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Bridging language barriers for better social cohesion in multilingual societies

Ladon creates a platform to crowdsource language assistants who help immigrants integrate into local communities.

Photo of Anh-Thu Ho
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

As immigrants enter a new country, they need to engage services that help them navigate and establish a new life. This engagement is usually hindered by language barriers. The project idea is to create a market network that connects bilinguals, immigrants, and relevant services such as healthcare, financial services, education, legal services, and so on. The network enables bilinguals to facilitate the communication and transactions between (new) immigrants and the services. Traditionally, to overcome language barriers, services would use either machine translation tools such as Google Translate or professional language agencies. The former may result in inaccurate translation while the latter is very expensive. It is also very challenging to deliver the translated materials to the right immigrants. The combined result is that the translated services are not accessible to immigrants who need them. Language barriers prevent them from getting access to educational and economic opportunities. On the other hand, businesses lose opportunities to penetrate the market of immigrants. By bridging language barriers, we can create a win-win situation where immigrants gain better access to services they need to move up the socioeconomic ladder. These services gain access to a new market segment, improving their revenues. When immigrants are strongly supported and empowered, they contribute more positively to the economy. Overall, our network provides a conducive environment for each node to prosper, bringing a compounding effect on the economy. Bilinguals help to bridge language gaps and promote interlingual understanding between people from different languages. In the longer term, when immigrants are better integrated into society, the mutual understanding between groups help to mitigate conflicts and promoting peace.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Immigrants gain better access to services and opportunities. Businesses and service providers can reach out to the immigrant community capturing a potential market. Bilinguals earn income from translating activities and help their own communities with existing skills.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Existing solutions are mostly about providing translation services without taking into consideration the existing relationship between the beneficiaries. Traditional translation services focus on content translation, but not leveraging the network effect to deliver and amplify desired results. By cultivating and understanding these relationships in the network, we are able to create solutions that are effective, customized to the immigrants needs and address business problems. These relationships are constructive and beneficial to all parties.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.
  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We bridge language barriers with compassion and empathy. Since our inception in early 2016, we have built a team of more than one hundred language assistants. Recent projects include: • Working with LGBTI refugees to help with resettlement • Helping homeless people with limited English proficiency access social servicesAssistin Website URL:

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I used to work as a volunteer health and legal interpreter serving immigrants in the Bay Area. I have seen for myself how language barriers subject them to various forms of discrimination. The experience inspired me to do something to make a change.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In the USA, we are increasingly seeing conflicts between different cultural and linguistic groups. This is detrimental to the social fabric that is foundational to peace and prosperity. Nearly 1 in 10 working-age U.S. adults is considered Limited in English Proficiency (LEP). Among them, only 15% hold a college degree. Add in refugees and undocumented immigrants, and a large population arises—one vulnerable to disenfranchisement from poor communication. We strongly believe that by helping non-English speaking communities gain better access to social services and opportunities, we can help them break out of the perpetual poverty cycle.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We are already supported by Westly Foundation, The Resolution Project, and The Clinton Global Initiative University. Right now we have been working with clients in the social service space such as the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, Alameda Labor Council and clients in the education space such as Simi Valley Unified School District and Huntington Beach Adult School...

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Immigrants come to the new country with a strong drive to work to build a new life and make it in the new country.

Geographic Focus

USA, Areas with high population of immigrants

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dr. Sara Saeed Khurrum

Hello Anh-Thu Ho , Congratulations on establishing Ladon! This is a brilliant idea. Your idea presents a very practical solution to a very underestimated but commonly occurring issue around the world. Having been through such conditions myself, it enabled me to understand how important it is to have a reliable medium of communication which can also help facilitate in daily life matters. Furthermore I would suggest you can use this for tourists as well and launch it globally as this would help increase your audience and the bilinguals as well. Great job and good luck! :)

Photo of Anh-Thu Ho

Hi Dr. Khurrum, thank you so much for the suggestions. One thing I LOVE about working on this project is that it helps me meet people like you! People that have experienced the all the challenges of building a new life in a new country. Indeed, a large part of my translator team are children of immigrants, some are first-generation college students. It's wonderful to see how they have overcome all odds to make it. It's challenging to build a product that can cater to a diverse group of end-users ho have different needs but we'll try, and it'll start with extensive UX testing.

Thank you for sharing and all the best!

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