Translator Gator: A People-Powered Language Game for Disaster Response

Yulistina Riyadi and Felicia Vacarelu
Apr 19, 2017

UN Global Pulse and partners are launching the second phase of people-powered language game “Translator Gator” in support of disaster management and humanitarian action. This year, the game will engage citizens across Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka to advance these efforts by translating related keywords into their respective languages and dialects.

Social media possesses a wealth of insights that can be mined to understand what people think and how they feel about things affecting their lives. Researchers can use this data to inform development priority issues. An important step in analyzing social media data is creating taxonomies, i.e. sets of keywords,  that can then be used to extract information relevant to topics of interest such as education, healthcare or early warning response.

However, building a taxonomy of key terms for less-known languages, including their local dialects, jargon and even alphabets, presents a challenge.

In an attempt to address this challenge, Pulse Lab Jakarta launched Translator Gator in 2016, a language game the Lab developed to create text mining dictionaries for recognizing sustainable development-related conversations in Indonesia. Throughout the course of four months, the game gathered over 109,000 contributions from players and helped create taxonomies for six Indonesian languages.

Replicating success to inform disaster management efforts

The Asia-Pacific is considered the world’s most disaster prone region according to a report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The report counted as many as 160 natural disasters, that is 47 percent of world disasters, that occurred in the region in 2015, causing economic losses of US$ 45.1 billion and accounting for thousands of human lives lost.

The region would benefit from approaches that provide disaster-related insights from the ground to inform resource coordination at decision-making level. Several initiatives, like Rappler’s project Agos in the Philippines and Peta Bencana in Indonesia are already adopting this bottom-up approach.

To support humanitarian and disaster management efforts, Pulse Lab Jakarta is rolling out Phase II of Translator Gator to use the “wisdom of the crowd” to create disaster-related keywords for languages spoken in ten ASEAN countries and in Sri Lanka.

Partners in this endeavour include the Humanitarian Forum Indonesia, Humanitarian Open Street Map Team, The United Nations Development Programme Bangkok Regional Hub (UNDP RBAP), the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Volunteers (UNV), Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

How does the game work

There are four components of the game, for which gamers win points:

  • Translate key words/phrases in pre-defined English to everyday (dictionary and non-dictionary) words/phrases in the targeted languages
  • Evaluate the translations submitted by others to validate the meaning
  • Suggest alternative word/phrases if necessary (synonyms), and
  • Classify words/phrases into selected categories that are outlined in the game.


In the short-term, the project expects to raise awareness among tech savvy youth in the participating countries of disaster risks, management and response. In the mid- to long-term, the crowdsourced taxonomies will be used for computational social research initiatives, not only to better understand the responses of affected populations before/during/after a disaster, but also to better communicate with them through various channels.


To incentivize players, a variety of prizes will be awarded for highest game scores and top players, including:

Prizes* Number of winners 
Return trips (3 days 2 nights) from their country of residence to UNDP in Bangkok, Thailand and then visiting Pulse Lab Jakarta in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • Top two highest scores across all participating countries

  • Total: two top gamers 


Gift cards valued at US$100


  • For two highest scores from each participating county. Total: 22 top gamers

  • For 30 lucky winners, who have completed 10,000 activities


Translator Gator Merchandise 
  • For 100 gamers who finish all translation tasks from each participating country

  • Total: 1,100 players 

*Prizes subjects to change without prior notification


We invite you to help spread the word to involve as many language enthusiasts across Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka to join the game and help support disaster management and humanitarian efforts.

You can play at: 

Read our list of FAQs



susana layug
Fri, 2017-04-21 05:48

Hello! I hope it's not too late to join the gator 2 (translation) game. I couldn't find the link to submit my cv.

My name is Susana and I'd like to volunteer to translate Translator Gator 2 to Filipino / Tagalog. Although I live in the US, I am a Filipino citizen.

My most relevant qualification are:
1. I am a professional translator
2. I have experience volunteering in the dissemination and publicity of disaster relief and operations on social media, particularly Twitter
3. I am highly savvy with social media and have access to accounts that can help raise awareness and publicity for said game, in the name of disaster preparedness and awareness.

I can send you my cv that emphasizes my experience and exposure to translation and crowdsourcing, both as a professional and a volunteer. Please let me know the email address to send it to.

Thank you for the possible chance to help my motherland, specifically in disaster response and preparedness.

Best regards,

Felicia Vacarelu
Wed, 2017-05-10 06:19

Dear Susana, 

You might be referring to the online volunteers we were looking for. That is already closed. However, you can still play Translator Gator and help us translate as many words as possible. You are also welcome to spread the word about the game on your social media accounts. From 8 to 20 May there is a 500 bonus points if you refer this game to your friends. You will get an additional 500 points if your friends register using the referral link. If you have any queries, please contact  


Rohitha Fernando
Thu, 2017-05-04 04:26

I am Sri Lankan living in Canada. Can I participate. The advantage here is that I could translate the video over to 100 languages.
Thanks and regards

Add comment