organization that is changing the way people think about charity, development, and organizations. They’re leading the next generation of charitable giving with their completely remote and radically transparent team. Find out more.

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