As the col­la­bo­ra­ti­on on this pro­ject invol­ves fri­ends from many coun­tries, this blog post is in Eng­lish. Wri­ting in a dif­fe­rent lan­guage seems to fos­ter bre­vi­ty as well.

My blog has beco­me very quiet during the last mon­ths. A few things have chan­ged. I found a new apart­ment, reno­va­ted the old one. Ins­tead the plan­ned explo­ra­ti­on of Prenz­lau­er Berg, I got invol­ved in a litt­le side pro­ject, which quick­ly pro­cee­ded to fill the remai­ning free time.

At its heart, refu­gee phrase­book con­sists of a set of tables, cur­r­ent­ly orga­ni­zed in goog­le docs. Vol­un­teer trans­la­tors fill in the gaps in their lan­guage, while desi­gners and deve­lo­pers use the data to crea­te book­lets and apps. I heard about the pro­ject from a col­league on face­book, when I offe­red to help with the web­site the tables in the medi­cal, juri­di­cal and gene­ral docs were alrea­dy popu­la­ted with many phra­ses. Thank­ful­ly the docu­ment owners deci­ded it was best to publish the data with a Crea­ti­ve Com­mons licen­se (CC0), so ever­yo­ne is free use it for other refu­gee sup­port pro­jec­ts as well.

Crea­ting the web­site did not make ever­yo­ne equal­ly hap­py. This seems to be qui­te com­mon in refu­gee help pro­jec­ts; wit­hin flat hier­ar­chies, visi­b­li­li­ty is a fac­tor to be balan­ced. Sud­den­ly what star­ted as a com­mu­ni­ty effort was visi­ble to the public. Thanks to Ger­man Impres­sums­pflicht, web­site coor­di­na­tors and docu­ment owners had to be men­tio­ned by nameTo empha­si­ze the com­mu­ni­ty ownership of the data, we added a sec­tion to the web­site with a con­ti­nuous­ly updated list of names of ever­yo­ne invol­ved.

Sin­ce so many peop­le con­tri­bu­t­ed, it is impos­si­ble to put any label on the amount of sup­port. Is deve­lo­ping the idea more important, crea­ting prin­ta­ble ver­si­ons on wiki­books or with uncoope­ra­ti­ve design soft­ware, prin­ting thousands of phrase­books, dis­tri­bu­ting them on a rai­ny night, dri­ving them to Munich, recom­men­ding the link to refu­gee camps or just dona­ting money? I don’t know and I am hap­py I do not have to deci­de.

With so many vol­un­te­ers hel­ping and sup­por­ting, the majo­ri­ty does not was­te time for port­fo­lio ques­ti­ons. The ener­gy and opti­mism is posi­tively humb­ling, and our litt­le trans­la­ti­on pro­ject is only a small part of what is being done. Even with fai­ling and unwil­ling sta­te insti­tu­ti­ons, peop­le open their doors, hand out blan­kets, dona­te time, work and money. How can this ges­tu­re of wel­co­me trans­la­te into action? The refu­gee situa­ti­on does not have to be a “cri­sis” wit­hin our exis­ting logistics of com­fort. It is a ques­ti­on of prio­ri­ties. It can be sol­ved.

Anyo­ne can use the phrase­book data free­ly to build new pro­jec­ts and crea­te a new web­site if necessa­ry. We still need bet­ter con­nec­tions with refu­gee sup­port initia­ti­ves. To print and dis­tri­bu­te book­lets, we are depen­dent on dona­ti­ons, deve­lo­pers and desi­gners. If you can help with that, plea­se con­tact us at