Google Translate and ICA Victoria partner to launch new project

Google Translate and ICA Victoria partner to launch new project 

"We Speak Translate" is enhancing immigrant and refugee inclusion

VICTORIA, BC (July 25, 2017) – On July 20, 2017, the City of Victoria Council passed a motion to endorse the We Speak Translate project.  In the fall of 2017, City staff in the community engagement department and those that interact directly with the public will receive the We Speak Translate training.  

The We Speak Translate project is a unique collaboration between Google Translate and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), (Victoria, BC, Canada) that unlocks the potential of the Google Translate app for refugee resettlement and newcomer inclusion in local communities.

In October 2016, ICA’s Community Integration Coordinator, Kate Longpre approached Google Translate with the idea for the We Speak Translate project.  The project objective was to address the number one barrier to new immigrant integration: language.  Furthermore, Kate was interested in repurposing technology, as a tool and symbol for welcoming communities, which value diversity and inclusion.  Google Translate was immediately interested in the project concept and in April 2017 the We Speak Translate pilot project launched in Victoria, BC, the first location worldwide to initiate the project

Google is humbled and excited to be supporting this project with the goal of helping New Canadians make the often challenging transition to life in Canada through language and engagement - Roque Silva, Interaction Designer, Google Translate

The project involves training community stakeholders, organizations and institutions in the Google Translate app.  Upon completion of the free, 40-minute training, participants receive a We Speak Translate decal, a visible symbol of inclusion and commitment to promoting diversity and communication across language barriers. Familiarity with the Google Translate app among community stakeholders establishes a common platform for communication while newcomers develop their English language skills.  

When I see the We Speak Translate sticker in a window, I feel confident that people want to speak with me and get to know me. 
 - Ibrahim Hajibrahim, Syrian Resettled Refugee

Participation in the We Speak Translate project is an effective initiative and a symbol that stakeholders and institutions in the Greater Victoria region are welcoming and inclusive of newcomers, value diversity, and are willing to work across language barriers to build community. Further, the project provides an opportunity to build awareness of issues faced by newcomers, and addresses the importance of integration and inclusion. The project is a tangible, low or no-cost initiative that improves cross cultural communication and integration of newcomers.

Over the last year, the Greater Victoria area has resettled approximately 460 Arabic-speaking Syrian refugees.  In the 2011 National Household Survey, 18% of people in the Capital Regional District (CRD) were immigrants (Statistics Canada, 2011). With over 1400 immigrants and refugees coming to the region annually (Victoria Foundation, 2013), the community has a vested interest in promoting diversity and inclusiveness.

Ninety-five percent of these newly arrived refugees speak a low level of English equivalent to the Canadian Language Benchmark of literacy, or LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) Level 1. On a weekly basis, ICA's English language classes support over 450 newcomers, and projects such as We Speak Translate will help to alleviate some of the challenges newcomers face while English language skills develop.

As Victoria's leading immigrant and refugee-serving organization, ICA proactively explores innovative solutions to better support the inclusion of newcomers in the Greater Victoria community. Since 1971, ICA has provided settlement support and services to over 60,000 newcomers. Annually, ICA serves over 2500 newcomers through one-on-one support and in group settings on topics including settling in the CRD and Canada, employment, English language services, arts programming, and specialized groups for youth, women, men, and seniors. 

To date, over 600 community members and stakeholders have received Google Translate training through the We Speak Translate project. Project training has occurred for staff at local libraries, recreation centre’s, social service organizations, museums and banks.  Organizations, businesses and institutions that serve new immigrants and refugees benefit from participating in the We Speak Translate project and training.

The We Speak Translate program opens up a world of engagement possibilities for immigrants, newcomers and tourists, especially in small communities where language resources may be lacking.  The Google Translate app, is a big boost to the museum sector in BC as we strive to be more inclusive, more welcoming, and better able to meet the needs of our communities and visitors. – Ben Fast, Programs and Communications Coordinator, BC Museums Association

For more information on the project visit: